Posted in Relationships, Uncategorized

Is Your Pet an Emotional Surrogate?

This pure breed Sphinx cat is Shabbat. Shabbat...
Image via Wikipedia

I write this post encouraged by my sister-in-law.  This morning we were discussing the role of animals in our lives and how “aware and connected” they can be to humans.  I was reflecting on the recent loss of our dog Katie, and what she meant to me.  I remarked at how animals have helped me cope during times in my life when for whatever reason, human comfort or companionship wasn’t available or desired.  At times, I swear that animals are better listeners, better friends, and more tolerant than our human counterparts.

I think that because animals listen without judgement, are there for us no matter what, and tolerate our eccentric behaviors, we tend to attribute human-like emotional support to their expressions, behaviors, and routines.  They bridge a gap where humanity fails us.  I remember times when I was a teenager, I would go into my chicken house and sit down and start what I called a prayer meeting.  I could make the sound of a chicken and you wouldn’t have known it was coming from a human.  They would scratch the hay on the ground around me, sit on my legs and shoulders,  clucking and talking with/to me as though I was one of them (of course it did help that I hatched many of them.)

If you spend an huge amount of time with your animals, ask yourself…”do I allow myself more freedom of expression, love, compassion, grace, tolerance for my pets than I do my human companions?”  I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with lavishing love and attention on our pets.  I have made some personal observations reflecting on my own past and realized that sometimes my pets were used as a crutch or surrogate because the human option was either too difficult or not available.  Do you find it easier to give love and attention to an animal/pet than to risk vulnerability or intimacy with another human being?  If you can honestly answer that question for yourself and find that you do have a preference for dealing with animals over humans, you might want to take some time to journal and explore “why?”

It takes a lot of work to reflect and look inward to understand why we behave the way we do.  There is however, a great reward in examining the differences in our relationships between animals and humans.  You might discover healing, you may gain new friends (both human and animal), and you certainly will benefit with better mental health.  Seeking to understand our own behavior and the reasons/motivations behind our actions can reveal a lot about ourselves.  Purposed avoidance in our relationships only creates great chasms/distance and awkwardness.

All relationships take work!  Healthy relationships require conscious, focused, intentional thought and energy devoted to keep them fun, comforting, and enjoyable.  That is the only way to keep both people interested, excited, and committed.  If you neglect your relationships and let them run on auto-pilot, that’s when the routine/humdrum ruts get carved into your existence.  Boring, predictable, responsible are attributes of a relationship that has been allowed to stagnate.  So, dust off the j0urnal, the bicycle, the tennis rackets….get off your couch and cushy chair, don’t wait until the New Year to turn a new leaf!  Nothing ventured, nothing gained.  I dare everyone who reads this post to take a personal inventory and answer the question… “Are you living your life on purpose…or on cruise control?”

I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving….even our four-legged, winged, and finned relations!

Cheers!

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Posted in Education, Relationships

Got Man Points?

A man and a woman
Image via Wikipedia

This message brought to you as a result of my daughter asking, “Is there such a thing as “Woman Points?”

     One really can’t answer that question without first asking “What is the thing about “Man Points?” As much pitting against the genders as there is coming from both sides, I wouldn’t be surprised whatever the answer was of who started this ridiculousness in the first place.

But it does beg the following questions:

Who came up with the rules?
What are man points (or woman points?)
How do you gain or lose points?
Are there differences based on culture/geography?
Are there certain times where the rules and conditions are suspended/ignored?
Who’s keeping count anyway–is there an invisible point balance following men around?
How do you assess who has how many?

      Anyway, I took a stab at what I could intuit would be cause for gain or loss of man points.  This intuition/recollection of course being the result of a couple of decades mixing with other adult males and listening/observing comments and criticisms made by men about other men:

Gain Points                                                    Lose Points

Hunt or own a gun                              Cook better than a woman
Follow or play sports                           Like or do any crafts 
Fix your own automobile                     Still live with your mother
Go to bars & check out women           Comment on a woman’s clothes
Drive a truck                                        Focus on clothes color matching
Scratch yourself or spit publicly           Clip coupons/go “sale” shopping
Open doors for women                        Clean up after yourself
If you don’t fuss over your looks        Spend >5 minutes on appearance
Responsible but socially clueless        Squeamish or too picky

     I did some Google searching and found out there’s even an iPhone “app for that!” http://themanpoints.com/index.php The sad thing is it that it is a “tracking application” for keeping count of how many good deeds you’ve done for your significant other–pretty pathetic if you ask me.  It even will produce a report for you on your “ManPoints Statement” so your good deeds don’t go unrecognized.  What!!!!  Not only are you not man enough to do “WHATEVER” is your responsibility to share around the house or parenting, it sounds like you need to schedule yourself for a chest implant to pin your points on!!??!!

Here’s another stab someone took at defining what a real man is:  http://www.askmen.com/money/mafioso_60/98_mafia.html in an article titled, “Top 10:  Traits of a Real Man.”

     My thought is that we lose opportunities to learn and grow as individuals when we prejudge others based upon differences in how our gender is expressed through appearance, verbal patterns, culture or gestures.  Sometimes it is difficult to become accustomed to extremes or unique expressions, but underneath it all…we all share the same basic human needs/desires!  If you make the personal/physical investment in time to commit your life to another human being (especially if kids come into play) then you owe it to each other to share all responsibilities equally to the greatest extent possible. 

     Twenty years ago, there was a difference between women’s work and men’s work due to societal ignorance and stereotypes but with the advent of the industrial revolution, and companies like Craftsman and Black & Decker (and others), there’s nothing stopping either gender from accomplishing great things indepently of each other or as a team.  Also, any male with a mind and a heart in the right place can learn to nurture and care for children and hearth with as much devotion and commitment as any woman.

Ladies please, give us some honest feedback concerning this topic!

Posted in Relationships, Writing

Humanity, Our Common Threads-Shame Upon Us

Shirley Roper-Phelps, a prominent member of th...
Image via Wikipedia

What we share is stronger than that which divides ~ We Are One!

My whole life I have felt a great passion for the underdog…those who are easily misunderstood, taken advantage of, or dismissed because of their appearance, color, status, faith, or circumstance.  I have heard firsthand the reports of a holocaust survivor when she addressed a group of patient listeners.  At the age of 76 she is touring the globe to share her story so that others may help join the attitude and practice of tolerance.  Greg Mortenson is another example of someone who spreads the message of encouragement in his book Three Cups of Tea.

I am enthused and my spirit joins in celebration for those in the Middle East who fight for freedoms and basic human rights.  Just like in the animated movie Bugs Life, there’s a growing awareness among people all over that if they unite, no monstrous dictator can keep them oppressed.  There’s great power in numbers of a people united.

In this great country, on this forgiving planet, we have too much to lose, and everything to gain in finding unity between and freedom for all peoples.  Let us not allow differences of ideas, feelings, interests, location, stature, wealth, circumstance or the color of our skin, to turn us into creatures of destruction!  We all, if given opportunity and encouragement, are creators.  My wish for all who read this is courage to take risks, and determination to overcome obstacles.

Just yesterday I heard  an upsetting story on NPR about hate speech laws and how they differ between countries.  I believe it is possible to protect our rights of freedom of expression without verbally abusing another human being to degrade another human life.  It saddens me deeply to see images of protestors carrying signs “expressing their views” at the expense of others. Some of you may have seen the cover story on CNN’s website yesterday with pictures of the Westboro Baptist Church protestors.

Criticize ideas, ask questions about the motivation of others…but carrying a sign on national television asking for people to “pray for more dead soldiers” is a cowardly insidious evil that we currently allow.   The person carrying that sign would feel quite differently if they were a citizen of another country under the rule of a dictator.  If your freedom of expression causes deep shame within others to be part of your race–perhaps, just maybe…the world would be a better place if you had patience for yourself and chose to shelve your expression.  When you meet the people you scorn and criticize, take the time to get to know them from the single hat we all wear (humanity), you’ll find that there’s little difference between us.

Posted in Relationships

A Gender Betrayed

Women may agree with an assessment I’ve come to conclude–men just aren’t ready for marriage or committed relationships until they’re at least 30 years old or so.

The seed of these thoughts emerged while I was showering this afternoon after my treadmill workout.  And please forgive me, there may be exceptions to what I speak, however, I’ve yet to meet one:  A man, who is a true asset, a compliment to his wife, mature enough to journey in lock-step with his bride–without causing grief, sadness or disappointment – regularly.  Maybe its circumstance, maybe a combination of a lack of instruction, poor communication skills, or that we’re really as fragile as the fairer sex are accused of being?

When I reflect on my own relationship with my wife, I can honestly say that I wasn’t fully prepared for the reality of dealing with young children.  I knew that I wanted a family, and was in love with the idea of being a dad, but man is there a lot of work, repetition, and challenge with caring for our young.  NOTHING in life, except experience prepares you for the reality of being one hundred percent responsible for the care and health of another human being!

labrador puppy at age 2 months
Image via Wikipedia

During the child-rearing years of family, both husband and wife, dad and mom need to be a team–on the same page!  Too often because of the tolerated and accepted stereotypes of testosterone carriers, we’re let off the hook, excused from particular parenting chores and responsibilities because we’re ‘not used to it’ or ‘not as good as it.’  The new world of parenting and navigating the emotional landmines of decisions often lands squarely on the woman.  Late nights with sick children, taxi service and household management when the husband is away on business trips; more on her plate.  The laundry service, the menu planning, cooking, baking, doctors appointments, clothes shopping, parent/teacher conferences, enrollment in clubs and athletic teams…it never ends.  Parenting is the boot camp of independence for many women who learn in the school of unfair and hard knocks that they can stand on their own two feet and don’ t need a man to be a success.  Frustration is the bitter wine shared between the lonely stay at home mom and the dad who all too often puts self before the family.

In many respects, we’re like a young Labrador pup!  You know how they are?  Running through the house, playful, cute….and destructive!  Lordy, the trash isn’t even safe in a home with one of these best friends!  One morning, you’ll awaken to find your favorite slippers torn and soggy; or groggily walk down the stairs to get your morning coffee and step into a pile of puke on the last stair step.  Don’t get me wrong, they’re fun, look adorable in pictures, even more serene and attractive when asleep.  The commitment level associated with the care of a young pup is a long-term endeavor.  Notice any parallels ladies?

While finishing up my shower with these thoughts racing through my head I felt great compassion for my wife and this same story that is being played out on life’s stage throughout the world every day.  It DOESN’T have to be this way, but it won’t change until our theories and instruction for future generations are shown that gender is not an excuse for poor communication skills, respecting boundaries, being consistent or holding true to our commitments.  I really think the whole marriage vows practice should be re-examined and revised, that interpersonal relationship skills should be a course taught in school and required for any couple who find out they’re expecting!

I have four older sisters, have been married for almost 19 years, and have two daughters and one son–been surrounded by estrogen my whole life–and think I have the inside scoop!   I believe that civil society would be better off worldwide if both genders were on equal footing.  Guys, we have so much to learn and much work to do within ourselves.  It’s not all about toys, fun, fame, power or control!  There’s a deeper purpose and meaning to our existence, its time we explore together and help each other be better men.  Our wives and women worldwide deserve it.