Relationships Articles

The Power of Kindness

Monday, March 9th, 2015


“No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted. “Aesop

I was a new mom, trying to manage a crying infant and two grumpy stepsons at the library.

One of my arms held the baby; the other balanced a stack of children’s books and two DVDs. We were all tired and frustrated and ready to get out of there, and the kids were eager to watch their movies.

The librarian scanned my card, and then reminded me of the fine I have failed to pay. No surprise there. As I reached in my purse for my wallet, my heart sank. My wallet was sitting at home on the table. I had no cash, no checkbook, no way to pay the fine.

I asked the librarian to hold the books and movies for us, thinking I would run home and then come back. The baby started wailing, my stepsons began arguing with each other.

Then, the most surprising thing happened. The man next to me leaned over and handed the librarian a $20, and asked her whether it was enough to pay my fine. She looked as bewildered as I was. I didn’t know this man. Why was he paying my fine?

I told him that it’s not that I didn’t have the money; it’s just that I left my wallet at home. He simply asked that I do something kind for another person someday, and walked out.

Acts of kindness have the power to change people’s lives. Aesop wrote that “no act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.” It’s something we all too often forget.

We falsely believe that only the big acts of kindness count. That’s simply not true. Not everyone can hand out hundred dollar bills on the street, but everyone can say a kind word or do a simple and free kind action. 

I know how I felt after a stranger paid my library fine. I was elated that someone I did not know would do something so kind. What cost him $20 was worth far more to …

When Love Hurts

Saturday, February 14th, 2015


This is a story of two little birds, both cockatiels.

It’s about a kind of love that is destructive. It’s about when love hurts.

It’s also about healing, growing, and changing.

Once there were  two cockatiels who came to a rescue from a hoarding situation. One was named Mama Bird, and one was named Pretty Boy. They were mother and son.

Pretty Boy was quite pretty. He was gorgeous gray, full feathered, and looked like a healthy cockatiel should.

Mama Bird was not pretty. She looked like a turkey vulture with a pink, bald head and long bald neck. She had one lone feather sticking out of her head and a bulging eye. The feathers on her face were plucked out, so her ear holes lay open and exposed.


Mama Bird was plucked bare, and it was Pretty Boy who had harmed her.

On occasion, birds that are in stressful situations will pluck themselves or their cage mates.  Although Mama Bird was strongly attached to Pretty Boy, the relationship caused permanent damage.

I was looking for a companion bird for my cockatiel, Sunshine. And so I was introduced to Mama Bird and Pretty Boy.

Although Mama was not pretty, when I held her and touched her bare wrinkly head, her eyes closed and she immediately calmed down.

When I said that she was sweet and ugly, my eight-year-old daughter chastised me. “She’s beautiful, mommy,” she lectured. “I love her.”

Mama Bird has now been renamed Stormy, which fits her looks and her history, but not her personality. She is gentle and sweet.

Sometimes love hurts. Sometimes love is damaging and obsessive and destructive.

Sometimes, those we love and are loved by wound us.

When I work with clients who are in abusive or destructive relationships, they will often tell me how their spouse or partner, parent or sibling, was a good person, that they didn’t mean to cause the harm they did.

I believe them.

You can be a good parent and inadvertently hurt your child. You can be a caring spouse but say things that are damaging.

It is okay to distance yourself from someone who is …

The Power of “NO”

Sunday, February 8th, 2015



My mother says that my first word was no.

I’m not surprised that this was the first true word that came out of my  mouth.

Many children sing out the joys of no regularly and with enthusiasm. “Would you like more potatoes?” “NO!” “Put on your shoes please.” “NO!” “Time for a nap.” “NO!”

And why not? Children learn very early on that when they say no, something big and important happens. It could be that the food they dislike is taken away, or that they are given a different book. A tantrum of no’s extends the time before they go down for a nap.

If the no turns into a string of screaming no’s, mom or dad reacts strongly, usually with anger or frustration.

No is powerful, strong, and assertive.

It doesn’t require niceties, delicacies, or qualifiers.

What is it about the word no that makes it so hard to say? The answer could lie within yourself.

If you’re like many people, saying no is something you’re not particularly good at.

It could be that you can say no, but with qualifiers: “no, not right now, maybe another day,” when you really meant to simply say no. You do not have a desire to do it another day, but wish to make your no softer or nicer.

It might have been as you grew up, you were not taught empowerment. Maybe you were told that good girls or good children don’t say the word no.

Some kids are brought up with ideas of what no is and isn’t. And if you were a child whose mother or father taught that the word no was not to be said to adults, or whose parents required blind obedience, no isn’t a word that you uttered much. Maybe you were even afraid to say it.

There is a long list of things no isn’t:

It isn’t impolite

It isn’t rude

It isn’t mean

It isn’t bad.

No is simply one word that is a negative response. Its power lies in both its simplicity and its one meaning.

Some people feel the need to add niceties to no: “I’m so sorry, this week has been busy and my mother is coming over …

10 Things to Say to a Loved One Who Struggles with Depression

Tuesday, January 27th, 2015

shutterstock_1961611If you’ve ever been depressed, you know that awful feeling when well meaning people give advice that simply makes things worse.

There are lots of blogs that talk about what not to say to someone who is depressed.

Here are 10 positive things to say to help.

  1. I’m sorry you’re struggling, and wish I could make it better for you. This phrase doesn’t imply that you understand what they’re going through or that they need to do something. It simply states the truth, and your desire to help. It also provides sympathy.
  2. How can I help? Ask: do you need someone to watch your children? Do you need me to pick up prescriptions? I made too much lasagna tonight. Can I drop some off? Be as specific as you can, but allow space for them to ask for what their needs are. It may as simple as picking helping with housework for an hour.
  3. You are important to me, and I care about you. When someone is depressed, their mind can turn relationships around and make them believe that they are all alone in life. Even if it doesn’t make sense to you, verbalize what they mean to you. Send a card or flowers that simply say you’re thinking or praying for them.
  4. If you’re interested, I know a great therapist/psychiatrist. They may not be ready for that step, but in the future they will know at least one resource.
  5. I love you. Say this whenever you think of it. Say it whenever you see them. Feeling unloved goes hand in had with feeling depressed.
  6. Would you like me to come hang out for a bit? Depression isolates people, and for some, just having someone else around can be comforting. It could be that you watch a movie or knit, or just talk and gossip.
  7. Would you like me to tell ________ about this? ALWAYS, ALWAYS ask before you share personal information. Your loved one may want their pastor or other friends to know, but they may not. This decision needs to be completely respected.
  8. I know this feels as if it will last forever, but it …

8 Easy Ways to Reconnect with Your Teen

Sunday, July 13th, 2014


The teen years are a developmental time when children begin to distance themselves from their parents and families.

This is necessary and healthy.

But sometimes the emotional distance can become too extreme and you will feel the need to reconnect.

Your job as a parent parent is not an easy one: to allow your child to grow an independent sense of self, yet remain close enough to provide support and guidance when needed.

As your teen grows in maturity and independence, keep 8 these ideas in mind to help you reconnect when the distance grows too great.

  1. Encourage appropriate independence. Teens are searching to find their own identity. This may mean making choices that you find strange or shocking, or it can mean changing rules to fit their growing autonomy. It’s importance to balance independence with behavioral expectations to keep your teen safe. A teenager’s frontal cortex, the part of the brain that helps them make decisions and allows for impulse control, is not fully formed until the age of 25, according to the National Institute of Mental Health, so try and help them when they are making dangerous choices, but allow them freedom when it’s appropriate.
  2. Recognize when your teen needs you to be closer. The teenage years can feel like an emotional roller coaster. Some days your child wants nothing to do with you, other days they talk your ear off and you feel like you can’t get a moment’s peace. When they are seeking connection, do your best to provide it, and if they withdraw again, realize that this is all part of the process of growing up.
  3. Lay off the lectures. Sometimes the fewer words that are spoken, the better. At this age, consequences speak volumes. If your teen knows she broke curfew and knows the consequences that are in place, she doesn’t need a lecture. If the problem is serious and needs to be addressed with a conversation, it helps if everyone involved is calm. Allow your teen to be part of the discussion. Even if you as the parent have the final word, teens need to feel like they are heard.
  4. Be positive,

Can an App Save Your Marriage?

Thursday, July 10th, 2014


There are apps for everything these days.

There is an app that makes fake working noises so you can secretly nap.

There’s an app to translate your baby’s cries.

One app wants you to pay $.99 to have a staring contest with a poorly drawn cartoon monkey.

Apps can help you run a marathon, stick to a diet, learn tai chi.

But can an app help or even save your marriage?

Free Yourself Free From Anger, Hurt and Resentment

Friday, April 11th, 2014

There’s an old parable large__12801641634about how to catch a monkey.

The story goes that if you want to catch a monkey, you put a hole in a coconut, and inside the hole you put some nuts or fruit. You tie the coconut to a tree and wait.

A hungry monkey will put his hand down the hole and grab the fruit or nuts in his fist. When he attempts to take his fist out of the hole, he finds that his fist is too big.

The legend states that the monkey becomes trapped, not because of the coconut, but because of his unwillingness to let go.

The metaphorical coconut trap is something that everyone deals with.

Do you hold on to times people have hurt you in the past? Are your feelings still hurt from painful words that were said to you? Or do you continue to agonize over times when you have messed up? Is letting go of your own mistakes difficult?

There are two people in a row boat, each one with an oar. One person feels hurt or angry, and they stop a rowing, while their partner keeps at it.

The boat moves in a circle, going nowhere.

The anger, frustration, and pain people experience keeps them from working together to move forward.

These tightly kept feelings don’t do any good. They don’t change the past, and when acted upon they do not change anyone else.

They merely keep you stuck.

Another trap that keeps people from feeling free is regret over what they did or didn’t do in life.

It’s like a cage, where they feel like they’re interacting with the world, but they’re being held back. It may feel safe to hide under anger or resentment. But the reality is that this cage keeps a person from  participating in and enjoying life.

Most people don’t even realize what it is that’s keeping them from moving forward.

They may blame their unhappiness on their bad luck or how other people treated them. Or perhaps they may understand their own role in the situation. They understand by holding on to their anger and hurt is like poison. …

When Your Teen is Being Bullied: 5 Things Parents Need to Know

Monday, March 24th, 2014

shutterstock_74330686No parent wants to find out that their child is being bullied. Yet this is a situation in which many parents find themselves, and it can be incredibly scary and confusing.

Teens are bullied over the same thing generation after generation: physical differences such as weight, acne and facial features, speech differences, mental abilities/disabilities.

Teens get bullied verbally, physically (tripping down the hall, book bumping), and through writing.

One significant difference that teens face now is the vast amount of technology available, which has changed the dynamic of bullying behavior.

Teens are attacked through social media such as Facebook, text messages are sent, photos are sent and become viral in seconds. Sexting is not uncommon.

When you were a teenager, pictures were physical. Notes were on paper. And while rumors could get around quickly, they were not recorded forever on the world wide web.

As a parent of a teen, you can make a difference when your child is being bullied.

Here are 5 things that all parents of teens need to know.

  1. When your child says they are being picked on or bullied, believe them. Your teen may act confident and happy while in your presence, but at school she may behave differently.
  2. Take action. This may be meeting with school administrators and being an advocate for your child. It may be getting him counseling. It may be brainstorming with him about ways to stand up to others if he feels comfortable with this.
  3. Know your school’s policy, and hold them to it. More than once I’ve had to write or meet with school administrators to advocate for a student. It is not your child’s job to ignore the bullies; gaining strength to deal with bullying behaviors may be something to be worked on but the school has a duty to protect your teen and make school a safe place. This could mean changing schedules, having a teen who is hurting your son or daughter attend counseling sessions, or discipline for them.
  4. Talk to your child about how she feels. Does she think about dying? Is she hurting herself? Who are her friends?
  5. Bullying can be a …

Making the Most of Marriage/Relationship Counseling

Wednesday, September 25th, 2013

shutterstock_151609376People seek marriage or relationship therapy for many reasons.

For some people, it’s because of a crisis, such as infidelity, job loss, illness or accidents.

Others come in because they feel distant and want to grow closer, or they seek counseling before they marry to sort out any difficulties and ensure that they’re ready for life together.

Some couples simply know that something feels wrong but they don’t know what, and they want to fix it.

But once you and your partner have decided to seek counseling, how do you make the most of it? Here are six things to consider.

The Importance of Connection, Part 2: Making a Difference in Someone’s Life Will Make a Difference in Yours

Wednesday, September 18th, 2013

Humans are all about community. By connecting with others, we find support, meaning, reassurance, and joy. Even the healthiest among us feels lonely and isolated at times. For those who struggle with physical or mental disabilities, the isolation can feel even greater.

How to people do it?


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