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Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Saw it, Told Grandma, Got it!

Saw it, Liked it, Told Grandma, Got It!

I saw that saying on a sign in an office yesterday.  I thought of a time my son was observing me play with my granddaughter.  He asked "Would you go and bring back my real mom?"  It was funny then and now.  He was referring to the way that parents often transform when they become grandparents.  The "transformation" is hard to understand until it happens to you.  In considering my role, I thought of the type of grandmother (Nani) I want them enjoy and remember for years to come.  I knew a few things like I would not be the apron wearing baking type of grandma or what some know as "Big Momma".  There is nothing wrong with either of those.  However, I don't bake and am not that domesticated.  I settled on being a Nani who helped them perfect good manners, to be kind to others, to be patient, to be honest and always be true to themselves.  Of course, there was also the fine dining, clearance and shoe shopping....but that's another blog!

I thought of growing up with my grandmothers and how different they were.  Reflecting on them helped me to focus more on what being a good Nani means to me.  I do not want to overstep my boundaries and interfere or contradict my son and daughter-in-love's parenting in any way.  In fact, I want to support them unconditionally.  After all, I am grateful to them for my little princess (Amani) and my misters (Levi & Lyrik).  Likewise, I want to assist them in any way I can.  

Ultimately, I want my son and grandchildren to really know, understand, learn from and enjoy me.  I want them to know I love them in ways they can't even imagine.  I want them to learn how to be supportive of their family while still nurturing their own interests.  I want them to learn how to love themselves as well as others.  I want them to enjoy the life that has been bestowed to them.  Yes, sometimes that does mean "saw it, liked it, told Nani, got it!".
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Thursday, November 12, 2015

Unexpected Observation

I patiently sat there waiting to hear my name.  Undergoing an annual mammogram is something that I have accepted as part of aging gracefully.  I looked around the room vaguely listening to the chatter.  I observed an Asian woman of about 45 years of age.  She had brought someone with her as an interpreter.  The Caucasian women seemingly ranged in age from around 40 to perhaps 70 or so.

Everyone smiled pleasantly as they engaged in conversation.  There did not seem to be any anxiety associated with the screening we were all there to receive. Regardless of our socioeconomic statuses, professions, or life issues – we were all concerned about our health.  We were all there taking a preventative measure to insure our breast health.  

It occurred to me that illness, specifically breast cancer, is not exclusive.  It does not just affect the wealthy or the poor.  It does not care if one is male or female, African American, Caucasian, Hispanic or Asian.  It does not care what type of family one has.  

Although we are all different in so many ways, our similarity was obvious.  Each woman was beautiful.   I was touched to see such different women seemingly interested in the same thing... Living.
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Wednesday, October 28, 2015

How I Saved My Marriage

My oldest daughter, Jenna, recently said to me, "My greatest fear as a child was that you and mom would get divorced. Then, when I was twelve, I decided that you fought so much that maybe it would be better if you did." Then she added with a smile. "I'm glad you guys figured things out."

For years my wife Keri and I struggled. Looking back, I'm not exactly sure what initially drew us together, but our personalities didn't quite match up. And the longer we were married the more extreme the differences seemed. Encountering "fame and fortune" didn't make our marriage any easier. In fact, it exacerbated our problems. The tension between us got so bad that going out on book tour became a relief, though it seems we always paid for it on re-entry.

Our fighting became so constant that it was difficult to even imagine a peaceful relationship. We became perpetually defensive, building emotional fortresses around our hearts. We were on the edge of divorce and more than once we discussed it.

I was on book tour when things came to a head. We had just had another big fight on the phone and Keri had hung up on me. I was alone and lonely, frustrated and angry. I had reached my limit.
That's when I turned to God. Or turned on God. I don't know if you could call it prayer -- maybe shouting at God isn't prayer, maybe it is-but whatever I was engaged in I'll never forget it. I was standing in the shower of the Buckhead, Atlanta Ritz-Carlton yelling at God that marriage was wrong and I couldn't do it anymore. As much as I hated the idea of divorce, the pain of being together was just too much. I was also confused. I couldn't figure out why marriage with Keri was so hard.

Deep down I knew that Keri was a good person. And I was a good person. So why couldn't we get along? Why had I married someone so different than me? Why wouldn't she change?

Finally, hoarse and broken, I sat down in the shower and began to cry. In the depths of my despair powerful inspiration came to me. You can't change her, Rick. You can only change yourself. At that moment I began to pray. If I can't change her, God, then change me. I prayed late into the night. I prayed the next day on the flight home. I prayed as I walked in the door to a cold wife who barely even acknowledged me. That night, as we lay in our bed, inches from each other yet miles apart, the inspiration came. I knew what I had to do.

The next morning I rolled over in bed next to Keri and asked, "How can I make your day better?"

Keri looked at me angrily. "What?"

"How can I make your day better?"

"You can't," she said. "Why are you asking that?"

"Because I mean it," I said. "I just want to know what I can do to make your day better.

"She looked at me cynically.

"You want to do something? Go clean the kitchen.

"She likely expected me to get mad. Instead I just nodded. "Okay."

I got up and cleaned the kitchen.

The next day I asked the same thing. "What can I do to make your day better?"

Her eyes narrowed. "Clean the garage."

I took a deep breath. I already had a busy day and I knew she had made the request in spite. I was tempted to blow up at her.

Instead I said, "Okay." I got up and for the next two hours cleaned the garage. Keri wasn't sure what to think.The next morning came.

"What can I do to make your day better?"

"Nothing!" she said. "You can't do anything. Please stop saying that.""I'm sorry," I said. "But I can't.
I made a commitment to myself. What can I do to make your day better?""Why are you doing this?""Because I care about you," I said.

"And our marriage."The next morning I asked again. And the next. And the next. Then, during the second week, a miracle occurred. As I asked the question Keri's eyes welled up with tears. Then she broke down crying. When she could speak she said, "Please stop asking me that. You're not the problem. I am. I'm hard to live with. I don't know why you stay with me.

"I gently lifted her chin until she was looking in my eyes. "It's because I love you," I said. "What can I do to make your day better?""I should be asking you that.""You should," I said. "But not now. Right now, I need to be the change. You need to know how much you mean to me."She put her head against my chest. "I'm sorry I've been so mean.""I love you," I said."I love you," she replied."What can I do to make your day better?"She looked at me sweetly. "Can we maybe just spend some time together?"I smiled. "I'd like that."I continued asking for more than a month. And things did change.

The fighting stopped. Then Keri began asking, "What do you need from me? How can I be a better wife?"

The walls between us fell. We began having meaningful discussions on what we wanted from life and how we could make each other happier. No, we didn't solve all our problems. I can't even say that we never fought again. But the nature of our fights changed. Not only were they becoming more and more rare, they lacked the energy they'd once had. We'd deprived them of oxygen. We just didn't have it in us to hurt each other anymore.

Keri and I have now been married for more than thirty years. I not only love my wife, I like her. I like being with her. I crave her. I need her. Many of our differences have become strengths and the others don't really matter. We've learned how to take care of each other and, more importantly, we've gained the desire to do so. Marriage is hard. But so is parenthood and keeping fit and writing books and everything else important and worthwhile in my life. To have a partner in life is a remarkable gift. I've also learned that the institution of marriage can help heal us of our most unlovable parts. And we all have unlovable parts.

Through time I've learned that our experience was an illustration of a much larger lesson about marriage. The question everyone in a committed relationship should ask their significant other is, "What can I do to make your life better?" That is love. Romance novels (and I've written a few) are all about desire and happily-ever-after, but happily-ever-after doesn't come from desire-at least not the kind portrayed in most pulp romances. Real love is not to desire a person, but to truly desire their happiness-sometimes, even, at the expense of our own happiness. Real love is not to make another person a carbon copy of one's self. It is to expand our own capabilities of tolerance and caring, to actively seek another's well being. All else is simply a charade of self-interest.

I'm not saying that what happened to Keri and me will work for everyone. I'm not even claiming that all marriages should be saved. But for me, I am incredibly grateful for the inspiration that came to me that day so long ago. I'm grateful that my family is still intact and that I still have my wife, my best friend, in bed next to me when I wake in the morning. And I'm grateful that even now, decades later, every now and then, one of us will still roll over and say, "What can I do to make your day better." Being on either side of that question is something worth waking up for.

This blog post originally appeared on Richard Paul Evan's (Author) website.
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Thursday, October 1, 2015

The Fight

Mayweather vs. Pacquiao was touted as the fight of the century.   Some felt it was uneventful and predictable.  Yet, others felt it was a “good fight”.  How many times have you felt like you were in “the fight of the year or your life”?  When we are in the midst of a bout it seems never ending.

Sometimes one thing happens right after the other and we feel like throwing in the towel.  Some of us wish we could just be knocked out due to the extremity of the discomfort or pain.  There is always an end.  In the boxing match there were 12 rounds.  In the beginning of round one there is no way to know what will happen by the twelfth round.  We have to keep fighting.  In between rounds we may get a short breather to nurse our wounds and determine how to continue fighting. 

One things guaranteed and that is the next round is coming.  We may be wearier and less attractive or desirable and have cuts and bruises.  At times we may even be unrecognizable but the fight continues.  As we fight, we are strategizing, learning our opponent and discovering just how resilient and strong we are.  At times, we surprise ourselves with our own persistence and stamina. 

As in the Mayweather vs. Pacquiao fight, the end came.  The fighters were battered and bruised but they still received their reward (millions!).  Our rewards may not be monetarily lucrative but may be educational, spiritual, or physical.  After putting forth our best effort, in one way or another, we are stronger in the end.
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Do you find yourself wondering “What happened?” or “How did my life end up like this?”  These questions can arise when we find ourselves in transition.  Transitions often lead to questioning if you are happy with your life.  How you define happiness will determine the answer.  If you are in the midst of a transition, your answers may be influenced by your current situation.  Whether our finances, careers or relationships are where we would like them to be can make us evaluate our successes.  Many of us base our level of happiness on societal definitions.

Happiness begins internally and should be sought despite environmental influences.  Our happiness is determined by what we view as giving us peace and/or pleasure.  This can be our accomplishments or successes but can also be our responses to failures.  How? Our ability to overcome adversity and persevere can show us our strengths and give us insight as to who we really are.  We often try to go it alone but actively seeking help from others is a sign of wisdom.  The knowledge of others can provide insight to new perspectives.  It is our choices from alternatives that influence our view of happiness.
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