Keeping love alive

August 23, 2018 in Uncategorized

Good morning!
When I wrote yesterday about taking charge of creating happiness in our lives, it made me think of how we also think of love as something that happens to us. People feel like they have no control over love. A couple who have been married for several years might feel like the love has gone out of their marriage because they don’t feel that warm glow anymore. Well, love is a noun describing a deep attachment, but it is also a verb. We may not have a lot of control over the warm glow itself, but we do have control over a verb. We can chose to keep the love alive in our relationship. The amazing part is that if we chose to love, we can re-create that glow.
Living with another person is difficult. We all have our own preferences, and we’re never going to find another person with the same exact preferences. I don’t really think it would be healthy if we did. There are so many situations that just don’t matter, though. For example, a toothpaste tube left uncapped, a toilet seat left up, a dishwasher stacked the “wrong” way…what do those things matter compared to being a good parent, being a supportive spouse, or being a moral person? Perhaps the same person who leaves the toilet seat up also takes care of getting the car fixed. In other words, for every negative thing that occurs, there is at least one positive thing, if one makes the effort to find it.
When your spouse or significant other does something that riles you, I suggest you take a moment to think of something kind they have done recently. My husband and I have been married for over forty years. We don’t have all the answers! All I can offer is that as a psychologist, I know focusing on the positive is important for mental health. It can also be important for keeping relationships alive.
My husband and I have very different personalities, but honestly, I think we’re both better people than we were when we first got married.
Early in our marriage when he did something that drove me nuts, I learned that if I pictured him gone, at first that seemed a positive thing. But when I pictured him with another woman, oof! That was worse than whatever was driving me nuts. He is a good man and a good father. When there was something negative, I took a moment to picture him curled up with our girls in a rocking chair, reading to them. Of course, after a few minutes, he would fall asleep, and the girls would be crawling over him. The memory never fails to bring a smile to my lips.
There will be times when a person you live with drives you crazy—not in a psychological way, of course. But working on a relationship means keeping the big picture in the front of your brain. Don’t let one tree spoil the forest.
When people are drowning in chores like laundry, grocery shopping, cooking, cleaning, etc., it can be very difficult to keep the romance alive. It is important for both parties to make an effort to do so, because our lives are richer when we share them with another person who is important to us.
In the Baha’i Faith, marriage is called A Fortress for Well-Being. Life is difficult. We are healthier and happier if we have someone to help us hang on during the tough times and to celebrate with us when we make it through.
My life is better with my spouse, even though there may be times that I forget that. I have to remind myself what is really important in life.
My life is also better with my extended family. Even though my siblings and I have divergent political beliefs, we still love each other. We live far apart, but work to get together at least once a year. I am happy when I’m with them because they are more important than politics.
If we keep families together, we can keep countries together, and we have a shot at world peace.

The pursuit of happiness

August 23, 2018 in Uncategorized

Summer is drawing to a close. Teachers (and thus, psychologists working in the schools) go back to work next week. For the last several years, this has caused the onset of depression for me. I love my work, but since moving to Minnesota in 2003, I’ve struggled with the 6-month winters.
I love Minnesota, but I get cabin fever by the end of January. It might be because I was raised in the southern part of Iowa. We actually had spring in March. You know, when spring is supposed to come. Native Minnesotans encourage me to try one of the many winter sports in an effort to have a positive relationship with winter. I tried several. That’s probably a story unto itself, but let me just say I am less than adept at winter sports.
Last year, we had three snows in October, and still had a snow day in mid-April. The length of the winter was particularly difficult, and I was talking about retiring early, let me tell you!
We can’t always run away from our problems, though. So my husband and I have worked hard to set up things that will help us get through the winter with happier moods. (Apparently I share my unhappiness with him.) We’ve (he’s) built raised beds with a lattice background. I put the flowers in, and they are wonderful, but I know they won’t be around in the winter. Therefore, we bought several birdhouses and painted them bright colors. They are hung between eight and ten feet off the ground. I’m hoping the snow does not get that high.
We also installed a huge fountain with lights. (Yes, I helped with that.) The sound is peaceful, and we’re going to run some windshield-washer fluid through it to keep it running down to around 10 degrees above zero. [Note: We put netting over it to keep the birds out, so they won’t get sick. We installed a heated birdbath for the birds.]
And that’s another thing. I get a great deal of enjoyment out of watching the birds at birdfeeders, so we hung four of them up to be able to see from different windows. I used to keep birdfeeders years ago. I don’t know why I never got them out when we moved to this house.
In the winter, I tend to not go anywhere after the sun goes down…except home from work. My husband and I have resolved to go to events at least once a month during the winter months. That may not sound like much, but believe me, with our schedules, it’s a great start.
I realize you might not care about my difficulty with winter, but I wanted to make a point about dealing with things we don’t like, but can’t get away from. It’s a good idea to spend some time figuring out what makes you happy. Then you can work to surround yourself with whatever it is. Too often, we treat happiness as something that might happen to us…or not. Taking an active role in getting things that make you happy into your life gives you some power. You can impact your own happiness instead of waiting passively for it to occur.
This is also a good idea for your children. Help them figure out activities that make them happy. Their first idea might just be asking for more toys, but you can help them realize that more toys won’t make them happier. It’s really more specific than that. Trust me, there are a lot of wealthy people who have a lot of toys, and they are no happier than those of us who are not wealthy.
I have a great niece who started showing pigs at 4-H projects when she was about eight years old. She does not live on a farm. She was given the opportunity by a neighbor who had pigs. You might be surprised to know that I used to have no idea what showing pigs was. I’ve seen her do it now, though, so I at least know what it is. She’s good at it. She’s gone to national competitions for it…and won. Now at the age of 13 or so, she’s still into showing animals, and her passion has spread to her cousins who are now all involved in 4-H projects.
They are learning responsibility. [Did you know the pigs have to be walked twice a day???? This is on top of their school activities.] These children are polite, courteous, and well-behaved. They have found a wholesome activity that involves the entire family. And they have found…happiness.
You’re welcome to give it a try!

Why? Why? Why?

August 15, 2018 in Uncategorized

I can’t believe it’s been a week since I last wrote! I’m trying to work up to at least two blogs a week, but obviously, I am not there yet!

I describe right-brained learners in my book, but I have another example I want to share. I hope you will excuse my telling a story about my grandson. I know grandmothers can be tiring, and since I think being a grandma is the best thing ever, I fear I might be the most tiring of all!

In the book, though, I mention how right-brained learners need to know where they are going before they can take the first step. That scene from one of the Raiders of the Lost Ark series where Harrison Ford steps into nothingness over a deep crevasse only to have a bridge suddenly appear??? That would not be the right-brained processor. “Let me know where I’m going, and why it’s important, then I’ll take a step.”

My grandson is five years old. He will start kindergarten in the fall (next month!), so my daughter is working on his letters with him. He loves story time before bed, but the rest of the day, he prefers moving….Even if he’s playing with his trains, he will play for a few minutes, stand and jump, jump, jump, then sit back down to play some more. He’s known colors and shapes for a long time, but has shown absolutely no interest in learning his letters. The lessons have not gone well.

That is, until about a month ago. He was complaining once again, and finally looked at his mother and asked, “Why do I have to learn the letters?”

She gave him a look of disbelief, and answered, “So you can learn how to read!”

He stared at her with wide eyes….a look of disbelief that was way more impressive than hers had been.

“I GET TO LEARN HOW TO READ?????!!!!!!!”

“Yes! When you learn your letters, you can learn to read words, and then you’ll be able to read books by yourself!”

Since that day, he has been working diligently to learn the letters and sounds. If my daughter can’t work with him, he asks for PBS shows that teach reading skills. Amazing. How many times have we, as parents, just expected our children to figure out on their own why we’re doing something, or simply expect them to do it because we tell them to? I know, explaining takes time, and time is a precious commodity. But efforts you can manage in the small amount of time you have will likely have a surprising pay-off.

I believe my grandson will probably be a right-brained learner, which is all right even though schools don’t often work well for right-brainers. My daughter is the queen of right-brained learning. We used Tinker Toys and Legos to get her through chemistry, and it worked! Also, her husband is an engineer, so he understands the right-brain process. You know, “What do you mean, read the directions?? I’ll just figure it out.” Right-brained folks are the ones who look at the picture, then they know how the puzzle works. They learn by taking things apart and putting them back together (hopefully). The interesting thing is that my grandson is adopted. He’s got the perfect family!

Most children learn best by doing, and honestly, I believe elementary schools are generally better at providing that opportunity than middle or high schools. Science labs are “doing,” but although they could be interesting or even fun, I’m not sure that I often made the connection to what I was supposed to be learning. Connections are difficult, and they are the most important things with which parents and teachers can help children.



Tressa Reisetter has a new book out for parents:

Getting to Know Your Child’s Brain.

Here’s the link:

Villages for Parents

August 7, 2018 in Uncategorized

I was at a summer school session last weekend, and I met a woman who was getting an advanced degree in marriage and family therapy. I admire her so much! She is in her late forties and has two children whom she is raising alone. She has had to work full time while going to school, and supporting her family.

Her children have been very supportive of her, even though it puts more housework on them, and they don’t get to have her around as often. This has been a dream of hers, and her children have worked beside her, helping her to achieve it.

So how did she get such amazing children?

Well, when they were younger, she taught Baha’i children’s classes in her home one day a week. That’s like Sunday school for Christians. They worked on developing virtues such as generosity, kindness, and patience. The mom worked on developing virtues in herself as well.

As her children got older, she has maintained her connections in her faith-based community. This community has become the “village” for her children.

The saying, “It takes a village to raise a child,” is true. In previous decades, multiple generations stayed in the same vicinity. Sometimes they were even in the same house. This provided a build-in support system for young parents.

These days, young families often move out on their own, taking jobs in cities far from their familial base. When they have children, parents can become isolated, exhausted, crabby, and depressed. Even with two parents, the energy it takes to raise happy children can be overwhelming.

I can remember many days when my husband got home from a hard day of teaching. He needed to rest, but I said, “I need a break. You are primary parent for a while.” He never complained (almost). I just needed a break, even if it was cooking dinner without interruptions. In order to keep a positive attitude towards your children, it is vitally important that you have the energy required. It takes a lot.

It is important for parents to develop villages for themselves as much as for their children. Faith villages are a good option, whether parents are Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, Baha’i, or any other religion. The important part is the network of people with whom you, as parents, feel a certain amount of commonality. Villages can also be generated from common interests. For example, single parents who enjoy taking their children swimming might meet other parents would also enjoy swimming. Personally, I believe faith-based communities work well because there’s already a sense of love and acceptance, as well as the basis of the Golden Rule. All religions (of which I am aware) have some sort of quote in their Holy Writings that says to treat others how you would like to be treated. But you are your own individual, so I’m confident you can find someone to bond with. The important thing IS to bond.

This is particularly important for single parents. There are plenty of other single parents out there who would also benefit from working on developing a support system. Perhaps you and another single parent could find apartments close to each other. Maybe there’s already another single parent living near you. It might even save money to share a place, but it would be a really good idea to make sure you get along well first.

I used to plan that if I won the lottery, I would build or refurbish an apartment building for single mothers and their children. Daycare would be on site, and each family would have to be involved with helping to provide various services such as daycare, picking things up at the grocery store, etc.—things that a spouse is often asked to do. Even though I don’t buy lottery tickets, I think it would be a good idea!


Tressa Reisetter has a new book out for parents:

Getting to Know Your Child’s Brain.

Here’s the link: