Category Archives: Relationships

How to Set New Year’s Goals That Work

How to Set New Year’s Goals That Work

You should do it, niggled the inner voice as her eyes scanned the title of the article. Set some goals. It was a voice she had learned to trust. You want to be successful. You want to move to the next level. You know goals help your focus, your self-esteem, your decision making. Think it through. Do it. “I will,” she said. “But first, I want to ask the God of the Universe some questions. There is something I have been pondering for quite awhile and I need an omniscient answer. The answer will have a bearing on the goals I set.” So. Ask your all-knowing oracle already, but make it snappy. The new year is advancing. “I’m a little bit fearful of the answer,” she said. “Because, no matter the answer, yes or no, it will disturb my comfort and my plans.” Maybe I should just go on not knowing, not asking and not setting any goals – you know-take life as it comes and kind of putter around at enjoyable things I like to do. Maybe something good will happen by accident. After all, that’s been my habit for more years than not and I don’t want to ruffle the waters or risk failure by aspiring to something unachievable. “Pull the tooth!” the voice fairly shouted. For goodness sakes, the subject came up, you didn’t court it, you were fine in your resignation, you merely read a best-selling book in which the main character said, “Someday you may think of marrying. Pick someone who thinks you’re the only person in the room.” Go ahead. Ask the question of the Universe. Do it.

The question

“Does such a man exist?” she asked. Let me restate the question,“ Is it possible there is such a man who thinks you are the only woman in the room? – for a lifetime?” “What?” squeaked the voice. “Romantic relationship is your New Year’s resolution?” “No,” she said. “Relationship takes two. Realistic goals are achievements that depend only on me. I cannot control another person. But if there is such a male, of course, I want one. Doesn’t every woman? I have always wanted one. In that case, a realistic goal would be to get out and meet more people. But that is not why I asked the question. An affirmative answer only begs a second question: What have I been doing wrong all these years? How do I fix me? Heal me? Frankly, that sounds like a lot of work. Yet, I must know the answer. But fixing me is not the goal. That is not why I asked the question.” “Then why did you ask the question?” queried the voice. “I am a writer of fiction,” she said. “But I will not write what is not truth.” Maybe all those stories I love to read with near perfect men or men who finally see the light and change are just wishful thinking, romances written by women. As a writer, I will not allow myself to perpetrate false expectations or false hope. If the answer is no; no there are no men capable of thinking you are the only woman in the room. “What then, do I have to write?” she asked. Yea or nay, either way, I must be able to write a woman who grows, who keeps on living, who knows herself, who overcomes obstacles and changes for the better, who keeps on loving – maybe even a woman who sets and achieves realistic goals.

An abandoned house and a kept house – the tale of two households

She lives in an abandoned house and spends her days away, searching for jobs, and her nights shivering under extra comforters because there is no warmth in an abandoned house. Another person sleeps there too, and is employed. But still, whether the occupants are at home or at work the house is abandoned, for you see, something that would make that house a home is missing. No one fills the role of keeper of the house. There are two who huddle there. It would seem they could come up with an understanding of how to make that house a safe haven or even a comfortable temporary harbor. But plans are most successful when everyone concerned is on board. A team of one becomes exhausted without reciprocity from the other.

Meanwhile, in the same state, two other unrelated and unattached people occupy a large house. They both work and they both travel frequently. The house is often empty of people – but never abandoned. Both people are housekeepers. Broken things get fixed. Needs of the house are addressed as a means of meeting the needs of people. Both principal occupants are agreed that a stitch in time saves nine and that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Both the principal occupants understand the value of beauty and cleanliness in making a house a place of refuge, renewal and restoration for all who lodge there. The house is a place of welcome for all who pass through, whether for tea, dinner, or a temporary bed.

All four of the persons living in the two households share a philosophy in common: people are more important than things. All four verbally champion: “Use things, love people.” (The polar opposite, of course, is to use people and love things.) Yet, in an attempt to emphasize loving, some ignore or neglect material things. Notice how the two in the second household operate: Needs of the house are addressed as a means of meeting the needs of people. How much more effective and efficient it is to use things to love people!

Motivating the Challenged

I love it when people get their needs met; the perfect meal, a soul mate love, a forever home, a fulfilling job, the “ah, ha!” moment in education when the light goes on – the one thing that satisfies so fully it propels them on to fuller life.

I am fascinated by what makes people tick, Mozart and the brain, how to reach students with ADHD, learning to speak another person’s learning language be it visual, auditory, kinesthetic.

So I watched with interest as a young man marketed a breakthrough in how to reach Aspergers.

In a nutshell? Meet their needs. The young man displayed an Aspergers sensory funnel model (which juxtaposes nicely with Maslow’s hierarchy of needs) and explained how students, children and people in general learn or receive optimally once you meet their basic needs.

It is a compelling thought for teachers and caretakers, yet something in me still asks, Who meets the needs of the caretakers of the world? Have they no needs?

Are the caretakers complete and perfect persons? Those who have already arrived? In every type relationship, reciprocity must happen. There is a payoff, a reward of some type.

I love being a caretaker, I really do. But, there comes a time my well is empty. Who refills my well? Can I do it alone? Everybody needs a reward-a payoff.

What is your payoff? Money? Prestige? Power? Acknowledgement? Love? Applause? Feeling good about yourself? What motivates you?

Of Rocks and Relationships

I am single.  She is single. We’ve both been around the block a few times. A couple of those trips ended at the alter and ultimately in divorce for both of us. Through it all, we have remained friends. We are occasional traveling or hiking buddies.

Ouray is always a good idea and it could not have been a finer morning on the Perimeter Trail.  We found access easily enough.  All streets lead to trails and I had camped, content and solo, there a few weeks before.  Layers off in the sun.  Layers on in the shade.  It was an active day as we made our accent, then cut across a meadow dotted with wild flowers. Carefully, we chose our footing while descending slick dark rocks with deep claw marks of a glacier. Deep gorges and a footbridge across a waterfall took our breath away and left us weak-kneed to tunnel through  caverns and surmount a mega-sized flume with the aid of a stile.  Trekking between the flume and a magnificent rock wall, I was suddenly overcome by the majesty of it all.  I cast myself on the rock, embracing it with all the expansive wingspan I could muster. My heartbeat pressed into the comfort of sun warmed Precambrian.

“Oh God,” she cried out spontaneously, “Give me a man like this rock!” But what I was thinking was more along the lines of Jane Austen’s perspective when she writes Elizabeth Bennet to say, “Adieu to disappointment and spleen. What are men to rocks, and mountains?”

I hug trees. I pat rocks. I embrace nature. Nature embraces me. I am comforted.

Undercover movie stars and Facebook stalking my grown kids

I had been writing for several years and was already published as a High Timber Times correspondent when I started blogging in 2006.  My daughter-in-law had a photo blog, which she updated regularly with photos of my infant grandsons; and she was honing her writing skills by blogging with other young mothers.  Shortly, I became addicted to the daily routine of checking out the internet and composing comments.

By 2008 conventional author wisdom said writers needed a platform on Facebook.  Dutifully, I built a profile. The first friends I chose were my technology wise children. With the oldest in media business, the second in college and the third in high school, I lurked, I stalked and basically kept up with their busy lives by watching for daily photos and conversations.

I visited college.  I met my daughter’s dorm mates and support network. I friended some. Others made insightful comments.  I followed them. I met my younger son’s girlfriends.  I shared prom pictures. Some of the girls remain my Facebook friends today.

So really, is it any wonder I proceeded to “research” my daughter’s new network when she began working high in the mountains at an adventure camp this summer?

Of course I began with Facebook.  For starters, I had to find the last names of the young men by cross-referencing mutual friends. Then I plugged a name into Google.

Up came a series of images. The usual suspects.  An accountant. A couple of college professors. A farm-team athlete. Gasp!  But, who was this movie star?  Hot.  With a photo like that you’d have to be a household name like Zac Efron. Maybe James Marsden. Well-known heartthrob! Yet, the features are unmistakably those of said co-worker. But the hair!  The clothes! Expensive. The obvious mark of a professional. Publicist. Stylist. Savvy photographer. “Andrea,” I croaked aloud,  “do you have any idea who you are working with?” Alert! Movie star undercover at AIE Base Camp!

Leather jacket. White, white for the T-shirt.  Confident and engaging pose.  Reminiscent of, of…. Wait – let me think while I fan myself. That’s it!  Senior pictures. Reminiscent of the senior pictures of my youngest son. Photo shoot compliments of my oldest son.

Who is this undercover movie star who works with my daughter in the wilds of Colorado? Relax mom, these are only senior pictures of a hot teenager with intuitive style. And the artistic work of a savvy professional photographer!

Philip Shellabarger 2009, Photo credit Kevin Decker, Paradice Studios
Philip Shellabarger 2009, Photo credit Kevin Decker, Paradice Studios


When did revenge become the right of the righteous?

Oops I did it again.  I followed one of those links.  You know the ones that begin, “You’ll never believe….” I hate them.  They lack credibility. They don’t make me LOL or cry like they promise.  But then, I am a bit more analytical and skeptical – less easily entertained than the average bear.

In this case, I considered the source and took the bait. Shared between a good, mainline Christian couple, with many years of marriage to their credit; I thought it would be a comedy. What followed was a video reenactment of a young man getting revenge through publicly humiliating an unfaithful bride. Right on the wedding day. Interrupting the ceremony. Though it made some people laugh, to me it seemed more like a Shakespearean tragedy.  It made me squirm. Was the groom hurt?  Yes. Irreparably. A cuckold through the actions of his best man. Did complete and pre-meditated revenge make him feel better?

Does revenge make any of us feel better? Does it solve or salve our hurt to humiliate someone else? With all my heart and brain, I believe there are consequences when we are untrustworthy. Justice demands consequences.  Punishment may be necessary. But does justice demand public humiliation? Overkill? Unnecessary roughness? Is gouging and turning of the dagger somehow more healing than precise extrication with a surgical knife? Mercy and righteousness say, “no.” Truth must be spoken. Yes. Relationships may need to be severed. Yes.  But revenge has never been the domain of the righteous.

Judeo-Christian ethic teaches that vengeance belongs to God and God alone.  Forget your WWJD? zeal and the resulting 70 X 7.  Look a few years B.C. and ask yourself, “What would Joseph do?”

Joseph, you may remember, was engaged to Mary.  Mary was pregnant and Joseph knew he had not slept with her. “Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.”

A pox on your “Joseph had an angel,” excuses.  I refute them. Joseph had already decided to keep the law.  He had determined to keep it quietly, rather than vocally bludgeoning Mary and all her kin over the head with it. Consequences would be leveled, but without the catalyst of revenge.

Whatever happened to civility and good manners?  Why does hurt trump love? When did humility become humiliate?  What happened to doing good to your enemies? Or the golden rule?  And when did revenge become the triumphal war banner of the righteous?


Marriage, I do not think it means what you think it means – musings by a marriage cynic

Some of my friends – and mostly friends of friends – are euphoric. A few days ago the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that any mutually consenting couple of any gender may marry, in any of the 50 United States, and be legal.  Forget common law unions, you can have a little piece of paper that says you are legally hitched. You who celebrate, may I ask what you have gained? If Millennials don’t marry, if Baby-boomers once believed in free love anyway; who is this marriage ruling for exactly?


Marriage.  You keep using that word.  I do not think it means what you think it means.
Marriage. You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

You may say this Supreme Court ruling was in favor of love. Will marriage guarantee you are loved? For centuries couples have married for love and just as many (if not more) have married for security, power or position. The legal act of Marriage does not put an end to longing and yearning. You will not be alone anymore, but you may still be lonely. Married or not, your love may or may not last.

You may say this ruling makes it possible for those in love to make a legal commitment.  Let me know how that works for you.  In my experience, people who are committed are committed with or without the legalities and people who are commitment- challenged are not magically changed by a legal document.

Is this SCOTUS ruling resoundingly in favor of sanctioned sex?  As a consummate legalist, this where I bit the dust, not once, but two times. What is it about this word sanctioned that adds catalyst to sex? If there is any more powerful motivation than sex, for a legalist, it must be the word sanctioned. What else is motivation enough for giving up your good birth name and taking on that of another? For becoming collateral? For placing all of your worldly goods, talents, reputation and education at the behest of a spouse – legally – so you have to go through an even more convoluted legal process if you ever want to get back what was yours in the beginning?

Do you think this ruling insures society’s affirmation and acknowledgement of your relationship? Opinion or Feelings are deeply rooted and not often changed by mere laws. There were people who did not sanction nor acknowledge my second marriage.  It was legal.  It was reasonable and well thought out. No matter the reasons or legalities – I was a divorced woman so a second marriage could never be acknowledged.

Do we need this ruling to legitimatize procreation?  It no longer takes a conjugal relationship of one man and one woman to procreate. I know of more than one family that consists of a committed man and woman and a test tube baby.

Do you see this as a nod in favor of companionship?  You can have solid, caring committed companionship without the legal paper that says you are married. Loyal friendships often endure for decades, simply because they are unchallenged by the legalities of marriage.

Do you think legal marriage automatically provides medical benefits? I was married for a total of 31 years. During only eight of those years did I enjoy medical coverage as a benefit of legal marriage.

To raise children! Perhaps that is the most worthy goal for legal marriage. It takes two.  At times, it even takes a village. Preferably extended family.  My heart goes out to the single parent trying to give the best life possible to children who do not have two very present parents fulltime.  Once again, I am not convinced that a marriage certificate guarantees a stable childrearing team, but yes, let’s do our best to provide a nurturing environment for the children.

It is my sad conclusion, after a lifetime of experience and observation, that you cannot legislate morality or love or commitment; nor control it with a bit of legal parchment.

Truth is, there are many wonderful things to be had with or without the benefit of legal marriage:





A village







In spite of my litany of negatives, some people still want desperately to be married.  And some need desperately to be sanctioned. Though I’m sticking with Inigo Montoya, in conclusion, may I heartily say,

“Dear Friends of every inclination,

May you be happy; may you be merry;

May you be gay and marry;

But most of all, may you love and be loved in return.




Detour to self care

Surprise!  I took a detour on the way home! It’s about time!  At the ripe of age of 60, I am finally learning how to take care of myself.

When I left work on Monday night, I knew it was high time for a little self-care.  I was stressed, rattled and burned out.  It was the beginning of my weekend.  What could I do to restore my spirit? Piano practice, walk meditation and even a bit of sleep were preempted in a bid to pack, load and get on the road early Tuesday morning.  Severe weather warnings forecast snow above 10,000 feet and portions of I-70 I would be traveling. The scenery through Glenwood Canyon was gorgeous. Snow was falling to the west and the east of Vail. Georgetown Visitor Center was beginning to look a lot like Christmas.

I lingered there in Georgetown, to fortify my body and emotions for the climb through Bergen Park, Evergreen and finally to the cabin I called home for seven years. I collected my daughter Andrea and her belongings at high noon as previously agreed. 12 o’clock straight up turned out to be lunchtime, so we joined her dad for a quick sit-down meal at Qdoba and then moved forward.  At teatime, we dropped in on an old college roommate in Gunnison. We arrived at AEI basecamp at 6:00 p.m. after a few miles of power driving in the mud and were hospitably welcomed by the staff. A quick unload and a nice evening walk through the woods ended up in the chapel with a piano.  A walk. A piano. I slept well. Another mountain hike next morning continued the work of beauty and restoration on my spirits so I was not in bad shape at all as I made the descent from Black Canyon to Montrose.

And then, it happened. Spontaneously I made the best decision of the day, I turned left toward Ouray.  I checked myself in to the Wiesbaden hot springs and was the only individual in the pool and the vapor cave for nearly an hour.  The first dip had my heart and voice crying thanksgiving. Wow.

Proper self-care requires thought and work.   Good, intentional choices.

Sometimes, self-care costs a little extra in terms of logic – self-talk to keep yourself from feeling guilty. I was raised not to play until my work was done.  Not to take care of myself until I finished taking care of others. I learned early on; my work was never done.  Over the years, I discovered the needs of some others were like a black hole – the more care you lavish, the more they need. While self-sacrifice is an essential component of love, self-sacrifice as a goal in itself is not worthy.

When I am not quite at peace for known or unknown reasons, a combination of good choices seems to put me back on the right track.  Putting yourself on the right track is the only way to stay fit to care for others or work efficiently.

Good choices in self-care may entail leisure, a vacation, a favorite activity.  Many of those activities cost money.  So I work, and I work hard, to be able to afford to take care of myself.

This time my little detour cost me about $50. I had to get through the guilt of spending $50 on myself with nothing tangible to show for it.

It would not have been possible to take care of myself in this way – or even support my daughter with transportation – but for my full time job and a difficult choice I made last August.  I moved in with roommates.

It was a hard choice, because the solitude of living alone is also a way I care for myself. On the other hand, shared expenses leave more wiggle room for travel and spontaneous detours. What do you need to take care of yourself?

Music? A good book? A hike?  Travel? Sleep?  A 60-mile detour and dinner out?

Get on with it ! May you be energized by a new perspective!

Help Me, and other difficult phrases

I hate to ask for help,” she said. Clichés are often true.  In this case, apples don’t fall far from the tree. Go ahead, Google “Hardest words to say,” and see what you come up with.

I am sorry

I am wrong

I don’t know

I love you

Help me

That is a list I can identify with.  How about you?

Why is it so hard to ask for help?

I fear rejection. They might say no. They may think less of me for needing help.


I fear to impose. They might want to say no, yet feel like they have to say yes. They have so many other burdens to carry.  I don’t want to be just one more.

I am independent. I can do it myself. Besides, others often fail me.  If you want something done right, you have to do it yourself.

If I ask and they help me, they may hold it up to me forever saying, “You would be nothing had I not helped you.”

I want control of the outcome.  They might help, but not help in the way I want.

I need affirmation – support for my plan.  They might offer advice. Opinion.  Tell me how to do it instead of just supporting my plan.

Have you experienced some or all these anxious feelings when you needed help?

What if you need help and you don’t ask for help? You may injure yourself.  You may get burned out, exhausted or ill, trapped. What if you just wait for someone to see your need and offer? You kind of huff and puff and hint and sigh. They may reject you anyway. Seeing your need, they may offer or foist help on you whether you want it or not -give you pink preppie skirts when you needed hiking boots. One way or another, they will doubtless offer advice and opinion.

So why not ask specifically for what you need? Choose your confidant or potential benefactor carefully.  If you need a car mechanic, a medical doctor is probably not a good substitute. A multi-level marketer may not be your best counselor, nor does your great grandma a sturdy piano mover make.  Go ahead and choose with care.  Ask. Then trust them a little bit. A wise helper might teach you how to fish.  They might lend you their fishing gear.  They might have greater insight into your roadblocks and challenges and give wise counsel – a needed boost rather than a ruthless kick in the pants.

But if they say, “Hey, I know you are desperate for money.  Let’s talk about getting you a loan! (or buying lottery tickets – or robbing a bank – or some other get-rich quick scheme).”  Nah! Withdraw your request and run the other way. Helping you spend or helping you into debt is not helping you.

You can ask for help and still remain yourself and guard your heart.  We all need a little help of one kind or another from time to time. May you – and I – have the wisdom and discernment to know when to ask for help and the dignity to receive help without selling out our deepest dreams or indenturing our spirits to shame.