Archives for August 2010

The Top 5 Ingredients in a Happy Marriage, and Romance Isn't One of Them

When I saw this video of couples from a marriage ministry showing their love through dance at Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago, it made me consider what the top 5 ingredients in a happy marriage must be.

In our youth we mistakenly believe that romance is the cornerstone of a happy marriage, but it is just a small part of marriages that last.

There are five key ingredients in a happy marriage.

1. Two happy people.

When you enter any relationship as a whole and happy person, the chances of that relationship working are tremendously increased. No pressure is put on the other partner to “make” you happy. This is especially true in marriage where the relationship is based on deep intimacy and trust.

2. Shared values.

Two partners in a marriage may have varied interests, but they must share core values. When issues such as spiritual beliefs, desire for children, role expectations, sexual expectations and attitude toward money are not shared by both people in the partnership, constant tugging and dissension can tear the relationship apart.

3. Compatible life paths.

While partners in a marriage may have different life purposes, careers, and areas of expertise, they must be in agreement on the life path they will travel together.

4. Open communication and commitment.

No problem can last that is subjected to open communication and a commitment to resolution. A couple that can feel safe to discuss any and every issue is equipped to handle whatever comes up in the everyday ups and downs of living.

5. Genuine like and love between the two.

A happy couple enjoys each other’s company. They are comfortable with each other. When you observe them you can see that they not only love each other, but like each other as well.

What do you think? Do you have a different view of the top 5 ingredients in a happy marriage?

Can You Savor Your Sixties and Plan for Death at the Same Time?

Photo by everestyogatrek from flickr

Photo by everestyogatrek from flickr

I recently discovered an inspiring blog,  Savoring Your Sixties , by Bonnie McFarland. At the end of her free ebook, “Loving Your 60’s: 6 Tips to Start Now,” she asked readers to share their concerns. Here’s what I wrote.


Hi Bonnie,

I just learned about your site and book recently and just finished the ebook.

I enjoyed it and plan to blog about it soon.

In the meantime, I want to respond to one of your questions about what is challenging in my sixties.  I have created a full, busy and satisfying life, although I’m always reading and exploring deeper.

The one thing I can’t seem to settle on is whether I want to be buried or cremated when I die.  When my mother died at age 92 she had prepaid for her funeral and burial decades before, and boy! did that make it a lot easier to carry out her funeral.

The only thing she didn’t specify or pay for were the flowers.

She had chosen the songs she wanted, but the people she had designated to sing at her funeral had all preceded her in death.

But still, she had done so much planning that the inevitable disagreements that would have ensued among me and my siblings were averted.

I would like to make it easy for my kids to take care of my remains.

On the one hand, I favor cremation and tossing the ashes somewhere because I don’t want them feeling guilty about not visiting my grave on Mother’s Day and all the other days that folks think you should  visit graves.

I wouldn’t want my ashes sitting on some mantle in an urn either. They eventually get knocked over and have to be swept up and tossed in the evening garbage anyway.

Besides, going to a funeral of someone who has been cremated is a snap for the well-wishers. No following that long procession of cars from the church to a cemetery that is always in another city, then making your way back to the church of home of the family to partake of the repast.

But burning seems so harsh.

On the other hand, burial doesn’t sound much better. Since I can only think of myself as live, I see burial as suffocation.

But then, paying for a casket and burial plot just doesn’t make as much sense as it used to. Cremation is definitely cheaper.

To complicate my decision, I love crime dramas. Every now and then a body that’s about to be cremated or embalmed is discovered to still be alive.  Yikes!

I could leave all these decisions to my four adult kids after I die, but they have trouble agreeing on almost everything. So, I feel compelled to make this decision myself, and soon.

What to do! What to do!

Blessings, Flora


No matter what your age, have you planned your funeral or pondered how you want your body handled after death?

Today is Weather Complaint Day, So Go at It



As I was stepping out of Costco in the 95 degree sun, another customer rolled up headed to his car and said, “They say it’s going to be 70 on Sunday?”

“I beg your pardon,” I responded.

He repeated it, only this time it was a statement, “They say it’s going to be 70 on Sunday.”

“That’ll be good,” I said.

I marvelled at the way perfect strangers will strike up a conversation over the weather, usually a complaint, without even so much as a “Hello” first.

We love to complain and spread misery, and the weather is a perfect target.

Complaining about the weather always amazes me since folks act as if they have no choice in where they live, and they seem to complain no matter what the weather.

People complain about cold and hot weather alike, as well as different degrees of cold and hot.

On a discussion board, for example, one commenter said

People who think that Denver [h]as harsh and difficult winters have absolutly[sic]   no idea of what they speak off. [sic] You should be grateful that you leave[live?] in a[sic]  area that [h]as 4 seasons witch[sic] include mild and temperate winters,that are fallowed [sic] by hot but pleasantly dry and comfortable summers!! What more do you want for crying out loud!!!

Here in the hell hole of Montreal where i live we get 200inch. of snow per year,the average temp. in Dec.,Jan.,Feb,Mar. are 28F,23F,21F and 32F respectively.  However in these averages you will find built-in a minimum of 21 days in dec-jan-feb that are of the sub-zero kind meaning anywhere between 0F to-10F…REMEMBER YOUR FREEZER IS AT -04F!!!

Evidently this Montreal resident is chained to Montreal and perhaps his frozen fingers explain the many spelling and usage errors in his comment as well.

Each year when it floods in Missouri, my relatives complain about the damage, but never move.

Likewise, beautiful beachfront homes in Malibu, CA, sometimes celebrity homes, suffer severe damage, even destruction, but victims of these disasters often build again in the same spots.

Then, there are folks who like to play one-up with the weather in their city.

When I was headed to the Inauguration in Jan. 2009, for example, various passengers on the plane were discussing how Californians were going to be in for a shock in Washington, D.C.’s cold weather.

I commented to my seat buddy, “I think I’ll be okay. I grew up in cold weather in St. Louis, MO.”

When he stopped laughing, the guy said, “St. Louis? That’s not cold. Cold is Minnesota. Until you’ve been in Minnesota in the winter you haven’t seen cold.”

Meterologist, Jeff Haby, compiled this list of the top ten weather-related complaints.

1. Global warming–any weather condition folks don’t like gets blamed on global warming.

2. El Nino–any blame not directed at global warming goes to El Nino.

3. Too hot or too cold–complaints typically have to do with how both of these send utilities bills sky high or how miserable it is to be outside or indoors

4. Drought–complaints are usually about having to ration water and of course the damage to vegetation

5. Ice–comments usually have to do with the dangers from driving, inability to get to the store, possible power outtages

6. Hurricanes–pick any famous hurricane of the past and folks are still complaining about it

7. Humidity–difficulty breathing is the most common complaint here

8. Dirty air–when the airplane is descending over L.A. and other urban cities, the pollution is easily recognized and reminds of us what we’ll soon be breathing

9. Wind–people seldom have anything good to say about wind since it picks up dust, makes driving difficult and can even cause damage

10.  Rain–those folks who were complaining about the drought earlier are often glad to see rain at first. But if it continues then the complaints begin. The most common complaint about rain occurs when it slows down the commute to work or ruins outdoor events such as weddings and sporting events.

So, there you have it. The full array of weather conditions to complain about, or is it? Was your favorite weather on the list?

Let us hear your weather complaint.

Go ahead. Get it out of your system.

After all, it’s Weather Complaint Day!

3 Things that Got Me in Trouble in College and Still Do

Photo by belgapixel from flickr

Photo by belgapixel from flickr

College is an exciting experience that can uplift or undo you. There were three things that got me in trouble in college and still do.

1. Becoming intoxicated with freedom.

I was so eager to start college that I went to summer school immediately after high school graduation and took a speed reading class just to get onto a university campus as soon as possible.

After the restrictions of high school, I was ready to breathe free and run my own life. No one looking over my shoulder, no hall passes, or bells to signal the end of class.


The first full year of college I took a full load and  pledged a sorority. I didn’t know this was a bad idea until I was drowning in homework while trying to carry out  the dictates of my “big sisters.”

I flunked Zoology.

My mother was surprisingly understanding, especially after she found out that I could retake it in summer school and the new grade would replace the F.

My inability to handle freedom well resurfaced when I retired from teaching. I had long wanted to be able to travel without trying to coordinate with the academic calendar, so I took off the week after I retired.

First, to China with a tour and later in September went to a retreat in Italy. When I returned from Italy I took two more trips here in the US.


It wasn’t until the end of that year after I had drunk deeply of freedom that I began to think about the projects I had planned for retirement. (Of course I can argue that my play time was deserved and necessary.)

2. Underestimating the time it takes to complete projects.

Occasionally one of my college professors would cancel a class so we could work on a major paper. When the due date was weeks away, like my fellow classmates I would sometimes procrastinate and use this time to socialize instead, thinking I had plenty time to work on the paper later.

I was always sorry when “later” came.

Although I’ve improved in this area over the years, there are occasions when I still  wait until the night before to tweak and update a project thinking it will only take an hour or so.  This happens especially when the project is already done and I just plan to update and make minor revisions.

I get  lulled into too much confidence.  It seems that the less time I give myself to finish, the more things pop up to threaten me reaching my deadline on time.

3. Making unreasonable demands on modern technology.

Personal computers were not available when I was in college (I know I just dated myself), but electric typewriters were. I typed my papers, often finishing just an hour or two before  class.  Because carbon copies were so ugly I would stop by a copy shop on my way to class , especially when I was in classes where I had to do a presentation.

Terror would strike in my heart when I arrived at the copy shop only to discover that a line of students had the same idea. I would sweat bullets hoping I’d get my copies in time to dash into class on time.

If you’ve ever seen a procrastinator kick and scream at a copy machine or printer that’s moving slower than they wish, you know what I mean.

I find that the day I’ve waited until the hour before a meeting to run copies is the day the copier is down for repairs.

Recently I was printing the program and other materials for our family reunion. My wireless printer decided it didn’t want to talk to my computer any more.

At times like this I can practically see the anxiety trying to rise in my body. (Fortunately I’ve gotten better at dealing with this too.)

Check the troubleshooter. Shut everything down. Start over.

Time-saving devices can save time, but they won’t manufacture time, nor make up for waiting until the last minute.

How about you? Do you have some old habits that die hard?

Can't Keep Up? 4 More Ways to Simplify Your Life

The Harry Rower Photostream

The Harry Rower Photostream

Yesterday I gave you three ways to simplify your life.

1. Stop trying to keep up and keep sane instead.

2. Drop out of , cancel or postpone any activities that don’t further your goals or happiness

3. Lower your standards

Here are four more ways to simplify your life.

4. Put white space around your activities

You can tell the difficulty level of a book by how much or little white space there is around the paragraphs and in the margins. Law textbooks, for example, tend to have more words on a page with smaller fonts and less white space than a 5th grade history book. For that reason the 5th grade book is less intimidating and easier to read.

Plan your time so there’s lots of space between activities. It will contribute to your peace of mind.

I was teaching an 8 AM study skills class one day when I spotted a 20 year old fidgeting on the edge of her seat the first day. She was nervously watching the clock as the hour neared 8:50.

Noticing her discomfort, I asked what was the problem.

“Will you be dismissing class on time? ” she blurted. “I have to be at work at 9 AM.”

This student was clearly asking for trouble. Even though her job was just a few blocks from campus, there was no way she could count on being at work by 9AM immediately following an 8AM class. I urged her to drop the class.

If you have an important meeting in the afternoon, don’t schedule three important activities in the morning. Space these out on different days.

Allow yourself more time to commute than you think you’ll need. It’s so much better to arrive unhurried and unruffled than to flop into the room panting and exhausted.

5. Slow down

No matter how many lanes they add to the freeways here in Southern California, drivers keep rushing down the road, taking scary chances darting in front of one another, risking all of our lives.

There is a reason why Buddhism is the fastest growing religion, why organic food is growing in popularity and why dowhshifting is even a word. Although the turn in the economy may have sparked the turn to simple living, many are voluntarily slowing their lives or officially joining the Slow Movement.

You can slow your life by eating in smaller bites and chewing longer. Health experts say that this aids our digestion, lowers our stress and helps us lose weight. The best part is that we can finally actually enjoy the taste of our food, savor it. How cool is that?

You can also slow down your reaction to things that aren’t going your way. The old saying that you should count to ten is not just your Grandma’s advice, it’s also a sound anger management technique.

Waiting before you react  diffuses your anger, gives you time to think and empathize with the other party. Most of all improves how you will respond.

6. Beware of bright, shiny objects and good ideas.

This tip is especially for me.

I was clipping along making good progress down my to-do list this morning, for example, when I got an email reminder from Jon Hansen of PI Window on Business that his radio show was starting in a few minutes. (I love his shows.)  His guest this morning was British historian, Albert Jack, who has written several books about the origins of popular sayings like “turn a blind eye,” or “stealing your thunder.” 

I hadn’t scheduled his show into my day, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. There was, of course, the danger that I could have gotten so distracted that I couldn’t back to my to-do list, but I didn’t, this time.

Even things that are wonderful and that are good ideas don’t need to be acted upon as soon as you learn about them. If they don’t advance your goals for the day, or deprive you of much-needed rest, file, bookmark or make note of them for another day.

7. Make good use of that technology you own.

One day as we were on our way to a family reunion, a phone call came through on my cell phone. My son was holding the phone and noticed the telemarker’s company name in the caller ID.

Rather than get upset with the telemarketer for calling at a time when it was not convenient, we just didn’t answer it.

My son very thoughtfully said, “Whoever invented caller ID should be given a Congressional Medal of Honor, Nobel Peace Prize, the Pulitzer, the Grammy, the Emmy, the Tony and an Oscar. And if he’s dead, he should be dug up and awarded them posthumously!”

That made me curious so I looked it up.

Caller ID was first developed  by Theodore George “Ted” Paraskevakos, a Greek inventor, businessman and a naturalized citizen of the USA.  He worked on Caller ID while employed as a communications engineer for SITA. Ted holds over 40 patents, but for this one has advanced the cause of simplifying life like no other.

Thank you Ted Paraskevakos!

Now, thanks to Ted, you do not have to pick up the phone to speak to anyone you don’t want to speak to. Take advantage of that wonderful feature.

There are many other labor-saving, time-saving and stress-reducing devices, some which simplify our lives and some which cause frustration. The key to making good use of technology is use it, not let it use and control you.

Commit to following these ways to simplify your life and keeping up will no longer concern you.