Family

questionsThe food was sumptuous, the atmosphere eclectic, the music vibrant. The conversation? A bit dull. After dealing with kids and work all day, who wants to talk about kids and work? On a date night? There’s nothing that says romance like “Johnny threw up this morning.”

So I’ve come up with a list of twenty-five, thought-provoking questions to engage your loved one in intelligent conversation. Warning: Don’t ask these questions unless you honesty want the answers!

  1. What are three things I do that you really like?
  2. What are three things I do that drive you crazy?
  3. What have I done in the past that made you feel loved?
  4. When do you most feel loved and appreciated?
  5. What have I done that made you feel unappreciated?
  6. What is one thing that I can work on?
  7. What words would you like to hear from me more often?
  8. What would you like our marriage/relationship to look like 1 year from now? 5 years from now?
  9. What would you regret not having tried?
  10. Where do you feel like God is leading you? Us?
  11. What would you like to learn?
  12. What would you like prayer for?
  13. If you could travel anywhere, where would you go?
  14. If you could try something new, what would it be?
  15. If we could go on an adventure, what would we do?
  16. If we had $500 to spend on anyone, who would the recipient be, and how would we spend it?
  17. What points do you want emphasized in your eulogy?
  18. Knowing what you know now, what career would you have chosen?
  19. What are you hoping it’s not too late for?
  20. What do worry about most?
  21. What is the most beautiful thing you’ve ever seen?
  22. If you were stranded on a deserted island (with me), what five things would you want to have?
  23. What really makes you laugh?
  24. If you were to step outside your comfort zone in your spiritual life, what would you do?
  25. If God were telling you something personally meaningful right now, what would He say?

 

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These questions will surely get you out of the boring marriage rut we all sometimes fall into. The trick, though, is to follow up your loved one’s answers with action. Scary? Perhaps. Exciting? Definitely.

 

Kimberly Gleason is a Grand Rapids-based personal and executive leadership coach, author, speaker, and trainer. She helps people and organizations to flourish, reach their potential, and achieve their personal, professional, and organizational goals. Her leadership development and coaching program, The Year of Leading Adventurously, begins in October. Check out her free e-books, blog, resources, presentations, and programs at www.kimberlygleasoncoaching.com.

homeworkWhen I was growing up, at times it seemed like my mom was a broken record. She was always repeating herself.

“Danny, clean your room,” she’d say, or “How’s your homework coming, Danny?” Then there was my least favorite “Are you lying to me?” and the always-classic “Run up the street and help Mrs. Simms.” Mom’s Big Four phrases involved cleaning, homework, lying, helping—a.k.a. The Top Four Things Kids Can’t Stand Talking About.

The cleaning thing wasn’t too bad, really. I’ve always been a fairly neat person, and our house was so small that there was barely enough room to have things out of place. Plus, you could see into my bedroom from the living room—if my stuff was a disaster, everybody had to look at it. So every night after dinner came a gentle reminder: “Danny, clean your room.”

The homework thing was another story. I was never one to get a thrill out of school assignments, especially when it involved a lot of reading. I’m sure it came as no surprise to my mom that when she asked about the day’s work, my most common reply was a hesitant “Uhmmm…”

Trust me, it wasn’t always pretty. Still, my mom regularly paused what she was doing long enough to sit beside me and my books for a while. She’d peer over my shoulder and offer help periodically. She’d even quiz me on my reading assignments until she was convinced I understood the stories.

Of course, I still hated doing my homework, but somehow even reading seemed better when my mom cared what I was up to.

I can’t say that was the case with the lying.

Over the course of my childhood, my mom caught me in enough dishonesty to know that it was always better to check than to assume my innocence. Like the time my friend Robert and I smoked Rabbit Tobacco behind the shed, or the time we disobeyed, went swimming in the pond, and got chased by a snake.

My lying tactics must have been really obvious, because Mom always knew when I wasn’t telling the truth. Her common response was to lay a huge guilt trip on me. “Son,” she’d say, “when you lie, you’re hurting your Momma, because it tells me I must not have done a good job raising you.”

You’d think that I would have started telling the truth, but that took a while. My mom had to preach Phrase #3 a lot.

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Then there was the last of the Phrases, the helping. Mrs. Simms was an older woman who, because of a tracheotomy, had a hole in her throat that whistled when she talked. She lived a quarter of a mile away from our house, she wasn’t strong enough to lift many things, and she had a big dog that always needed exercise. So my mom often nominated me to be neighborhood errand boy.

I unloaded groceries, walked Billy the Doberman, and did odd jobs all around Mrs. Simms’s place. And although I liked her and didn’t mind helping, it seemed like my mom always told me to help at the most inopportune times. Undoubtedly, when I was in the middle of a basketball game, the score had just been tied, and my jump shot was right on the money, along came Phrase #4.

Swish. “Danny, run up the street…”

Man, it bugged me.

Still, as much as I hate to admit it, Mom’s phrases made me better. They taught me that responsibility is important, that it’s OK to need homework help but it’s not OK to fib, and that even basketball isn’t as significant as Mrs. Simms and her grocery bags. Where would I be if I didn’t know those things?

So this Mother’s Day and every other day, the feeling doesn’t change: Mom, I love you. Thanks for the Big Four, and this one’s for you.

Winning At Home, Inc. is a nationally-known organization designed to assist and encourage people of all ages and stages of family development. Dan Seaborn, founder, wrote this article. E-mail your questions or comments to This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

bullyBullying is long-standing violence, physical or psychological, conducted by an individual or a group, and directed against an individual who is not able to defend himself in the actual setting.

Too often, the result of bullying is paralysis. Fighting, tattling, paybacks, truancy, hiding, don’t allow the victim to fix the situation cleanly. Further, rarely does a school-age child have the experience to organize an effective solution. This can quickly become an agonizing situation seemingly without remedy.

If the situation is dealt with poorly, the target’s psychological framework can become damaged. But if he can fix the situation through self-direction and forethought, huge lessons in character can be gained. More, a pattern of problem-solving can be imprinted.

As in any skill teaching, the parent must be the one who guides the process.

First, the parent should be prepared ahead of the bullying event. In addition to having a sharp eye for trouble, the parent can be proactive in engaging the child in conversation about problems at school. Questions like, “Have you witnessed any bullying incidents at school?” and, “Are there students that treat other students unfairly?” can get you started. Eventually, “Has this ever happened to you?” will fit right in. This gives the child a chance to open up if something is happening. If not, it’s time for teaching a lesson in helping out others who are targets by befriending them, giving support, or even standing up for them.

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If the child reveals that he is a target, your best response is to listen calmly and reply, “I know exactly what you’re going through.” Don’t get emotional or the child won’t open up again.

Here are some steps to have in place if your child has become the target of a bully or group of social intimidators:

1. Work with your child to solve it by him or herself. Don’t take school action without his/her permission. Practice role playing to approach the person about what the problem is and what started it. Sometimes a simple misunderstanding has occurred. If not, the directness of the approach implies character that isn’t easily intimidated or doesn’t fit the “target personality.”

2. Emphasize that the distress your child is feeling is exactly what someone else feels in the same situation. Ask if your child knows anyone else feeling bad because of this and encourage them to support each other and become friends.

3. Work with him to eliminate any bully “tags” such as cowering, solitude, crying, whining, etc. I once knew a boy who got picked on because he unconsciously picked his nose incessantly, and he didn’t have many defenders.

4. Begin a journal of incidents, backdated to when it began. Read the journal together to see details that might indicate susceptibility. If the situation needs to be brought to authorities, this will be strong evidence. It shows diligence and the value of supporting evidence.

5.   Work with the child to enlist friends to help. The greatest salve and deterrent to bullying of any kind is friends.

6. Make your child “friend-eligible” by helping with skills that breed friendship. If these are lacking, sometimes this can be the problem itself.

7. Have your child befriend all security personnel: teachers, aides, counselors, school psychologists. Have him introduce himself and ask if he can call on them in case of trouble, which they will agree to. This helps your child realize the value of support from authorities, and the favor this brings when they’re associates instead of strangers.

8. Have your child memorize responses to threats and intimidation, delivered with eye contact, and then walking away with strong posture. Examples are,

“Really?”

“Nice try.”

“Leave me alone, Dan.”

“I’ve heard enough, Paul.”

“That's nice of you, Chuck.”

“This is so beneath you, Sue.”

“Is that supposed to make me feel bad?”

“Didn’t know you cared so much, Connie.”

9. Instruction in defense training can eliminate the fear of physical altercation in case the child needs to defend himself. Just being in a sparring situation can remove physical fear for having experienced it.

10. Stress that breaking in with a new set of friends and carrying one’s self proudly displays high character in any situation.

11. Stress the value in choosing friends for character rather than social rank.

12. Though bad feelings are inevitable, explain about carrying one’s self proudly through adversity. Sometimes you have to fake it till you make it, which is often a necessary approach to any new endeavor.

 

Rob Ellis is a counselor at Marketplace Ministry, a non-profit counseling center in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

mortTwo years ago I wrote about reverse mortgages (RM) so an update is appropriate as some things have changed. As I mentioned earlier, the RM is a federally initiated program to help seniors over 62 use some of the home equity they have built up over the years to pay for current expenses. In effect, the senior gets a loan from a bank or mortgage lender pledging their home as security for the loan. The senior can take a lump sum payment, establish a line of credit, or take monthly payments based on a percentage of the equity in the home. Beginning April 1, by the way, the lump sum payment will no longer be an option. The RM provides that seniors can stay in their home until death at which time the home is sold and the loan is repaid from the proceeds. The senior while alive always has the option of selling the home and paying off the loan. You can check on the amount of your equity the RM loan could be for by going to www.reversemortgage.org where they have a calculator.

There have always been some problems with reverse mortgages, particularly high up front costs, and they are certainly not for every senior. Only if a senior is over 70, isn't concerned about leaving their home as a legacy to their children, and is having serious financial problems, which cannot be solved with a conventional home equity line of credit (HELOC), should they consider an RM. Thousands of seniors are currently using RMs to help with their financial problems, but care is needed to use them effectively.

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Recently three of the largest reverse mortgage lenders have stopped making RMs. Bank of America, Wells Fargo, and Met Life have all quit making them citing as reasons decreasing home values and the difficulty in assessing lenders ability to repay the loans. This has opened the door for smaller banks and some unprincipled mortgage lenders to jump into the market some using unethical practices. It is truly a "buyers' beware" situation.

If one wants to investigate an RM here are some suggestions and pitfalls to be avoided:

1. Make sure all the upfront expenses and loan costs are legitimate and reasonable. It is wise to get estimates from more than one lender, to get them in writing, and to have an objective expert review them before you commit to the transaction.

2. Make sure that if you are married both names are on the deed to the house. Some unethical lenders are saying only one name is needed, this is wrong. If there's only one name on the deed and that person dies first the other partner will lose the house to the bank and have nowhere to live. If both names are on the deed, they both have the right to live in the home until death.

3. If you take a RM loan it is best to take monthly payments or a line of credit rather than a lump sum payment. As was mentioned earlier, after April 1, 2013 the option of taking the equity in a lumps sum will no longer be available. The borrower and homeowner also still has to pay for taxes, insurance, and maintenance on the home.

In summary it seems evident that a program the government intended to help seniors gain some cash off their home equity has had its problems and has had its share of fraud and misuse. The idea behind it is well meaning and many seniors have used the program as intended to their benefit. However, unless a senior with significant home equity has a strong need for extra money for basic living expenses it might be better to forgo this program. Those who do explore using it should use extra caution and advice from a financial expert before committing to going forward.

How you know you are getting old

You light candles on your birthday cake and a group of campers gathers around and starts singing Kum-by-ya.

 

helpwanted Is there discrimination against seniors in our society?

 

Of course there is. We've actually passed national legislation prohibiting age discrimination in the workplace because it was a problem, however, there is much other discrimination as well. We live in a society that worships youth. We tend to favor those who are the strongest, the fastest, and the most modern, characteristics that tend to favor the young, and we often tend to overlook the wisest, the most ethical, and the most charitable, critical characteristics that tend to favor the elderly. Many societies in our world actually revere the elderly because they are often the repository of the wisdom, history, values, and tradition of their society. A good case can be made for the fact that many of our current societal problems in the U.S.A. could have been avoided if the wisdom and traditions of our forefathers had been adhered too.

We also have discrimination in our society in the form of elder abuse and financial scams visited largely on the elderly. We have forced retirements in the workforce to get rid of seniors and we have derogatory terms used for the elderly like old geezer, older than dirt, and over the hill, which are pejorative in nature. We now face a major problem in health care with seniors living longer and using an inordinate amount of available health care in our declining years. Death panels are being talked about and ways are being considered to deal with this issue.

Is there any way this discrimination can be dealt with? The answer is, yes, and organizations like AARP have programs to help seniors. We are also passing laws to help, but there is something seniors can do to help themselves.

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I've mentioned before in this column that seniors control about 70% of the factors that lead to their health and longevity. We can stay healthy and productive into our 90s if we live right. The Bible says, (Psalm 92), "The righteous shall bear fruit in old age and they shall stay fresh and green." If seniors live healthy active productive lives much of the discrimination listed above will go away because instead of being a burden on society we will be a blessing instead. Statistics also show that active seniors tend to die more quickly when their time comes, which can help the health care system issues. Seniors who are obese, engage in binge drinking, smoke, are lazy and on the public dole are opening the door to ridicule and discrimination some of it rightly deserved. In short, seniors control many of the factors which lead to discrimination so if we don't live appropriately we are partly at fault. If we're growing mentally, socially, physically, spiritually, and in service to others we will benefit society and help offset many of the negative stereotypes about us.

Society is partly to blame for the problems here because they encourage seniors to retire and live life at leisure when they reach 65. This concept is harmful in itself because the research on aging, and biblical teaching, emphasize staying active and productive as the keys to happiness and longevity. Being a lazy hedonistic couch potato is the wrong path to take.

As I close this column, let me invite readers to attend an important gathering on April 30 from 3:30 – 5:00PM at the Main Grand Rapids Library downtown. The library and the Senior Coalition are jointly sponsoring a program entitled "Culture Warfare Against Seniors." The main speaker will be Dr. Henry Holstege, Emeritus Professor of Sociology/Gerontology from Calvin College. Yours truly will lead a discussion on the topic and share some ideas about how seniors can counter problems caused by the discrimination. We hope to see you there.

How you know you're getting old

You stop lying about your age and start bragging about it.

 seniorLast month I made the case that our churches have routinely neglected their ministry to seniors and need to do a far better job in the future. I indicated I would suggest some approaches to doing that this month – so here goes.

Modern science has discovered a great deal about how to live long productive lives and it exactly confirms what the Bible has taught us all along. Psalm 92:14 says, "The righteous shall bear fruit in old age and they will stay fresh and green." Modern science says stay active mentally, physically, socially, and spiritually and you will live a longer and happier life. So the Bible and modern science are in significant agreement.

Some years ago the Mac Arthur Foundation commissioned a study about aging. The results were published in a book entitled Successful Aging by John Rowe MD and Robert Kahn PhD. They found that those who stayed active mentally, physically, socially, and spiritually lived longer and more successfully. Their research led to the development of a specific program to help seniors do this called Masterpiece Living. The program encourages seniors to develop specific individualized plans to grow in each of these four areas every year. The research shows seniors benefit a great deal from the program.

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Masterpiece Living is a franchised program primarily for retirement communities at present. The Holland Home owns the franchise for our area and they have implemented the program with success at their Breton Manor and Ray Brook facilities.

If churches are serious about meeting the needs of their seniors, they ought to look at the research on aging and what the Bible says about longevity. Society says seniors should retire and live life at leisure. The Bible and the research says stay active. Live a righteous life, stay alive mentally (learn and use your mind), physically (exercise regularly), socially (stay involved with others), spiritually (regular Bible study and daily devotions), and serve others (planned volunteer activity). If a church is serious about senior ministry it will develop a program that encourages their seniors to do all of these things on a regular basis. The seniors and the church will be doubly blessed if they can do it.

The research on aging indicates, contrary to what we have believed, that we control about 70% of the factors leading to longevity and only about 30% relate to our genes and genealogy. In short, we control more than we thought. Seniors have the choices to make. They can retire, live life at leisure, become couch potatoes, and die sooner than necessary or stay active, involved, healthier, happier, and live a "righteous life" which according to Psalm 92 means we will bear fruit in old age and stay fresh and green. Secular society seems to be taking the wrong path leading many seniors to increasing levels of obesity, binge drinking, and suicide. As Christians we can do better, and our churches should be developing ministries to seniors to insure that we are all challenged to follow the Biblical guide to a successful, active, and productive life in our "Encore Years." These years can be the best or the worst of our lives. It's largely up to us.

A group in the Grand Rapids area is working on a senior ministry program based on the essentials in the Masterpiece Living program, which could be a template for implementation in individual churches. You can read more about the above in my book Run Thru the Tape, available at Amazon.com or it can be ordered at any bookstore. I hope to report on continued development in this rapidly developing area here in the future.

 

How you know you are getting old

Just when you thought you had it all you forgot where you put it.

100I recently came across an article that listed tips for living to 100. I decided to edit the tips and add some of my own. So here is the list with some comments:

1. Don't Retire – The word retirement does not occur in the Bible and retirement is not a Christian concept. Staying actively involved in life and faith is perhaps the most important thing we can do to live a long happy life. It is critical to good health.

2. Floss Daily – Some recent research studies show a positive linkage between good health and flossing. A clean healthy mouth, the main entrance to the body, seems to promote good health. It makes good sense.

3. Keep Moving – Staying physically active promotes health. God created us to be dynamic and to be on the go. Couch potatoes vegetate and die. It is activity both physical and mental that promotes the flow of blood in the circulatory system and good health.

4. Eat a Fiber Rich Cereal for Breakfast – Whole grains seem to stabilize blood sugar and help seniors avoid diabetes.

5. Get at Least 6 Hours of Sleep – Sleep is important for the body to regulate and heal cells, according to the experts. They estimate that this takes about 6 hours a night for the average person, so sleep becomes a critical requirement to good health.

6. Consume Whole Foods, Not Supplements – It is better to get the essential nutrients we need like selenium, beta-carotene, and vitamins C and E from our food rather than from pills. Eating a rich diet in colorful fruits and vegetables and dark wholesome breads and cereals seems to be the best way to get the essentials you need to live to 100.

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7. Be Less Neurotic and Maintain Perspective – Anxiety and stress are harmful to humans and should be avoided. As we age we should attain a perspective on life that allows us to realize what's important and what's not. We should avoid majoring in minors and making mountains out of mole hills. We need to constantly pray the "Serenity Prayer" saying, "God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can change, and the wisdom to know the difference." A Christian should have a tremendous advantage in this area because, if we believe all things are in God's hands, and believe, as the Bible says, that "all things work together for good to those who love God and are called according to His purposes" (Romans 8:28). There is no good reason to be anxious about anything.

8. Be a Creature of Habit – People who live to be 100 seem to be those who live by regular patterns and habits. As we get older it is more difficult for our bodies to adjust to changes. It takes us longer to snap back from a long night out or an exhausting experience. Our bodies like regular living habits.

9. Serve Others and Stay Connected – Serving others and having regular social contact with friends and loved ones is important to avoiding loneliness and depression. Serving others gives added meaning to life. Widows and widowers particularly need to make efforts to stay socially active. Volunteering to help others brings blessings we need.

10. Live Like a Child of the King – If we are true Christians, then, in fact, we are children of the King and we ought to live like He wants us to live. This means living a righteous life as defined in Scripture. And when we do, God will bless us and longevity becomes a byproduct.

.

So there you have it: ten tips for living to 100. If you follow these guidelines you will be fulfilling Scripture in Psalm 92:12-14 where we read, "The righteous will flourish.....they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon.....they will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green." Stay fresh and green and your chances of reaching 100 increase markedly.

 

How you know you're getting old

You realize caution is the only thing you really want to exercise.

 

teenThe young man’s baggy clothes drooped on his slouching sixteen-year-old frame, and his long hair seemed just a day or two away from becoming matted completely. The appearance was typical for him, but as he stood in my office doorway that day something else seemed uncharacteristically haggard.

 My job at that time was working with youth, and this kid (we’ll call him “Mike”) was one of the students I had regular interaction with. You could even say I was mentoring him a bit. Mike wasn’t the kind of guy who stopped by my office often, so when he showed up at the door I began to wonder if something was going on. Never one to beat around the bush with that sort of thing, I launched the two of us into a little dialogue.

 “How’s your day, Mike?” I asked.

 He responded with a shrug and a grunt. “OK,” he said.

 I prodded some more. “What’ve you been up to?”

 “Nothing much.”

 I kept going. “Where were ya last night?”

 Apparently that was the question he had been waiting for. Mike sighed, leaned back in his chair, and unleashed the whole story.

 He told me about the party, and what he had done there. With his head hanging low, he guessed at how much alcohol he had consumed. Then he confessed it had been really late when he finally arrived home safely.

 Mike’s admissions hardly shocked me that day—I had suspected for some time that he was making some destructive decisions. What did shock me, though, was the way Mike ended his story. His parents hadn’t even noticed, he told me. They never called to figure out why he hadn’t come home at a decent hour. They weren’t awake when he stumbled into the house during the early hours of morning. And when he dragged himself out of bed a few hours later, they didn’t ask him where he had been the night before or why he seemed so groggy the morning after.

 At this point in the telling, Mike got quiet. For a few seconds he looked intently at his feet while his eyes worked hard to blink back tears. Then he went on.

 “Dan,” he said to me, “you always ask the questions that really seem to matter.” He paused for a second, and when he continued it was with animated anguish. “Why don’t my parents care enough to ask me those same questions?”

 With that, he was done. He had admitted defeat, and he had nothing else left to say.

 Sitting there, hunched under his scraggly-hair-and-oversized-clothes façade, Mike’s eyes pleaded with mine for an explanation. The expression on his face in that moment was one I’ll never forget. It was the look of someone who would do anything to feel loved—to be truly known—by the two people who should have known him best.

 

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There are countless reasons why parents don’t ask their kids the important questions. Sometimes parents don’t ask because they’re scared of what they’ll hear in response. Sometimes they don’t ask because they think they can’t handle the follow-up. Sometimes they’re worried the truth will hurt or cause a rift or shatter the family’s reputation. Sometimes they’re just too busy and too concerned with other things.

 Whatever their reasons might be, no excuse is a good one here. Relationships don’t exist unless people are willing to share their lives, and teenagers don’t often share their lives with people who don’t seem interested.

 Teens want parents to care that they’re safe, that they’re making good decisions, that they’re telling the truth, that they’re feeling OK. Teens want parents who care, even when it’s difficult—especially when it’s difficult. Teens want to hear “I love you” from their mom and dad, but telling a teen you love them often isn’t enough.

 Most of the time, it’s the asking that makes the difference.

 Winning At Home, Inc. is a nationally-known organization designed to assist and encourage people of all ages and stages of family development. Dan Seaborn, founder, wrote this article. E-mail your questions or comments to This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

 

sunglassesI was in an art store recently and a woman was there getting a picture back that she had taken in to be framed. The picture was a wedding photo of her and her husband from 20 plus years ago. When the clerk handed the woman her picture back in the nice, newly-matted frame, there was this deep gasp that grabbed my attention. I looked over and realized what caused the sharp intake of breath. She had put the old picture into a newer, larger frame than the one before. Where the sun had been shining through the glass with the previous frame, it had discolored quite significantly so that you could see a real clear line where the fading and unfading met. And she was just taken aback by the effects 20 years of fading had on her picture.

It occurred to me that the same thing can happen in our relationships at home. In our marriage and family life, 20 years of fading can leave quite a mark. In our marriage, we might notice the intensity diminish after we’ve been together awhile. After that length of time, our bellies may flop more than flip when our spouse walks in the room. The smell that was once distinctively delightful to our spouse may be a little more pungent than we’d like. We no longer whisper sweet nothings in their ear, because frankly they have trouble hearing what we say talking in a normal tone of voice. What used to be considered R-rated romance has been downgraded to PG and maybe G on our challenging days. And the only impression we may be making is in the cushion of the couch.

What can we do to change the framework of our marriage and avoid the dullness that can occur? I started thinking that perhaps we need a little UV protection. I’m not talking about the ultraviolet protection we use on our bodies against the harmful effects of the sun, but in terms of our marriage, we need a different kind of UV armor—ultra-vibrant. That’s right. You need to produce vibrancy in your marriage to protect it against the doldrums and the damage from fading.

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Fortunately, the process doesn’t involve lathering a white, greasy film on your skin but rather planning fun activities with your spouse, taking extra care with your appearance, or perhaps listening more intently when your spouse speaks. You can’t expect your marriage to remain healthy or unfazed by the years of wear and tear if you don’t take additional measures to safeguard it.

Vibrancy is defined with words like energetic, exciting, stimulating, and lively or pulsating with vigor. Who wouldn’t want a marriage protected by a shield of such power and force? While it’s nice to experience a certain level of comfort with another person, it can quickly turn boring when nothing new is ever introduced or experienced.

The same concept applies if you have children. Even as kids get older and integrate more with their friends than with parents, you can keep them interested by incorporating the same principles. Even though kids may act as though they don’t want to be around their parents, most times they really do, but like anything worthwhile, it takes a little effort and imagination to entice them and to add vibrancy to the relationship.

Although it’s difficult to prevent photographs from fading, especially when they’ve been exposed to bright lights, you can protect your marriage and family by applying Ultra-Vibrant protection.

 

Winning At Home, Inc. is a nationally-known organization designed to assist and encourage people of all ages and stages of family development. Dan Seaborn, founder, wrote this article. E-mail your questions or comments to This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

golfIn the game of golf, if a player hits a shot poorly, at times he or she is allowed to take a gimme. Officially, it’s called a Mulligan—the first shot is disregarded completely, like it never happened in the first place.

 I worked with teens for many years, and in that time, one of the most frustrating aspects of my job was dealing with parents who had a Mulligan mentality, moms and dads who were using their kids’ lives to make up for the past. It was as if the sons and daughters were do-over’s—I really sliced that first one, but I’ll aim better this time around.

 For starters, there were the Party Parents. These were the people who felt like they’d missed out, like they hadn’t had enough fun while growing up. They didn’t want that kind of thing for their children, so they nixed the parenting role and became a buddy instead. Entertainment always flowed at their homes. Some of them even supplied the Friday night booze.

 There were the controlling parents, the ones who had grown up with a lot of freedom and regretted it. They’d lived in the fast lane as teenagers—sex, drugs, and Guns ‘N’ Roses T-shirts. Many had gotten into serious trouble during those years, and they were intent on keeping their kids from making similar mistakes.

 In caution, those moms and dads forbid any activities that could have even the slightest potential for being their child’s first step down the wrong road. Super-strict regulations applied to everything, from friendships to clothing to CD libraries.

 There were those parents who had missed the athletic scholarship by this much, so they enrolled their eleven-year-olds in fifteen different sport camps year round. There were the moms who couldn’t afford nice things growing up, so they made sure their daughters always wore the best clothes, displayed the most expensive haircut, and had trendy accessories to boot. There were the dads who had hated working every day after school, so they made sure their sons never had to get a job.

 

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In watching all those parents, it was clear from their approach that they were tense about how things would turn out. Their grip was tighter and their stance was more rigid in Round Two. They had that unique nervousness that comes from knowing they’d already blown it once.

 What those parents didn’t realize, though, was that there’s one big problem with Mulligans in parenting. They mess up the whole game—it’s like the caddy stepping in to play a hole. They break all the rules, and the kids are the ones who have to take the penalty strokes.

 The kids whose parents become their buddies have all the freedom they could ask for, but the look in their eyes and the slump of their shoulders screams out for structure and accountability.

The kids whose parents are overly strict are suffocating under family rules, craving just an inch of wiggle room.

 The middle school Olympic hopeful feels like he’ll never be good enough to make the folks happy. The daughter dressed in Prada thinks her value is wrapped up in her appearance. The son who’s never worked is a total couch potato.

 Parents, if you’re anything like me, you don’t want your kids to end up like those kids. But if you’re anything like me, you can also see a little bit of Mulliganing in yourself. We all have the tendency to overcompensate for what was missing in our childhoods.

 Take a moment and check yourself. Or ask a friend to evaluate your parenting tactics. Do you have your kids’ best interests in mind, or are you just trying to make up for something?

 Moms and dads, our childhoods are over. We have much to teach, but we’ve already played our eighteen holes. It’s time for us to caddy so our kids can swing the clubs.

Winning At Home, Inc. is a nationally-known organization designed to assist and encourage people of all ages and stages of family development. Dan Seaborn, founder, wrote this article. E-mail your questions or comments to This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

 

depressionDepression is something all of us have to deal with one way or the other. Seniors particularly are susceptible to it as we age. Depression comes in various shapes and sizes, from a very temporary feeling of unhappiness to a long term state of debilitating misery that may require medical intervention.

How can we know the difference? Basically the difference between a minor mood problem and deep depression requiring medical help involves the length and depth of the depression. If it lasts for weeks, is affecting normal life, is impacting others, and may be inducing thoughts of suicide, it is time to seek professional help. Very serious cases may involve brain chemistry and require psychiatric intervention and/or hospitalization. Short of this, however, we may all face periods where we feel blue, unhappy, and distressed without needing outside intervention to change our mental attitude.

Seniors may particularly be temporarily depressed by loss of a mate or close friend, an illness, job loss, financial losses, or social isolation in retirement. Obesity, boredom, abuse of alcohol, lack of sleep, loneliness, and inactivity can also trigger bouts of depression.

It is a myth that depression is a normal part of aging. It need not be, though some conditions like Alzheimer' disease, cancer, and certain medications for high blood pressure and arthritis can trigger bouts of depression.

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The best way to deal with depression, or bouts of unhappiness, is to stay active, healthy, involved, and always have some fall back activities you enjoy to engage in if the "blues" attack. Listening to great music, reading or listening to good humor, helping others, exercising, going to a good movie, building or making something you are good at, praying and reading scripture, reading a good book, and socializing with friends, are just some of the tactics seniors ought to practice regularly to blow away unhappiness. Particularly for Christians it is critical to have a close group of friends who can not only cheer you up when you need it, but who can also monitor your feelings and moods and sense when you may need a lift. A small group Bible study is great for this, as are close family members or neighbors who can monitor and cheer us up when needed.

Another myth of depression is that it is synonymous with grief. Grief is the normal reaction to loss of a loved one, but it is expected and temporary. It can become depression only if it lasts a very long time (weeks and months) and impacts one’s ability to function. If that occurs, professional counseling or medical care may be needed. Less serious cases of depression may be treated with counseling and/or anti depression drugs. Counselors, social workers, clergy, psychologists, and psychiatrists are the some of the professionals who can help those facing various levels of depression.

Seniors, particularly Christian seniors, should be mindful of the presence of depression not only in themselves but also in their friends. We can form an army to help combat the negative impact of unhappiness and depression and work to make everyone's lives around us a little bit happier and better. After all, I think this is just what Jesus would do and want us to do. 

L. James Harvey is a former Dean at Hope College in Holland Michigan and the author of 10 Christian books. Visit his website at www.sentencesermons.com.

 

life

As I age the answer to the above question becomes more interesting to me. I find there are a number of formulas available that purport to be able to help me predict just when I might depart this life. Before I go deeper into this, let me say, as a Christian, I realize that the matter of when I die is entirely in the hands of my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, where I am happy for it to be; however, speculating about how long I might have left is kind of fun to do.

There are numerous calculators available to anyone interested in this topic who has access to the internet. For example the IRS (the tax folks) have an interest in how long people might live because they want to collect their taxes on untaxed retirement funds (such as IRAs, 401Ks etc.) before you die. They therefore have a calculator which determines how much you must deduct every year once you reach the age of 70 1/2. One such calculator is offered free online by the Kiplinger organization at: www.kiplinger.com/php/ira/question.htm . You can enter your age and the amount left in your IRA and they will calculate how much the IRS requires you to withdraw each year. You can then divide this amount into the IRA balance to get the years the IRS figures you have left to pay them the untaxed balance in your IRA or 401K before you depart.

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There are some other calculators online that predict life expectancy more precisely than the IRS. One is offered by the Social Security Agency at: www.socialsecurity.gov/planners/lifeexpectancy.htm

One of the best and easiest calculators to use is found at: www.lifespancalc.com. This free tool is offered by the Northwestern Mutual Company. They would like to sell you some insurance when you're done calculating, but there's no pressure to buy anything. Another calculator is found at the Wharton Business School site at the University of Pennsylvania. Their site is: http://gosset.wharton.upenn.edu/~foster/mortality/perl/CalcForm.html. This calculator is probably the most precise because they ask you to input some personal information regarding health and background. It helps, if you go there, to have a recent blood pressure reading and height and weight information. They have a short form as well as a more comprehensive one. The latter gives the best results.

Another website also has a calculator but they want you to sign up for free health bulletins and information in order to do a calculation. If you don't mind that, their web site is: www.livingto100.com.

I must say I had a lot of fun running through these calculators and in averaging out how long they indicated I still had to live. I am currently 81 and the projections for me were 7, 7.6, 9.5, 13, and 17 years yet to live. I liked the 17 best. At my last annual physical exam my doctor said I was doing well and indicated I was in the top 5% of my age group health wise. He praised me for my exercise program, for keeping my weight down, and for avoiding any bad habits like smoking or drinking to excess, so I'm hoping I have a few years left on this earth, though I must admit, if the Lord decides next week is the time for His return or for His calling me home, I would be as happy as anyone. These old bones are beginning to show a bit of wear and tear.

 

How you know you're getting old

You call the incontinence hotline and they tell you to please hold.

 

L. James Harvey is a former Dean at Hope College in Holland Michigan and the author of 10 Christian books. Visit his website at www.sentencesermons.com.

emergencyI remember one night when our son was sixteen-years-old and out with friends. He told us he would be home by 10:00 pm. At 10:10, he was nowhere to be seen, and I was starting to get nervous. With every second that ticked on the clock, I worried more and more.

The typical parent, I assumed the absolute worst. I wonder how bad the accident was. Which hospital would he be in? I hope the other kids weren’t hurt too.

Concerned, I dialed his cell phone. He answered right away, to my relief. Keeping my voice calm, I addressed the situation. “Son, it’s a little later than you said you’d be home. Where are you?”

He hesitated. “Do I have to tell you?” he asked.

My heart jumped inside my chest. Oh, no. It’s even worse than I thought.

This was it. This was The Call people talk about, the one where your kid tells you the worst news you could possibly think of, and when it’s over you don’t even have the strength to pick yourself up off the floor.

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This was when he’d tell us that an innocent prank had gone awry, and now he was sitting on a prison bench next to some guy named Butch, with a $3 million bond and mug shots to boot. Or he’d eloped with a girl he met at a rest stop, and now they were driving to El Paso together. Or…

A new gray hair sprouted. “Yeah, you have to tell me,” I said.

“Dad,” he began, “you and mom do so much for me, and you guys provide so much stuff for us kids— ”

Oooh. Compliments? I thought. This must be really bad.

“—so,” he continued, “I just felt like I should stop and fill mom’s car up with gas, since she let me use it tonight.”

There was a long pause. I had expected that I wouldn’t know how to respond to his news, but I barely had a clue what to do with that one. Talk about picking yourself up off the floor! I finally found my voice, and I profusely thanked our sixteen-year-old for being so thoughtful. I was so impressed that I even told him he could stay out later if he wanted. Our call ended well. (On one end, two gleeful parents danced around the kitchen.)

Two days after that, I showed up at my son’s school and asked to have him called down to the office. When he walked into the room and saw his dad standing there, anxiety spread all over his face. His eyes widened, and I could see he was racking his brain over what he might’ve done wrong.

“Son,” I said, my voice firm, “put your books away, grab your stuff, and come out to the car. We’re driving to the Palace.”

He instantly knew what I was talking about, and at that, he started screaming. Literally, screaming and running down the hall, interrupting classes all the way to his locker. We were going to see his favorite NBA team, the Sixers, go up against Detroit that night. He had wanted to go to the game for weeks, and now he was going to get the chance.

As the two of us made our way to Motor City, I took some time to talk with my son. “I want you to know,” I told him, “we’re on this trip because I saw you grow in responsibility.”

“Thanks, Dad,” he said. A sheepish grin covered his whole face—it was the kind of look a dad can never get tired of.

I realize that when my son filled up his mom’s gas tank, it was a small action. I realize it got an extreme reward. But as I watched his confidence surge the night of the big game, I was glad he’d been affirmed so royally, even if it seemed extreme.

Winning At Home, Inc. is a nationally-known organization designed to assist and encourage people of all ages and stages of family development. Dan Seaborn, founder, wrote this article. E-mail your questions or comments to This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

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