My Spouse Has Let Himself Go And It Changes The Way That I Feel About Him

I sometimes hear from people who no longer see the same person who they have always loved when they look at their spouse. Many start to believe that their spouse has "let himself go." They feel that he just no longer takes pride in his appearance or in his health. And this affects the way that they view him as a person, father, and spouse.

One spouse might explain it this way: "when I married my husband, he was a wonderful looking man. Frankly, he took my breath away every time I looked at him. Of course, that was over fifteen years ago and I know that there is not a person alive today who looks as good as they did fifteen years ago. I know that this just is not possible. But, it would help if my husband would care even just a little about his appearance. He does not care at all. If I did not nag him, he would not even change his clothes or shower on the weekends. I have to remind him to get hair cuts and I have to tell him when his clothes get ratty and need to be replaced . Sometimes, I am embarrassed to go out with him because he looks disheveled. I do not expect him to look like a male model, but I would like for him to be fit and to look well groomed. When I mention this to him , he gets annoyed and says that I am a high maintenance person who is too concerned about appearances and not concerned enough about what is on the inside. I do not think that this is true. I do not go overboard with my appearance, but I want to look like I at least put in minimal effort. Honestly, the way that my husband is acting makes me think less of him. It makes me think that he is a slovenly and lazy person. And I am not sure that I want to be married to someone like this. It reflects poorly on me. The other day, we were watching a movie and the main character was fat, rude and lazy. My husband laughed at the guy and called him a 'clueless slob.' But honestly, my husband reminded me of this guy. And he clearly does not even see it. If I push about this too hard or tell him what I'm truly feeling, I am afraid that it will hurt his feelings. I do love him, but I do not love the way that he presents himself anymore. "

As you are clearly already very aware, this is a touchy situation. I do not think that you need to beat yourself up too badly for wanting your spouse to look his best, so long as you are realistic about it. People do age. No one looks the same as they did on the day that they got married. But part of wanting to be a good spouse in a good marriage is taking care of yourself for everyone's sake. And I do not completely mean that in terms of physical appearance. I also mean that in terms of physical and emotional health. Taking health risks put your family at risk. And not being as emotionally healthy as you can be means that you can not give your best effort to your marriage and to your family.

But, as you already suspect, this is a delicate situation. Because if you approach this the wrong way, your spouse will hear it as a criticism and may feel unloved, which could potentially make the problem even worse. Before I get into suggestions about gently addressing this, I'd like to mention one possibility. Some very common symptoms of depression include no longer caring about your appearance and allowing hygiene to slip a little. I'm certainly not a counselor, but if you are seeing other behaviors that might indicate depression, it's important to address it. Because a depressed person is going to have a very difficult time making any meaningful change until the depression is addressed.

However, if you do not think depression is coming into play, then I believe that the best way to handle this is to try to include him into your regimen. Here is what I mean. I had a friend who used to be immensely bothered by her husband's disgusting, long toenails. She asked him to do something about them but he called her judgmental, and an argument ensued. So, she dropped it, but the next time she went to get a manicure and pedicure, she lured her husband along, telling him that it was going to be a date, followed by dinner and some alone time. The husband could not get dressed fast enough and he ended up enjoying the pampering once he saw other men there. Now, my friend's husband does not have the nasty toenail problem anymore and she feels closer to her husband. They enjoy this time together.

So take him to your salon. Bring him clothes shopping. Take him to your gym. Now, admittedly, you're going to have to sell all of these things to him. You are going to have to do this in a playful and flirty way so that he thinks you're trying to spend time with him rather than trying to change him. And you will often need to make it sound like a fun, romantic adventure that you are sharing in order to get him to participate willingly. But, you should not have to do this for very long. Because once he sees how happy you are with these changes and once you give him positive reinforcement, he is going to see that these changes were not a lot to ask of him and that they are worth it – because he's being asked to give so little , but he is getting so much back in return.

Advice for Single Business Professionals: 6 Winning Tips to Turn a Business Contact into a Date

You're at a networking event or in a business meeting and an attractive person walks into the room. You feel your pulse racing and something starts to stir in the middle part of your body. Not to worry, it's not your lunch coming back up. You're feeling the vibe – the "I want to bag you" vibe.

It's difficult to turn a business contact into a date. You met over very business-like circumstances and you could ruin a possible joint venture, partnership or alliance if you make the wrong move. A contract may not be signed if you ask for a date and the person just is not interested.

To avoid ruining a business relationship with an ill-timed request for something on the wild side, follow these six winning tips to turn a business contact into a date.

  1. Listen for clues about their marital status. When you're at a networking event or when you sit in a meeting, the person chatting will always give clues as to whether they're married, attached or single. Often, the person will say "My wife and I ….," or "My husband thinks …." You could avoid embarrassment by taking the time to listen for these not-so-subtle clues.
  2. Explain your intention for meeting up without sounding like a jock or jockette. At a networking event or in a business meeting, you should always have your professional hat on. Do not say, "I think you're hot. Let's hook up for a drink." Instead, tell the person that you find them interesting and you'd like to talk more at another time. By saying the word "interesting," the person will see your request as harmless since it could just mean that you want to learn more about his or her business.
  3. Suggest meeting up for coffee. Ask for the business card and explain that you would like to follow-up. Then arrange a meeting over a low-pressure drink. Do not schedule your first encounter over lunch or dinner. Because of how long it takes to consume a hot plate of food, if the person turns out to be boring, you're stuck wasting away precious time. On top of that, meeting over lunch or dinner can turn out to be expensive, especially if the person has a healthy appetite. Opt for coffee instead because by the time you finish your cup of brew, you may decide to end the meeting there or make an appointment for a future get-together.
  4. Keep the paws off. When you meet for the first time over coffee, you still have no idea if your feelings of attraction will be reciprocated. Avoid becoming touchy feely after the handshake. Instead, keep everything professional and treat the person as a business contact.
  5. Ease your way into personal questions. Remember, you're still trying to find out if the person is even attracted to you. Keep your questions professional, opting to ask about business goals instead of sexual conquests. A rule of thumb is to ask 1 personal question for every 3 professional ones. If you've asked the person about their business goals for the current year, who their target audience is and whether they're going to expand, you now have permission to ask a personal question. Your personal questions should revolve around these issues:
    • Where he or she grew up
    • What's his or her favourite movie
    • What type of music he or she listens to
    • What is his or her parent's nationality
    • What books is he or she currently reading
    • What is his or her favorite spot in the world
  6. Ask for the date. After following steps 1 to 5, if you're feeling the vibe, ask for what you want – a real date. If the person says, "Yes," you've scored big time. It means that your gal-dar or guy-dar is bang on. If the person says, "No," take the rejection in stride. Just tell the person that you misinterpreted their feelings and put your professional hat back on. Shake hands and tell the person it was nice getting acquainted. Then, go home and cry.

Just because you met the person at a networking event or in a business meeting, does not mean you turn off your attraction radar and become a eunuch or a monk. Instead, follow the tips above and you'll have more success of turning your business contact into a date, and less chance of getting rejected for crossing the line.

How to Get Him to Define the Relationship Without Scaring Him Away

You meet a guy, you click with him, you have this undeniable chemistry and all your friends say that you look good together. The only problem is that you are clueless where you stand in his life or if you are supposed to expect something more. Unfortunately, we live in a society where "double standards" is a way of life. Women are not supposed to make the first move and that's how manipulation comes into play. No matter what your reasons are, you should never manipulate a man to commit to you especially if you are thinking about having a healthy, loving relationship.

There are ways on how to get him to define the relationship and the best way is to be straightforward about it. I know we've been told not to initiate "the talk" but if you are the kind of woman who hates investing on a relationship that's not going anywhere, your best bet is to ask the guy where he thinks the relationship is going. Tell him that you are not the type to make assumptions and you want to know what he wants from you. It's a very straightforward question that requires a direct answer. Ask him if he just wants to be friends or if he's looking forward to something more. Do not worry about scaring him away, if anything, he will appreciate your honesty. If he is not serious about you and he only wants you to stick around so he'll have someone to sleep with, he is not going to be thrilled to answer your questions. A few words would come out of his mouth and will try to change the subject immediately. You'll be glad you asked for your sake. At least you know what's really going on. This is your cue to reconsider your options. You have to decide whether you're willing to take a gamble or move on and keep looking.

If a guy comes clean with a candid answer and tells you "I'm having so much fun with you but I do not think I can be in a serious relationship right now. I do not want to disappoint you or anything." then maybe it's time for you to get out but do it with grace and tell him you understand, no hard feelings. Thank him for his honesty and politely ask him not to text or call you anymore. 9 out of 10 guys will have a change of heart and the biggest mistake that women make is that they call the guy a couple of days later and tell him that they're willing to be casual. There goes your dignity and self-respect out of the window.

If you do not have the courage to ask him or if it's too early on in the relationship, there is a more subtle approach on how to get him to define the relationship. Practice self-control and resist the urge to give the guy all the freebies. As demeaning as the expression "Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free?" is, it holds some truth to it and whether we like it or not, it applies to most relationships especially if you and the guy are not on the same page. Sure, you are having sex regularly but it should never be used as a gauge how serious the relationship is. Just because he sleeps with you does not mean that he is going to give you a title. Never assume that you are someone's girlfriend unless you've had that conversation. It does not matter if he brings you flowers or if he takes yoga classes with you, you have to verbally agree that you two are exclusive but until then, you can not tell people that he is your boyfriend.

Positive Parenting Strengths

Chuck and Priscilla were at their wits' end. They are the parents of two teen-aged girls, and two younger boys. The eldest, Charlotte, is out-of-control. As each child approaches adolescence, they seem to become impossible. "We do not know what to do anymore!" Priscilla wails. "I do everything for them. Charlotte and Chuck fight constantly. He expects her to respect him, but she swears at him when he makes the slightest demand. Then he gets mad and starts yelling, and it's all over! She's a top student and athlete. Why will not she be more compliant at home? And now Gertie, my 13 year-old, is starting to act out. she talks back something fierce! The boys never do anything around the house. Their grandparents think they are all out of control. I do not know how much more of this I can take! "

Many parents feel confident in their skills while their children are little, only to wonder how it all got away from them as their kids reach the pre-teen years. And who are these strangers inhabiting their adolescents' bodies, and what did they do with the off-spring we knew, anyway?

Parenting is not the same as it used to be. Fewer families include a stay-at-home parent. Economically, most families need both parents to be in the work force. More women are single parents. The kids who are teens now were in daycare or otherwise looked after by people other than their parents. They do not see us as the arbiters of their lives or as the holders of all the keys, because we no longer are. As well, TV and computers have made information easily accessible by children – information that, just a few years ago, was the domain of adults. The way we protected children in the past from overwhelming material such as sexual images, disasters, and pictures of war-torn bodies, was to keep it unavailable. Now that is almost impossible. Children are traumatized by the news.

They are also feeling immense pressure to be involved in activities and interests that their peers and the media tell them they are ready for. Advertising, loosened standards in TV programs and movies, and the availability of adult content, are all making our children (and many parents, actually) believe that ten-year-olds should be concerned about deodorant, and engage in sexual behaviors.

We are all racing – kids and parents alike. Society runs at a much faster pace. Music, TV shows, sentence structure and pacing in books, magazines, even symphonies, have sped up drastically. There is an overwhelming amount of information bombarding us and demanding that we respond to it instantly. There is more information in one Sunday issue of the New York Times than in all the books that existed in the 16th century. We work longer, vacation less (in the USA), and are expected to be available by phone, hand-held, and computer 24/7. On top of all this, neighborhoods are not as safe as before. Gangs, drugs, and violence are not restricted to inner cities.

When parents come to me, often they want to reduce some unacceptable behavior in their child. Old parenting styles that many of us were raised with, were based on behavior control. They worked moderately well then, because children were more dependent on their parents. Today, the same methods often have wildly unsuccessful results, in that they spark dramatic reactions in our children that are often the exact opposite of what we hoped for. When parents now use a domineering tone, lay down the law, and are unaware of their child's point of view, while expecting instant and unquestioning obedience, pre-teens and teens often react with aggression or rejection in terms that we'd never have dared to use. We can not focus simply on behavior cessation or our own comfort levels. There is nothing more silly and helpless than the feeling you get when you bellow, "You're not going anywhere until you clean your room!" and have the kid shoot you that who-are-you-kidding sneer and stalk out of the house. Parents feel shell-shocked and confused, and the children feel disrespected, misunderstood, and alone.

What we need now are the skills that will help our kids see us as their major support. We need to help them learn to navigate the world as it is today. They need to take risks within a reasonable range, learn from their mistakes within the safety of a family that knows the value of trial and error. We need to make sure that our families help young people think about situations, options, and consequences.

It is difficult to give up old patterns and to try new ones. The benefits are legion. As painful as the tumult often is in today's families, we can see it as an opportunity, if we view the chaos from within a positive psychology framework. We have the chance to lay a foundation for continued connection and understanding with our young children, to build real and lasting closeness with our adolescents, and in so doing, to work beyond some of the hurts we may still be carrying from our own childhoods, by learning to have more meaningful and warm relationships with our kids. It is so easy, in the face of kids' changing behavior and moodiness, to lose sight of the fact that we have wonderful skills. While they treat us as if we are clueless, ridiculous, and offensive, it is imperative that we maintain our own reality. The more we can maintain our own equanimity and center, the more they will acquire these same strengths, to help with the pressures that face them in years to come.

Priscilla and Chuck started by uncovering their assumptions about families, as well as the patterns they inherited from their own upbringings. We looked at the effects of these patterns on the present. Then we discussed what is causing their children to act the way they are. This information included normal developmental phases as well as how modern culture and environmental factors have accelerated kids' behavior. (It is not only a relief for parents to have more insight into their child's reality, it helps immeasurably in staying calm and in being understanding during conflicts, rather than reacting only to the surface behavior.)

Once the elements feeding into the tumult were uncovered, Priscilla and Chuck paused to remember why they wanted to have a family in the first place – the spiritual, loving, giving, connected, creative, nourishing reasons for generating and supporting life. Then they identified their signature strengths, as identified by the research in positive psychology spear-headed by Chris Peterson and Martin Seligman. We brainstormed parenting applications. Parents feel empowered to acknowledge and utilize their Values ​​In Action (VIAs, as they are called) such as curiosity, loving, perseverance, genuineness, open-mindedness, kindness, leadership. For example, Priscilla has perseverance / diligence as a strength. We talked about how she could redirect it from doing all the chores and running herself ragged, to setting up job plans and following through with consistency. She could apply her strength to learning more about child development, new approaches to discipline, as well as putting more emphasis her own well-being within the family.

But the VIA signature strengths are not the only characteristics that parents have or need!
After working to upgrade my own parenting skills and helping many families, I
have identified a list of Positive Parenting Strengths (you could call them Values ​​in Parenting – VIP's) that are explicitly helpful in family life. We have many of the Positive Parenting Strengths in abundance but do not always recognize them as valuable. As parents recognize these attributes and attend mindfully to expanding their use in situations, we feel more assured in our parenting. Increasing our reliance on these strengths also tends to give us more confidence in our communities and in work lives, as we see them help in all relationships.

The VIPs list is meant as an adjunct to the VIA list, so I have not replicated the many valuable parenting skills, such as authenticity, curiosity, love of learning in the original. The two can be used together to focus and enhance parents' efforts.

Here, then, is the list I propose as Positive Parenting Strengths (PPS's). These are skills that help parents of any aged child improve communication, feel more calm and confident, and maintain loving connections. Read through the Strengths and identify those which you recognize as your top five. Following the list are some exercises you may use to apply your strengths to sticky events in your family.

1) Staying Grounded

You are able to stop, breathe, and connect in with the lower half of your body, especially when you find yourself getting worked up. You settle, turn inward, and feel the energy moving in your abdomen, pelvis, thighs, knees, calves, ankles, and feet. You feel your energy joining with the energy of the earth, so that you feel connected, rather than like a helium balloon that someone forgot to knot after blowing up. You stay internally present in difficult and emotional situations.

2) Centered

You have a strong sense of your true self, and you feel it as a place in which you reside in yourself. You have a clear experience of the distinction between your personality and your Being. You are good at gathering yourself, not being distracted, or pulled into self-judgment. When the going gets tough, rather than reacting by scattering or closing down, you make a point of staying open and self-aware. You know that being centered connects you to spirit and to well-being.

3) Empathic

You are able to see the world though your children's eyes. You see their feelings and reactions as valid, given their experience and level of development. When they have a hard time, you make an effort to reflect back to them an understanding of what it must be like for them. You look beyond rude behavior to try to see what is going on inside. If there is a situation that repeatedly drives you crazy, you make sure you take the time to imagine, not only what this situation must be like for them, but what it must mean, given their history. You are able to imagine the scenario as if you are in their body and mind, see what it means to them, and what gets stirred up. You gain insight that helps you modify future situations. Doing so frees you from feeling upset by their behavior and often leads to their being calmer and more open.

4) Communicator

You recognize that good communication is a skill and is not automatic. You think carefully, and in advance, what you want to accomplish in communicating with your children. You plan and practice communication patterns that elicit thoughtful and relatively calm interactions. You are good at orchestrating conversations that enable children to learn life skills. You know that it is much more important to ask questions than it is to provide answers. You help them, by asking questions, learn to think through situations, anticipate consequences, and consider alternatives.

You want them to learn how to work things out for themselves, so you work to control your emotional reactions to things that they might say, in order to reach the larger goals of open interaction, problem-solving, decision-making, self-confidence , and social skills.

Your strong points are paraphrasing what they've said, so as to make sure you heard correctly, asking questions about the topic and about their thoughts, feelings, responses and actions. "How did you feel then?", "What possibilities are there?" "What happened next?" "What do you want to do about it?" "Who could you talk to about that?" are your stock in trade. You love it when your kids surprise you by coming up with solutions that had not occurred to you.

5) Connector

You place a high value upon staying emotionally connected with your children, even when they act badly or when the two of you are having an argument. You stay present, authentic, and aware of your own feelings, as well as those of your child. You work at finding ways to maintain energetic and emotional ties with your child and stay with it to work things out, rather than giving up. If you need to take a break, you call a time-out, so that everyone has a chance to cool off, without anyone feeling rejected or shut out. If they come home in a bad mood, you let them have their chance to cool off, yet you maintain the sense inside yourself that you are together and that you love each other.

6) Educator

You remember that the goal of parenthood is to educate over time. You are able to keep in mind that growing up is a process, and that you are engaged in raising wonderful, normal, fallible humans, not robots. You can remember, even in the heat of the moment, that the present behavior is not as important as the lessons you want your children to learn, such as thoughtfulness, self-reflection, and problem-solving. You tailor your parenting to further the long-term goal and remember that education takes years and many steps, and that your children do not have to master adult skills instantly, just work toward them gradually.

7) Process expert

You know that the goal is not what is important. The journey is. It is in the process of everyday routines that life is lived and savored. You are comfortable with the messiness and incompleteness of the mundane. You keep you eye on what furthers the processes of family life – communicating, being, allowing, working through, tolerating, and the like. You are able to pull back from a situation and notice what is going on in the way that it is unfolding, which you often find more important than the topic. What is important to you is the way things are engaged in, more than the thing itself. You also relax and take time to be with your children while they are going through their processes, thereby helping them to be comfortable in the moment.

8) Acceptor

You really see who your children are – their strengths, weaknesses, the direction they are going – rather than being locked in a view of who you want them to be, or who you can tolerate them being. Much as you would like to raise a concert pianist, you appreciate and nurture your child's talent as a wrestler. You raise the child you have, in the way that they need, even if it is not your first choice. If your child needs firm, clear boundaries delivered in imperative sentences, even if you tend toward the gentle and talkative and like to ask for acquiescence, you rally yourself to provide structure in the way he or she needs.

9) Holder of Optimism

You hold in your heart, and therefore hold for your child, conviction of their potential, who they truly are, and who they can become. You remember that, if they are adolescent, their brains are changing and they are hormonally challenged. Even in the face of strong evidence to the contrary, you know that they really are the kind, caring, loving, skillful, intelligent people you remember from before. You keep reminding yourself of this, so that you do not think for too long that monsters have taken over their morphing bodies. You present a picture to them of their best selves. You know that, inside all their posturing, teens are very brittle, sensitive, unsure, confused about what is happening, of the new pressures, and of their own actions. You know that it matters to them, a lot, to see in your eyes the people they hope they are becoming.

10) Structure expert

You know that structure makes growth, opportunity, relationships, and achievement possible, that boundaries do not cut people off from each other, so much as they clarify, define, and protect. You are clear about your own boundaries and the areas of life that are impacted by boundary issues. You are clear who you are, and what your bottom line is in different areas. You take care of yourself, have clear limits, balance various areas in the way that works best for you and your family. You are able to be flexible, not rigidly adhering to dogma when unforeseen factors indicate the need to take a different approach. You communicate your expectations clearly in a way that each child can hear.

11) Equanimity

You remain contented and peaceful, even when those around you are having a hard time.
You take a deep breath and maintain the feeling of calm that helps storm-tossed children and teens to orient themselves. You do not cut yourself off from them in order to feel happy. You are present and available, without being pulled into their angst. You remember that things mostly work out for the best, even if they do not look as if they are going so well at the moment.

12) Autonomy

You see yourself as a unique individual, and you see your children and partner as individuals as well. You know you can stand on your own, and you stand up for yourself. You treat yourself compassionately regarding your shortcomings. You honor your history for the experience and wisdom you have gleaned from it. You have come to terms with pain in your past, so that when it is triggered in the present, you are not thrown into reactive behavior without catching yourself. You know you are responsible for your experience and your behavior. It is fine with you that other people are humans with strengths and weaknesses. You accept them as they are.

13) Sovereignty

You know that, ultimately, each person must depend upon themselves. You know that the best way to train children to be self-reliant is to treat them as individuals with rights to be treated respectfully and with honor, even when they make mistakes and are still learning, even when they screw up royally. As Elizabeth Cady Stanton said in 1892, in front of the Judiciary Committee of the US Congress, "Nothing strengthens the judgment and quickens the conscience like individual responsibility. Nothing adds such dignity to character as the recognition of one's self-sovereignty; the right to an equal place, every where conceded; a place earned by personal merit. " You know that teens feel badly enough about themselves, and that their shame escalates very quickly, if they feel reacted to as if they are despicable. You are committed to treating them considerately, honoring their boundaries, and responding to their difficulties in ways that teach deep respect through example.

14) Enthusiast

You love the many possibilities there are in life. You love to learn and are interested in many things. Through your enthusiasm, you turn your children on to the arts, the sciences, bugs, stars, microscopes, cooking, crafts, tap dancing, old movies, badminton, the colors in leaves. You sit on the porch and watch thunderstorms together. You ride your bikes down new roads. You keep having adventures even when they roll their eyes and are too cool to go with you, because you know that later it will be important for them to have seen their parents involved in activities. And anyway, it's your life that you're enjoying!

15) Fun-lover

You enjoy your children. Just hanging out with them gives you deep satisfaction. You play with them when they are young, introduce them to activities that you value, and join them in play that they find entertaining. As they get older, you are willing to be silly and to offer activities, and also to wait until they are ready to engage with you. You make watching their endless sports events fun for yourself and for parents around you.

16) Inspires creativity

You find great satisfaction in expressing yourself creatively. Even if your efforts will not win awards, you paint, dance, draw, play an instrument, try beading, or scrap-booking. You gather leaves and make collages to decorate the table. You enjoy making your home comfortable and aesthetically pleasing. You approach your work creatively, and your kids see you enjoying work because of it. When funds are low, you look for imaginative ways to meet your need. Your children expand their experience and their skills by engaging in creative activities with you and on their own.

17) Financially responsible

You live within your means. You do not go into debt unless it is absolutely necessary. If you do, you use credit wisely, and you have a plan to pay it off as soon as possible. You do not shop as a way of relieving feelings. You educate yourself about financial matters. You find creative ways to keep to your budget, and you save regularly. You help your children develop good saving, spending, and giving habits. You plan for a rainy day.

18) Emotional Savvy

You are really good at being with your emotions, when they are aroused. You do not hide from pain or discomfort, or self-medicate with food, cigarettes or other substances. (You do, however recognize that chocolate is one of the necessary food groups.) You take time to let feelings run their course, when they need attention. You are emotionally responsible. You are able to see when your reactions are about past events, and you make every effort not to project them onto present situations. If you find that you have reacted inappropriately, you explain to others that your mood is not about them, thereby showing your caring and empathic nature. You apologize when you have hurt someone. You know that, if you allow your feelings time to process themselves, and if you reflect on your old ways of looking at things, painful emotions will abate. You process your feelings, rather than trying to push them away.

You are comfortable with your child's feelings and see their outbursts as opportunities to empathize, educate, and be close. You are comfortable with your child's expressions of feelings and respond respectfully. You understand that children do not have all the social skills yet, and it is okay with you that they still have things to learn when it comes to tolerating and expressing emotion.

19) Partner

You work hard to have a warm, loving, respectful relationship with your co-parent, because that is the tone you want in your life. You know that working on your relationship models social skills for your children, as well as providing them with a loving parental team. You continue developing relational skills, because, as you get older, you see that new issues come up that give you opportunities to continue maturing and expanding. You know that growing does not stop at 20, and that people learn and grow in relationship, not in isolation.

20) Influencer

You know that no one can control anyone other than themselves. You know that trying to control your children only leads to disconnection and bad feeling. You know that controlling kids means controlling their behavior only, and that no one can dictate another's feelings or outlook. You remind yourself that, as long as you stay connected with your children, you have more influence with them than anyone, even their peers. You deal with your own feelings about their behavior and what they go through, as well as any helplessness or worry that you feel in consequence. You recognize that it is a wise person who tolerates her / his feelings. You help your children learn to center in themselves and tolerate their feelings, and to learn to give up on trying to control other people, events, and their surroundings.

21) Self-Care

You know that you can not parent effectively if you do not take care of yourself. You model self-respect and self-confidence by paying attention to your own needs and limits. Rather than fly off the handle, you take times-out. You give yourself mini-vacations. You make sure you see friends and engage in activities that replenish you, because all of these activities improve your parenting and make parenthood enjoyable. You value your own boundaries and calmly set limits in order to ensure that others respect them also. You know the value of having the support of other parents, and even of laughing with them and letting off steam by telling benign stories of teen and toddler pranks, behind your kids' backs, of course.

22) Patience

You stay relaxed inside yourself, while life is messy around you. The little annoyances do not throw you. You are able to step back and take a larger view of events. You agree with Randy Pausch, the computer science professor dying of pancreatic cancer who gave a "Last Lecture" which has inspired thousands of people, who said that, if people disappoint you, just wait. If you give them enough time, they will bring forth their best selves. If you appreciate them and thank them for the good job you know they will do, they tend to rise to your expectations. As Nelson Mandela said, "It never hurts to think too highly of a person. Often they behave better because of it." You can wait while they learn social skills. You maintain your cool when things do not go according to plan.

23) Positive Outlook

And, most of all, you know that being a perfect parent would not be good for your children anyway. One of your jobs is to teach them to accept and value themselves as they are. You want them to feel positive about themselves, even though they mess up sometimes and are not great at everything. You want them to love life, even though life is difficult. You want them to feel confident in and about the world, even though the world is both awe-inspiring and terrible at times. You know that there are millions of ways to be a good parent, and so you celebrate your strengths and gather your children to you, to share your blessings and to help each other through the tough times. You remind yourself that trials build character. You breathe and laugh and center in yourself, for that is where the joy is – in your connection with yourself, with those you love, and with the natural world.

Okay, now that you have identified your top five VIP's, your PPSs, here are some exercises to help you apply them as you navigate the rocky waters of family life.

Try this # 1: Spend some time thinking about your strengths. Notice how you use them and how they help you with your family. Keep them in mind and have confidence in them! See how you can use your strengths to enhance your patience, your empathy, and your optimism. Muse about them and come up with ways for them to help you be more effective, more relaxed, and to enjoy your parenthood more fully.

Try this # 2: Remember a challenging occurrence in your home. (That was not hard, was it?) Now, pick one of your PPS's that you think might help in that situation. How could you use that strength to facilitate a different outcome? (When my preteen daughter started talking back at the drop of a hat, I found some time to myself and used my strength of empathy to imagine what our interchanges must be like from her perspective, given her experiences in life. A light bulb went on as I suddenly saw how easily deep feelings of loss seemed to be triggered for her. After that, I worked to remember how important our closeness was to her and to see her apparent outrage, not as insolence, but as a sign that she felt too shut out by the way I may have said something. I became more able to remain calm and loving in tone (not a skill under stress that I'd experienced with my parents!) which often led to her softening and continuing to interact with me .

Try this # 3: You could also pick one PPS with which you would like to become more proficient, and grow it into a strength. To do so, focus on the strengths you already have. Research into positive psychology has shown definitively that the more you expand your use of your positive strengths, the more the ones you could use some work on improve – much more so than if you just wrestle to try to counter your "failings."

The more you bring your awareness to focus on your strengths, the more they will grow. Notice how you feel as you play with these exercises. Notice what great ideas you come up with, use them with your children and see how they respond.

Stanton quote is from: Solitude of Self

Address delivered by Mrs. Stanton before the Committee of the Judiciary of the United States Congress
Monday, January 18, 1892

7 Things To Talk About With A Girl That Make Her Like You

What follows here are 7 things to talk about with a girl. These things will lead her to have a more positive view of you and in turn get her to like you. The topics are particularly useful for the guy that runs into the trouble of not knowing what to say to girl to keep the conversation going while keeping it interesting enough for her to want to continue talking to him.

If you know what to talk about with a girl, then it will make it easier to get her number and take her on a date. If you fall apart during conversation and blank out, then she's not likely to be attracted to you and consequently will not care to see you again. With that being said, here are some great topics.

1 – Passions: Talking about your and her passions makes the conversation interesting, positive and help you better get to know each other. Realize that this is very different from asking what someone does for a living because what they do to make ends meet is not necessarily what they're passionate about. In relation to this, specifically ask her what makes her excited to get out of bed in the morning.

2 – Travel: Travel often makes for really good conversation because people always have great stories around where they've been. A great way to ask girl about travel is to ask about the coolest places she's been to in the last few years; or you can just tell her a great story about one of your travel experiences.

3 – Music: Of course you can very well talk to a girl about general favorites like movies and food and all, but people tend to have really strong opinions when it comes to the music they like which again make for good conversation. You can ask her what the last song she listened to was that she really enjoyed and why she enjoyed it – did it remind her of something in particular?

4 – Your friends and hers: Bringing up something really interesting about one of your friends or asking her about her friends tends to season things quite a bit as it gives both of you a little added perspective about each other and a sense of the kind of people you both like to be around.

5 – Your most wild experiences: When conversation gets even more personal, you can talk about some of your wild and adventurous experiences. What are some of the more crazy things that you've done in your life? Perhaps it was skydiving, or getting to meet one of your favorite celebrities. You can ask about some of the things that she has crossed off her bucket list.

6 – Turn offs and pet-peeves: For some reason, people just love to talk about their pet-peeves. There seems to be something therapeutic about it. Find out what it is that makes her tick. If you can connect on something that makes you both tick, then it will create a bond between the two of you; this can only be a good thing.

7 – Ask for her advice or opinion: Generally speaking, people love to give advice. Take any opportunity you get to ask for her advice or opinion. You're going to make her feel special because by doing this, you're sub-communicating that you value her intellect.

So there you have it; these are seven topics you can use to build a foundation on which to develop your conversation skills with women.

10 Ways to Pick Up Business in a Down Economy

Remember the bumper stickers back in the nineties that said "Kill Your Television"?

Well, based on all the over simplified economic news coming from the major networks, the financial networks and radio too-it's something to consider again. No doubt, when the challenges of the current economy are studied in history, a major factor driving the psychology of the event will be the media.

There's one problem with "mass media", sweeping generalizations. The broad brush-the it's everywhere approach-lacks specifics for each of our own backyards.

The result is that a lot of business owners experiencing a slowdown just say it's the economy. Newsflash, there are companies that make millions of dollars in bad times. So, it can be done. Here's how:

1. Focus on Your World

The news is a sweeping generalization and has no problem letting us think this is the way of the world. Take a hard look at the reality of your situation:

  • Are you still in business?
  • Are you in foreclosure or in danger of getting there?
  • Do you work in a failed bank or investment firm?
  • Is your industry of field lined up for a bailout?

If not, pay attention to what's affecting you – not what the media says is affecting us. Do you work. Reposition your produces and services to meet your customers changing needs. Do not sit on your hands and blame the economy.

2. Protect Existing Customers / Clients

When was the last time you communicated with them without trying to sell them something? Bad idea if it's been longer than a few weeks. Get a newsletter or ezine going now and a minimum of monthly. Figure our ways you can start right now to show them how you appreciate them. Show them you solve their problems and do not be a source of their worries or fears. Even better, start making them some great offers the boosts value so they continue to spend money with your business.

3. Install or Crank Up Referral Programs

New marketing is expensive and referrals are far easier and cheaper to get. Your customers are like seeds in an apple. You can focus on how many seeds are in the apple. Getting referrals is focusing on how many apples are in a seed. If your clients like you, then you're good for the people they like. Make that point clear and get referrals – now!

4. Know Who Buys What

N ot all of your customers or clients buy everything you have to offer. Start breaking down your list to who buys what. Now you can sell what they want easier, identify and right buyer for new business. Then create campaigns to cross sell to your client base. No time? List companies can do it for you. Does it work? Well, there has to be a reason Head & Shoulders has 9 different shampoos.

5. Fix Your Customer Service

When business was for the taking, customer service was not very important. Now, a lax customer service is the room where your competitors will drive a wedge between you and your profits (or survival). Conduct a top to bottom review of all the points anyone in your company comes in contact with a customer. Are complaints resolved quickly? Do people show up on time for appointment? Are things ready with a client wants them? Better be 100% sure. .

6. Multiple Marketing Campaigns

I've kicked up the sales volume for many a client who they thought what they were doing was enough. After looking at the numbers and facts, they actually had a capacity to do a lot more marketing. Dan Kennedy says, "The most dangerous number is 1." So if you only have one way to market; what happens when you business slows down? Right, blame the economy because MSNBC says so. Same goes for referral programs – having and executing only one does not cut in today's business environment.

7. Joint Ventures

Have you ever considered a JV with any business that has customers who fit the same profile as your ideal customers? If you're a professional I'll wager there are other businesses in your building that would make excellent JV partners. JVs are like making a sale; you have to ask to get one. Look, after referrals this should be the next avenue you use for new business in 2009.

8. Use Off line Marketing

It's ironic to recommend that strategy in an ezine article. Online marketing is big and getting bigger. The total RSS feeds, ezines, blogs and landing pages will double in 2008 and do so again in 2009. The number is even larger for emails. That makes older media more attractive because there's less competition. Direct mail, display ads, inserts, post cards and printed newsletters – when done right produce very profitable results. Do not give up on an older media just because a new one comes along. Think of ways to go "Old School"

9. Tie In Promotions

Just tying your promotions to the national holidays gives you eleven additional campaigns in 2009. Use any or all of the manufactured events like Mother's Day, Father's Day, the vernal equinox or summer solstice and you got more than any competitor can think of in a year . Get thee a marketing calendar and start making plans. Of course, you can make up your own reasons for a promotion. If the economy seems crazy, they go crazy yourself.

10. Give More Away

Put the Law of Reciprocity to work for you. Send gifts in the mail, free samples, sweeten offers with bonuses and free stuff. Too expensive you say? Information costs you nothing to give away. Bonus reports and "how to" information goes a long way. Want a great lesson on how to do this? Donate to a charity with a lot of marketing savvy. I recommend the DAV and Covenant House. You'll help a good cause and get a graduate level education on how to use free stuff. Remember donate to charities you believe in and support.

Any turn down in the economy does not last forever. The trick is to make sure your business can outlast the cycle. Turn off the TV and get to work. Give your competition something more to worry about than a bad economy-you.

16 Most Inspiring Famous Failures

To succeed in business or life, I came to realize that we must continually take remedial actions. Putting myself on the line day after day can be extremely draining, especially when things do not work out as I desired. Hence, each time I face a disappointing event or undesirable outcome, I NEVER FORGET these famous failures:

1. Bill Gates, founder and chairman of Microsoft, has literally changed the work culture of the world in the 21st century, by simplifying the way computer is being used. He happens to be the world's richest man for the last one decade. However, in the 70's before starting out, he was a Harvard University dropout. The most ironic part is that, he started a software company (that was soon to become Microsoft) by purchasing the software technology from "someone" for only $ US50 back then.

2. Abraham Lincoln, received no more than 5 years of formal education throughout his lifetime. When he grew up, he joined politics and had 12 major failures before he was elected the 16th President of the United States of America.

3. Isaac Newton was the greatest English mathematician of his generation. His work on optics and gravitation made him one of the greatest scientists the world has even known. Many thought that Isaac was born a genius, but he was not! When he was young, he did very poorly in grade school, so poor that his teachers became clueless in improving his grades.

4. Ludwig van Beethoven, a German composer of classical music, is widely regarded as one of history's supreme composers. His reputation has inspired – and in many cases intimidated – composers, musicians, and audiences who were to come after him. Before the start of his career, Beethoven's music teacher once said of him "as a composer, he is hopeless". And during his career, he lost his hearing yet he managed to produce great music – a deaf man composing music, ironic is not!

5. Thomas Edison who developed many devices which greatly influenced life in the 20th century. Edison is considered one of the most prolific inventors in history, holding 1,093 US patents to his name. When he was a boy his teacher told him he was too stupid to learn anything. When he set out on his own, he tried more than 9,000 experiments before he created the first successful light bulb.

6. The Woolworth Company was a retail company that was one of the original five-and-ten-cent stores. The first Woolworth's store was founded in 1878 by Frank Winfield Woolworth and soon grew to become one of the largest retail chains in the world in the 20th century. Before starting his own business, Woolworth got a job in a dry goods store when he was 21. But his employer would not let him serve any customer because he concluded that Frank "did not have enough common sense to serve the customers".

7. By acclamation, Michael Jordon is the greatest basketball player of all time. A phenomenal athlete with a unique combination of grace, speed, power, artistry, improvisational ability and an unquenchable competitive desire. Jordan single-handedly redefined the NBA superstar. Before joining NBA, Jordan was just an ordinary person, so ordinary that was cut from high school basketball team because of his "lack of skill".

8. Walter Disney was American film producer, director, screenwriter, voice actor, and animator. One of the most well-known motion picture producers in the world, Disney founded a production company. The corporation, now known as The Walt Disney company, makes average revenue of US $ 30 billion annually. Disney started his own business from his home garage and his very first cartoon production went bankrupt. During his first press conference, a newspaper editor ridiculed Walt Disney because he had no good ideas in film production.

9. Winston Churchill failed the 6th grade. However, that never stopped him to work harder! He strived and eventually became the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom during the Second World War. Churchill is generally regarded as one of the most important leaders in Britain and world history. In a poll conducted by the BBC in 2002 to identify the "100 Greatest Britons", participants voted Churchill as the most important of all.

10. Steven Spielberg is an American film director . He has won 3 Academy Awards an ranks among the most successful filmmakers in history. Most of all, Steven was recognized as the financially most successful motion picture director of all time. During his childhood, Spielberg dropped out of junior high school. He was persuaded to come back and was placed in a learning-disabled class. He only lasted a month and then dropped out of school forever.

11. Albert Einstein was a theoretical physicist widely regarded as the most important scientist of the 20th century. He was awarded the 1921 Nobel Prize for Physics for his explanation of the photoelectric effect in 1905 and "for his services to Theoretical Physics". However, when Einstein was young, his parents thought he was mentally retarded. His grades in school were so poor that a teacher asked him to quit, saying, "Einstein, you will never amount to anything!"

12. In 1947, one year into her contract, Marilyn Monroe was dropped by 20th Century-Fox because her producer thought she was unattractive and can not act. That did not deter her at all! She kept on going and eventually she was recognized by the public as the 20th century's most famous movie star, sex symbol and pop icon.

13. John Grisham 's first novel was rejected by sixteen agents and twelve publishing houses. He went on writing and writing until he became best known as a novelist and author for his works of modern legal drama. The media has coined him as one of the best novel authors even alive in the 21st century.

14. Henry Ford 's first two automobile companies failed. That did not stop him from incorporating Ford Motor Company and being the first to apply assembly line manufacturing to the production of affordable automobiles in the world. He not only revolutionized industrial production in the United States and Europe, but also had such influence over the 20th century economy and society. His combination of mass production, high wages and low prices to consumers has initiated a management school known as "Fordism". He became one of the three most famous and richest men in the world during his time.

15. Soichiro Honda was turned down by Toyota Motor Corporation during a job interview as "engineer" after World War Two. He continued to be jobless until his neighbors starting buying his "home-made scooters". Subsequently, he set out on his own to start his own company. Honda. Today, the Company has grown to become the world's largest motorcycle manufacturer and one of the most profitable automakers – beating giant automaker such as GM and Chrysler. With a global network of 437 subsidiaries, Honda develops, manufactures, and markets a wide variety of products ranging from small general-purpose engines and scooters to specialty sports cars.

16. Akio Morita, founder of giant electric household products, Sony Corporation, first product was an electric rice cooker, only sold 100 cookers (because it burned rice rather than cooking). Today, Sony is generating US $ 66 billion in revenue and ranked as the world's 6th largest electronic and electrical company.

How to Spot Mail Order Bride Scams

If you're looking for a mail order bride, there are generally two different scams you should be aware of. One is usually conducted by the dating or agency site and the other one involves scams originating from the women themselves.

Dating Site Scams

When a scam is being pulled by the website, generally the women who have signed up on the website are clueless that anything shady is going on.

But some sites post pictures without the woman's approval, or use women who only pretend to be foreign or have no intention of marrying. Some really unscrupulous sites make up women who do not even exist.

The best way to keep from being a victim of one of these sites is do adequate research on a site before ever signing up, and certainly before pulling out your credit card.

Search for reviews and look for others who may have already had problems with the site, previous including members.

Other things you can do as precautions:

  • Make sure the site requires submission of a photograph. Do not settle for a list of names.
  • Be cautious of pictures of women in provocative poses or those wearing revealing clothes. They're much more likely to be after your attention for reasons other than a romantic encounter.
  • Choose medium size sites with a membership between 2,000 and 4,000 women. That's plenty of women to find a good match for you. It's a good idea to avoid sites that have less than 500 hopeful brides or those with tens of thousands.
  • Know before you sign up exactly what your charges will be, including the fees charged for extra services. Even better is a site that charges a flat monthly fee for all services rendered.
  • Be very leery of a site that shows pictures of women who all look like professional models. Browse the profiles to determine if real women are included, in casual pictures, rather than looking like they were lifted from a model's portfolio.

Mail Order Bride Scams

Another scam type you could possibly encounter is one from the woman herself. Sadly, you're more likely to become a victim of one of these scams than you are from a disreputable website scam.

It's more likely to happen on super large international dating sites because the scammer is able to cloak herself among the thousands of other women on the site. They also prefer the larger sites because it gives them a larger number of men they can try to scam.

It's important to realize that most of the women you'll find on mail order bride sites are honest, sincere women who are truly hoping to find love and ultimately, marriage. But to keep yourself from becoming a victim, you need to be able to recognize the warning signs that indicate a woman is trying to scam you.

When you know the signs, it's easier to tell when a woman is really interested in you, or when she's more interested in your credit card limit. Oftentimes, these women will play their hand quite early in the correspondence, but some of these scammers have the patience of Job, and will wait many months before tipping her hand. They live with the misguided belief that American men are all rich, and they're just after the ones who are naïve enough to send them money.

Sending $ 100 to a woman who's captured your heart may not seem like much to you, but to a Russian mail order bride, for instance, whose average income is $ 640 a month, she only needs to scam 7 men to generate a full time income.

The best way to protect yourself from becoming a victim of one of these scams is to never send her money.

They can be quite creative in the ways they come up with to make you feel sorry for them, and their ultimate goal is to get you to turn that sympathy into cash.

Here are some of the reasons you might hear:

1.She wants to see you, but does not have the funds for traveling, including tickets, money for a visa and other travel related expenses. This one is a classic and has fooled unknown numbers of well-meaning men.

2.You may get an email explaining that she needs translation services to read your letters and does not have the money to pay for it.

3.Once she's convinced you to buy an airline ticket for her, you may discover the travel agent she recommended is a fake.

4.She may lie about having had an accident, and ask you for help paying her hospital bill, or getting her car fixed, or even providing living expenses because she can not go back to work right away.

5.She may seek your sympathy by telling you a sad story about losing a job, having to quit school for financial reasons, a mother who's sick and can not afford her medicine … anything to get you to take out your credit card . The stories can be quite creative and extremely persuasive.

The takeaway from this is, in order to keep from becoming a victim, and being relieved of several hundred, or even several thousand dollars, thoroughly check out the dating site you're considering and once you've found one, do not be conned into sending any money to a potential bride.

Positive Parenting Strengths

Chuck and Priscilla were at their wits' end. They are the parents of two teen-aged girls, and two younger boys. The eldest, Charlotte, is out-of-control. As each child approaches adolescence, they seem to become impossible. "We do not know what to do anymore!" Priscilla wails. "I do everything for them. Charlotte and Chuck fight constantly. He expects her to respect him, but she swears at him when he makes the slightest demand. Then he gets mad and starts yelling, and it's all over! She's a top student and athlete. Why will not she be more compliant at home? And now Gertie, my 13 year-old, is starting to act out. she talks back something fierce! The boys never do anything around the house. Their grandparents think they are all out of control. I do not know how much more of this I can take! "

Many parents feel confident in their skills while their children are little, only to wonder how it all got away from them as their kids reach the pre-teen years. And who are these strangers inhabiting their adolescents' bodies, and what did they do with the off-spring we knew, anyway?

Parenting is not the same as it used to be. Fewer families include a stay-at-home parent. Economically, most families need both parents to be in the work force. More women are single parents. The kids who are teens now were in daycare or otherwise looked after by people other than their parents. They do not see us as the arbiters of their lives or as the holders of all the keys, because we no longer are. As well, TV and computers have made information easily accessible by children – information that, just a few years ago, was the domain of adults. The way we protected children in the past from overwhelming material such as sexual images, disasters, and pictures of war-torn bodies, was to keep it unavailable. Now that is almost impossible. Children are traumatized by the news.

They are also feeling immense pressure to be involved in activities and interests that their peers and the media tell them they are ready for. Advertising, loosened standards in TV programs and movies, and the availability of adult content, are all making our children (and many parents, actually) believe that ten-year-olds should be concerned about deodorant, and engage in sexual behaviors.

We are all racing – kids and parents alike. Society runs at a much faster pace. Music, TV shows, sentence structure and pacing in books, magazines, even symphonies, have sped up drastically. There is an overwhelming amount of information bombarding us and demanding that we respond to it instantly. There is more information in one Sunday issue of the New York Times than in all the books that existed in the 16th century. We work longer, vacation less (in the USA), and are expected to be available by phone, hand-held, and computer 24/7. On top of all this, neighborhoods are not as safe as before. Gangs, drugs, and violence are not restricted to inner cities.

When parents come to me, often they want to reduce some unacceptable behavior in their child. Old parenting styles that many of us were raised with, were based on behavior control. They worked moderately well then, because children were more dependent on their parents. Today, the same methods often have wildly unsuccessful results, in that they spark dramatic reactions in our children that are often the exact opposite of what we hoped for. When parents now use a domineering tone, lay down the law, and are unaware of their child's point of view, while expecting instant and unquestioning obedience, pre-teens and teens often react with aggression or rejection in terms that we'd never have dared to use. We can not focus simply on behavior cessation or our own comfort levels. There is nothing more silly and helpless than the feeling you get when you bellow, "You're not going anywhere until you clean your room!" and have the kid shoot you that who-are-you-kidding sneer and stalk out of the house. Parents feel shell-shocked and confused, and the children feel disrespected, misunderstood, and alone.

What we need now are the skills that will help our kids see us as their major support. We need to help them learn to navigate the world as it is today. They need to take risks within a reasonable range, learn from their mistakes within the safety of a family that knows the value of trial and error. We need to make sure that our families help young people think about situations, options, and consequences.

It is difficult to give up old patterns and to try new ones. The benefits are legion. As painful as the tumult often is in today's families, we can see it as an opportunity, if we view the chaos from within a positive psychology framework. We have the chance to lay a foundation for continued connection and understanding with our young children, to build real and lasting closeness with our adolescents, and in so doing, to work beyond some of the hurts we may still be carrying from our own childhoods, by learning to have more meaningful and warm relationships with our kids. It is so easy, in the face of kids' changing behavior and moodiness, to lose sight of the fact that we have wonderful skills. While they treat us as if we are clueless, ridiculous, and offensive, it is imperative that we maintain our own reality. The more we can maintain our own equanimity and center, the more they will acquire these same strengths, to help with the pressures that face them in years to come.

Priscilla and Chuck started by uncovering their assumptions about families, as well as the patterns they inherited from their own upbringings. We looked at the effects of these patterns on the present. Then we discussed what is causing their children to act the way they are. This information included normal developmental phases as well as how modern culture and environmental factors have accelerated kids' behavior. (It is not only a relief for parents to have more insight into their child's reality, it helps immeasurably in staying calm and in being understanding during conflicts, rather than reacting only to the surface behavior.)

Once the elements feeding into the tumult were uncovered, Priscilla and Chuck paused to remember why they wanted to have a family in the first place – the spiritual, loving, giving, connected, creative, nourishing reasons for generating and supporting life. Then they identified their signature strengths, as identified by the research in positive psychology spear-headed by Chris Peterson and Martin Seligman. We brainstormed parenting applications. Parents feel empowered to acknowledge and utilize their Values ​​In Action (VIAs, as they are called) such as curiosity, loving, perseverance, genuineness, open-mindedness, kindness, leadership. For example, Priscilla has perseverance / diligence as a strength. We talked about how she could redirect it from doing all the chores and running herself ragged, to setting up job plans and following through with consistency. She could apply her strength to learning more about child development, new approaches to discipline, as well as putting more emphasis her own well-being within the family.

But the VIA signature strengths are not the only characteristics that parents have or need!
After working to upgrade my own parenting skills and helping many families, I
have identified a list of Positive Parenting Strengths (you could call them Values ​​in Parenting – VIP's) that are explicitly helpful in family life. We have many of the Positive Parenting Strengths in abundance but do not always recognize them as valuable. As parents recognize these attributes and attend mindfully to expanding their use in situations, we feel more assured in our parenting. Increasing our reliance on these strengths also tends to give us more confidence in our communities and in work lives, as we see them help in all relationships.

The VIPs list is meant as an adjunct to the VIA list, so I have not replicated the many valuable parenting skills, such as authenticity, curiosity, love of learning in the original. The two can be used together to focus and enhance parents' efforts.

Here, then, is the list I propose as Positive Parenting Strengths (PPS's). These are skills that help parents of any aged child improve communication, feel more calm and confident, and maintain loving connections. Read through the Strengths and identify those which you recognize as your top five. Following the list are some exercises you may use to apply your strengths to sticky events in your family.

1) Staying Grounded

You are able to stop, breathe, and connect in with the lower half of your body, especially when you find yourself getting worked up. You settle, turn inward, and feel the energy moving in your abdomen, pelvis, thighs, knees, calves, ankles, and feet. You feel your energy joining with the energy of the earth, so that you feel connected, rather than like a helium balloon that someone forgot to knot after blowing up. You stay internally present in difficult and emotional situations.

2) Centered

You have a strong sense of your true self, and you feel it as a place in which you reside in yourself. You have a clear experience of the distinction between your personality and your Being. You are good at gathering yourself, not being distracted, or pulled into self-judgment. When the going gets tough, rather than reacting by scattering or closing down, you make a point of staying open and self-aware. You know that being centered connects you to spirit and to well-being.

3) Empathic

You are able to see the world though your children's eyes. You see their feelings and reactions as valid, given their experience and level of development. When they have a hard time, you make an effort to reflect back to them an understanding of what it must be like for them. You look beyond rude behavior to try to see what is going on inside. If there is a situation that repeatedly drives you crazy, you make sure you take the time to imagine, not only what this situation must be like for them, but what it must mean, given their history. You are able to imagine the scenario as if you are in their body and mind, see what it means to them, and what gets stirred up. You gain insight that helps you modify future situations. Doing so frees you from feeling upset by their behavior and often leads to their being calmer and more open.

4) Communicator

You recognize that good communication is a skill and is not automatic. You think carefully, and in advance, what you want to accomplish in communicating with your children. You plan and practice communication patterns that elicit thoughtful and relatively calm interactions. You are good at orchestrating conversations that enable children to learn life skills. You know that it is much more important to ask questions than it is to provide answers. You help them, by asking questions, learn to think through situations, anticipate consequences, and consider alternatives.

You want them to learn how to work things out for themselves, so you work to control your emotional reactions to things that they might say, in order to reach the larger goals of open interaction, problem-solving, decision-making, self-confidence , and social skills.

Your strong points are paraphrasing what they've said, so as to make sure you heard correctly, asking questions about the topic and about their thoughts, feelings, responses and actions. "How did you feel then?", "What possibilities are there?" "What happened next?" "What do you want to do about it?" "Who could you talk to about that?" are your stock in trade. You love it when your kids surprise you by coming up with solutions that had not occurred to you.

5) Connector

You place a high value upon staying emotionally connected with your children, even when they act badly or when the two of you are having an argument. You stay present, authentic, and aware of your own feelings, as well as those of your child. You work at finding ways to maintain energetic and emotional ties with your child and stay with it to work things out, rather than giving up. If you need to take a break, you call a time-out, so that everyone has a chance to cool off, without anyone feeling rejected or shut out. If they come home in a bad mood, you let them have their chance to cool off, yet you maintain the sense inside yourself that you are together and that you love each other.

6) Educator

You remember that the goal of parenthood is to educate over time. You are able to keep in mind that growing up is a process, and that you are engaged in raising wonderful, normal, fallible humans, not robots. You can remember, even in the heat of the moment, that the present behavior is not as important as the lessons you want your children to learn, such as thoughtfulness, self-reflection, and problem-solving. You tailor your parenting to further the long-term goal and remember that education takes years and many steps, and that your children do not have to master adult skills instantly, just work toward them gradually.

7) Process expert

You know that the goal is not what is important. The journey is. It is in the process of everyday routines that life is lived and savored. You are comfortable with the messiness and incompleteness of the mundane. You keep you eye on what furthers the processes of family life – communicating, being, allowing, working through, tolerating, and the like. You are able to pull back from a situation and notice what is going on in the way that it is unfolding, which you often find more important than the topic. What is important to you is the way things are engaged in, more than the thing itself. You also relax and take time to be with your children while they are going through their processes, thereby helping them to be comfortable in the moment.

8) Acceptor

You really see who your children are – their strengths, weaknesses, the direction they are going – rather than being locked in a view of who you want them to be, or who you can tolerate them being. Much as you would like to raise a concert pianist, you appreciate and nurture your child's talent as a wrestler. You raise the child you have, in the way that they need, even if it is not your first choice. If your child needs firm, clear boundaries delivered in imperative sentences, even if you tend toward the gentle and talkative and like to ask for acquiescence, you rally yourself to provide structure in the way he or she needs.

9) Holder of Optimism

You hold in your heart, and therefore hold for your child, conviction of their potential, who they truly are, and who they can become. You remember that, if they are adolescent, their brains are changing and they are hormonally challenged. Even in the face of strong evidence to the contrary, you know that they really are the kind, caring, loving, skillful, intelligent people you remember from before. You keep reminding yourself of this, so that you do not think for too long that monsters have taken over their morphing bodies. You present a picture to them of their best selves. You know that, inside all their posturing, teens are very brittle, sensitive, unsure, confused about what is happening, of the new pressures, and of their own actions. You know that it matters to them, a lot, to see in your eyes the people they hope they are becoming.

10) Structure expert

You know that structure makes growth, opportunity, relationships, and achievement possible, that boundaries do not cut people off from each other, so much as they clarify, define, and protect. You are clear about your own boundaries and the areas of life that are impacted by boundary issues. You are clear who you are, and what your bottom line is in different areas. You take care of yourself, have clear limits, balance various areas in the way that works best for you and your family. You are able to be flexible, not rigidly adhering to dogma when unforeseen factors indicate the need to take a different approach. You communicate your expectations clearly in a way that each child can hear.

11) Equanimity

You remain contented and peaceful, even when those around you are having a hard time.
You take a deep breath and maintain the feeling of calm that helps storm-tossed children and teens to orient themselves. You do not cut yourself off from them in order to feel happy. You are present and available, without being pulled into their angst. You remember that things mostly work out for the best, even if they do not look as if they are going so well at the moment.

12) Autonomy

You see yourself as a unique individual, and you see your children and partner as individuals as well. You know you can stand on your own, and you stand up for yourself. You treat yourself compassionately regarding your shortcomings. You honor your history for the experience and wisdom you have gleaned from it. You have come to terms with pain in your past, so that when it is triggered in the present, you are not thrown into reactive behavior without catching yourself. You know you are responsible for your experience and your behavior. It is fine with you that other people are humans with strengths and weaknesses. You accept them as they are.

13) Sovereignty

You know that, ultimately, each person must depend upon themselves. You know that the best way to train children to be self-reliant is to treat them as individuals with rights to be treated respectfully and with honor, even when they make mistakes and are still learning, even when they screw up royally. As Elizabeth Cady Stanton said in 1892, in front of the Judiciary Committee of the US Congress, "Nothing strengthens the judgment and quickens the conscience like individual responsibility. Nothing adds such dignity to character as the recognition of one's self-sovereignty; the right to an equal place, every where conceded; a place earned by personal merit. " You know that teens feel badly enough about themselves, and that their shame escalates very quickly, if they feel reacted to as if they are despicable. You are committed to treating them considerately, honoring their boundaries, and responding to their difficulties in ways that teach deep respect through example.

14) Enthusiast

You love the many possibilities there are in life. You love to learn and are interested in many things. Through your enthusiasm, you turn your children on to the arts, the sciences, bugs, stars, microscopes, cooking, crafts, tap dancing, old movies, badminton, the colors in leaves. You sit on the porch and watch thunderstorms together. You ride your bikes down new roads. You keep having adventures even when they roll their eyes and are too cool to go with you, because you know that later it will be important for them to have seen their parents involved in activities. And anyway, it's your life that you're enjoying!

15) Fun-lover

You enjoy your children. Just hanging out with them gives you deep satisfaction. You play with them when they are young, introduce them to activities that you value, and join them in play that they find entertaining. As they get older, you are willing to be silly and to offer activities, and also to wait until they are ready to engage with you. You make watching their endless sports events fun for yourself and for parents around you.

16) Inspires creativity

You find great satisfaction in expressing yourself creatively. Even if your efforts will not win awards, you paint, dance, draw, play an instrument, try beading, or scrap-booking. You gather leaves and make collages to decorate the table. You enjoy making your home comfortable and aesthetically pleasing. You approach your work creatively, and your kids see you enjoying work because of it. When funds are low, you look for imaginative ways to meet your need. Your children expand their experience and their skills by engaging in creative activities with you and on their own.

17) Financially responsible

You live within your means. You do not go into debt unless it is absolutely necessary. If you do, you use credit wisely, and you have a plan to pay it off as soon as possible. You do not shop as a way of relieving feelings. You educate yourself about financial matters. You find creative ways to keep to your budget, and you save regularly. You help your children develop good saving, spending, and giving habits. You plan for a rainy day.

18) Emotional Savvy

You are really good at being with your emotions, when they are aroused. You do not hide from pain or discomfort, or self-medicate with food, cigarettes or other substances. (You do, however recognize that chocolate is one of the necessary food groups.) You take time to let feelings run their course, when they need attention. You are emotionally responsible. You are able to see when your reactions are about past events, and you make every effort not to project them onto present situations. If you find that you have reacted inappropriately, you explain to others that your mood is not about them, thereby showing your caring and empathic nature. You apologize when you have hurt someone. You know that, if you allow your feelings time to process themselves, and if you reflect on your old ways of looking at things, painful emotions will abate. You process your feelings, rather than trying to push them away.

You are comfortable with your child's feelings and see their outbursts as opportunities to empathize, educate, and be close. You are comfortable with your child's expressions of feelings and respond respectfully. You understand that children do not have all the social skills yet, and it is okay with you that they still have things to learn when it comes to tolerating and expressing emotion.

19) Partner

You work hard to have a warm, loving, respectful relationship with your co-parent, because that is the tone you want in your life. You know that working on your relationship models social skills for your children, as well as providing them with a loving parental team. You continue developing relational skills, because, as you get older, you see that new issues come up that give you opportunities to continue maturing and expanding. You know that growing does not stop at 20, and that people learn and grow in relationship, not in isolation.

20) Influencer

You know that no one can control anyone other than themselves. You know that trying to control your children only leads to disconnection and bad feeling. You know that controlling kids means controlling their behavior only, and that no one can dictate another's feelings or outlook. You remind yourself that, as long as you stay connected with your children, you have more influence with them than anyone, even their peers. You deal with your own feelings about their behavior and what they go through, as well as any helplessness or worry that you feel in consequence. You recognize that it is a wise person who tolerates her / his feelings. You help your children learn to center in themselves and tolerate their feelings, and to learn to give up on trying to control other people, events, and their surroundings.

21) Self-Care

You know that you can not parent effectively if you do not take care of yourself. You model self-respect and self-confidence by paying attention to your own needs and limits. Rather than fly off the handle, you take times-out. You give yourself mini-vacations. You make sure you see friends and engage in activities that replenish you, because all of these activities improve your parenting and make parenthood enjoyable. You value your own boundaries and calmly set limits in order to ensure that others respect them also. You know the value of having the support of other parents, and even of laughing with them and letting off steam by telling benign stories of teen and toddler pranks, behind your kids' backs, of course.

22) Patience

You stay relaxed inside yourself, while life is messy around you. The little annoyances do not throw you. You are able to step back and take a larger view of events. You agree with Randy Pausch, the computer science professor dying of pancreatic cancer who gave a "Last Lecture" which has inspired thousands of people, who said that, if people disappoint you, just wait. If you give them enough time, they will bring forth their best selves. If you appreciate them and thank them for the good job you know they will do, they tend to rise to your expectations. As Nelson Mandela said, "It never hurts to think too highly of a person. Often they behave better because of it." You can wait while they learn social skills. You maintain your cool when things do not go according to plan.

23) Positive Outlook

And, most of all, you know that being a perfect parent would not be good for your children anyway. One of your jobs is to teach them to accept and value themselves as they are. You want them to feel positive about themselves, even though they mess up sometimes and are not great at everything. You want them to love life, even though life is difficult. You want them to feel confident in and about the world, even though the world is both awe-inspiring and terrible at times. You know that there are millions of ways to be a good parent, and so you celebrate your strengths and gather your children to you, to share your blessings and to help each other through the tough times. You remind yourself that trials build character. You breathe and laugh and center in yourself, for that is where the joy is – in your connection with yourself, with those you love, and with the natural world.

Okay, now that you have identified your top five VIP's, your PPSs, here are some exercises to help you apply them as you navigate the rocky waters of family life.

Try this # 1: Spend some time thinking about your strengths. Notice how you use them and how they help you with your family. Keep them in mind and have confidence in them! See how you can use your strengths to enhance your patience, your empathy, and your optimism. Muse about them and come up with ways for them to help you be more effective, more relaxed, and to enjoy your parenthood more fully.

Try this # 2: Remember a challenging occurrence in your home. (That was not hard, was it?) Now, pick one of your PPS's that you think might help in that situation. How could you use that strength to facilitate a different outcome? (When my preteen daughter started talking back at the drop of a hat, I found some time to myself and used my strength of empathy to imagine what our interchanges must be like from her perspective, given her experiences in life. A light bulb went on as I suddenly saw how easily deep feelings of loss seemed to be triggered for her. After that, I worked to remember how important our closeness was to her and to see her apparent outrage, not as insolence, but as a sign that she felt too shut out by the way I may have said something. I became more able to remain calm and loving in tone (not a skill under stress that I'd experienced with my parents!) which often led to her softening and continuing to interact with me .

Try this # 3: You could also pick one PPS with which you would like to become more proficient, and grow it into a strength. To do so, focus on the strengths you already have. Research into positive psychology has shown definitively that the more you expand your use of your positive strengths, the more the ones you could use some work on improve – much more so than if you just wrestle to try to counter your "failings."

The more you bring your awareness to focus on your strengths, the more they will grow. Notice how you feel as you play with these exercises. Notice what great ideas you come up with, use them with your children and see how they respond.

Stanton quote is from: Solitude of Self

Address delivered by Mrs. Stanton before the Committee of the Judiciary of the United States Congress
Monday, January 18, 1892

Missed Diagnosis – This is My Story, It Could Save Your Life

My story begins late one night in December 2008. I'd just come home from a long and wonderful trip to Bhutan, Nepal and India and was in the midst of moving in with a man I'd met and fallen in love with two summers before. We're both in good health, exercise regularly and keep our diet on the light side. But this night we'd been out to a fancy restaurant. We were in a high mood, planning a celebration for our 70 and 75th birthdays as one big party in February. A few hours after I'd gone to sleep, an intense cramping in my lower left side awakened me. My abdomen was bloated. My stomach felt hard as a rock. I could not lie still so I stood up. I immediately bent over in pain. Feeling pretty weak I supported myself with the back of a bedroom chair. Sitting or lying down felt worse. That night, I walked around and around and around the living room wondering what was wrong and what to do. I'd suffered digestive discomfort for years but never anything like this. It was logical to believe I'd picked up a bug in India. As I walked, I took GasX. About ten minutes later, I felt better and was able to go back to sleep. I thought that was the end of it but it was just the beginning.

I'm a psychologist who hears many clients describe digestive discomfort, especially after a meal out in a restaurant. I've listened to many women describe similar nightly walkabouts in which all they could do was wait for gastrointestinal pain to subside. One woman told me her mother had been having attacks for years and tried every home remedy and medical prescription in the book with no sustainable relief. It's common to hear people report getting so frightened by the pain that they believe they're having a heart attack. They go to an ER, lay around on a gurney for hours and come home with a diagnosis of indigestion. Still, since the pain was extreme, I called my internist the next day and got an appointment a few days later. He sent me for scans of my liver, kidneys, gall bladder and esophagus, gave me an ECG in his office and prescribed Prevacid for indigestion. All the tests came back normal.

But nothing was normal. I continued to have severe digestive discomfort and painful spasms every few nights. I searched the Internet hoping to understand my symptoms better. I kept coming up with GERD (gastro esophageal reflux disease) and IBS (irritable bowel syndrome). Each search described many of my symptoms but there was little mention of the pressure from gas that I was experiencing or the pain. I saw a nutritionist who was convinced that my gall bladder was malfunctioning. Her dietary recommendations did not work but she heightened my awareness of the importance of diet. In particular, I learned that carbohydrates produce gas and overeating at any particular meal puts extra stress on the stomach. I started a low carb diet and ate small frequent meals. I also stopped eating anything after six pm. Even though my alcohol habit consisted of little more than a glass of wine with dinner, I stopped drinking any alcohol. A glass of wine seemed to set off a spasm. Same with my morning cup of coffee. Taking these measures slowed down how often I experienced these episodes of intense pain but did not affect the intensity once one got rolling. Modifying my eating habits certainly helped but did not solve the problem.

Next I saw a gastroenterologist who was convinced I had SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth). He prescribed Xyfaxan, an antibiotic that targets bacteria in the intestine in order to restore proper balance and cease pain caused by spasms of the gut. I did several series of this antibiotic over the next months. The third, pulling out all stops, was for three weeks. He also prescribed Levsin, an antispasmodic medication. The antibiotics seemed to lessen the frequency of occurrences and the Levsin was a godsend. My symptoms were increasing and the episodes becoming more frequent, more unpredictable. It's hard to describe how disturbing it was to be clueless about when an episode might occur. If I had an afternoon of clients, I ate a light breakfast with no carbs and skipped lunch. It was the only way I could be sure I would not crash in the middle of a session with a client. With Levsin in my pocket, I felt more in control but when I wanted to be sure I would not get an attack I just did not eat.

Oddly, when I was fine, I was fine and that was most of the time. Difficult to predict, symptoms often came out of the blue and while very intense, passed within minutes. I learned that I could avert an episode by taking Levsin at the first sign of symptoms and even stop a rising spasm on its way to full bloom if I acted quickly. Because Levsin worked and because the antibiotics seemed to be working, I had confidence that the GI doctor knew what he was doing and felt confident he would solve the problem. I began to keep a journal of what I was eating and when I had symptoms. Eating carbs and eating too much at one meal continued to be major culprits. They led to gas, bloating, abdominal cramping, heartburn and scratchy throat. As months passed, I sometimes felt an intense pressure pushing on my diaphragm and rising to the center of my chest. I sometimes felt a hot spot behind my sternum, pain in one or both arms and soreness under my ears. I took Levsin everywhere with me. On a walk, to the movies, to bed.

Adding to my difficulties, I felt depressed, tired and annoyed. So many interactions in life revolve around food. "Let's get together for lunch" became a challenge. Not being able to eat freely meant playing a game when we went out with friends. I began a blind man's game of not seeing food on the table, on my plate or on a menu in order to enjoy myself. At least in California where I live, restaurants are used to people customizing their meals but I only had one diet I knew worked. When it did not fit the occasion, I cancelled. It's an education to notice how central food is to so many ordinary things we do in a day. Being so restricted often secretly stole the fun out of a get together for me but I could not risk a build-up of pressure.

On occasion, symptoms got started and subsided on their own. But mostly, the only thing that made a spasm bearable was Levsin. GasX always helped. Sometimes Gaviscon or Prevacid helped. I tried PPI acid suppressors (proto pump inhibitors) but with little reliable effect. On my low carb diet, I lost weight, 20 lbs from 138 to 118 in eight months. In a society where "one is never too thin", I was looking good and getting lots of compliments but I did not feel good. It's one thing to modify life to live around symptoms, another to think of living with an imposed restriction day in and day out for the rest of my life. As time wore on without a diagnosis, I began to think the painful episodes were here to stay.

My spasms felt like contractions in childbirth, horribly intense but subsiding in minutes. Resolved to their intrusion, at least I knew they would end. Like a woman giving birth, I went with the pain, breathed as rhythmically as I could and held the faith that I could get through it. I leaned against a couch, a fence or a wall depending on where I was when they happened. Since I felt like a pregnant woman with too much pressure on her stomach, I slept on a wedge to keep my head elevated to alleviate weight on my digestive tract. Keeping my upper body elevated while I slept helped me feel better but it did not prevent pressure from building up. Sometimes I woke up in the middle of a nightmare dreaming that I was being strangled or crushed or worse. To combat this invisible foe, I did everything I could, but to no avail.

Since I believed my symptoms were clues, I described them numerous times to numerous doctors, each with a different specialty, hoping one of them – internist, nutritionist, cardiologist, gastroenterologist and holistic md – would recognize what I could only sense. I kept asking questions, kept looking to them for answers. What's causing all this? Where's all the gas coming from? If it's acid reflux, GERD and / or IBS, why does not elimination of the usual culprits – gluten, dairy products, chocolate, wheat, red meat and alcohol – make a difference? If it's SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth), why are not the antibiotics working? And, bottom-line, how does pressure from intestinal gas cause a cramp in my chest? Since my problems started the week after I came back from a trip to India, doctors and friends joined me in speculating that I'd brought back an obscure bug. That added to the mystery but it still did not explain how indigestion was related to spasms.

Did I take tests? Of course. Blood tests, electrocardiograms (ECG), scans and scopes of the upper and lower GI tract. They ruled out esophageal problems, gall bladder, liver and kidney problems, heart problems – or so I thought. Did I follow doctor's instructions? Of course. Three rounds of intestinal antibiotics. Did I talk to people? Of course. Smartest friends in the room. Everyone had their own experience and / or someone close to them who had similar symptoms. They also had lots of advice. Apparently, there are millions of Americans suffering from chronic bouts of indigestion that they're treating with billions of dollars of digestive aids. But no one pieced together the combination of symptoms I was describing into a diagnosis.

To add to my confusion about what was happening and, in hindsight, to the hidden danger of a missed diagnosis, I had a para-thyroidectomy in December 2008. I had been diagnosed with parathyroid dysfunction during an annual checkup with my internist before my trip to India. There was some speculation about whether it could be a cause of my digestive discomfort. Not likely but a possibility. Apparently faulty calcium regulation can contribute to digestive problems. The surgery required – of course – blood tests and another ECG. Fortunately (especially in hindsight), I flew through the surgery with flying colors. But it further confused the picture. After my calcium levels were restored, I enjoyed an upsurge of energy. When I was not actually experiencing an episode or its aftermath the next day, I felt better than I had in years.

Incidentally, in January 2009, I saw a cardiologist. It was a routine visit, like seeing a gynecologist. It was simply part of my overall pursuit of greater health appropriate to my age. My cholesterol levels were a bit high (LDL 120) and I was considering statins. I did, of course, describe my symptoms to him, including the fact that I was seeing a GI doctor. During the exam, he thought he noticed a murmur and recommended I get a stress-echo test to complete my work up. "Nothing urgent", he assured me. Nothing that could not wait until after a spring trip my partner and I were planning to Paris. In fact, none of my doctors expressed any caution about traveling for six weeks out of the country or any urgency regarding any other tests.

In August 2009 – after eight months of mind-numbing episodes of pain – I did find the answer. Persistent questioning – and, I believe, lady luck was on my side. We came home from Paris mid-June and I made an appointment to complete my cardiology workup with a stress echo test at the first opportunity. That would be August 7. By this time I was afraid my digestive difficulties were burdening my heart. I thought I might not be able to complete the stress echo well enough for accurate results. But by August, I was a pro at dealing with my attacks and felt confident I could get through it even if I felt one coming on. Exertion at this time was the least of my concerns.

Even though I knew that going up a steep sidewalk, swimming 4 short laps in a row or spending ten minutes on the elliptical trainer could arouse symptoms signaling the likelihood of an attack, I could work around it. I'd learned to pace my walking, slow down my exercising and not lift anything heavy. On the stress echo treadmill, it did not surprise me that I was fine for 4 ½ minutes, 134 heartbeats. At that point I began to feel the usual pressure in my stomach, a light-headedness, pain behind my ears and a desperate need to rest. I'd been told 138 heartbeats was the target so when the monitor flashed a red 141, I figured I'd more than accomplished the target. I gasped for breath and asked the nurse, "Is that it? Can I stop now?" And she answered, "Only if you want to." She did not bat an eyelash at my obvious distress. I've since discovered that people like to challenge the treadmill when they take the test so I guess that's what she was used to. Then I did what I usually did when I was faced with an imminent attack. I calmed myself down. I breathed, meditated and thought pleasant thoughts while the nurse scurried around getting her numbers.

I was completely unaware of what had just happened. Customary for me, by the time I got to the waiting room, I felt fine. In this case, I felt pleased that I'd recovered without taking a Levsin. As I waited for the cardiologist, I was in a good mood, sure that – one more time – the test showed nothing definitive. My blood test numbers looked better than ever. They had all dropped dramatically from the year before. Total Cholesterol – 202 (from 247), Triglycerides – 61 (from 95), HDL 79 (108), LDL 111 (from 120). Clear proof that diet can affect your cholesterol – in case you had any doubt!

This was Friday afternoon. I was reading these results when the cardiologist came in. I was fully expecting a smile on his face. Instead, the look on his face was dead serious. He was very careful with his words. His words. "You have angina. Your reaction to the stress echo test is one of the most extreme we've had here in quite awhile." My brain. "Is this something new, different or related to my problem?" He wanted to schedule me for an angioplasty as soon as possible. He asked me "Were you frightened while you were taking the stress-echo?" Wryly I answered, "No, I've felt similar spasms hundreds of times since December." I had no idea what he was talking about. He was the first person to mention the word 'angina'. First to indicate that I should be very concerned, even alarmed. He scheduled an angioplasty for Monday. I had a vague idea of ​​what an angioplasty was but I had no grasp on angina. I certainly was not thinking what I should've been thinking. 'Good grief, I'm lucky I'm not dead.'

The cardiologist knew, of course, what I did not know – that the angina I had experienced on the treadmill was a life threatening aspect of blockage of the arteries in my heart. He continued to talk while I continued to blur. He assured me that the beta-blockers and nitroglycerin he was prescribing would, as he put it, "make sure I got through the weekend without an incident". After not worrying for months, I now had to fret the weekend? Blur. As it turned out (and as usual), I had attacks both nights. And I used the nitroglycerin both times and it worked very quickly. I guess the good and the bad of the nitroglycerin was that it worked. It was evidence that the condition of my heart was the root cause of my painful episodes.

Fear blocked the big picture, distracting me from the warning my body was giving me that something very serious was wrong. Pain swept me off, like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, into a foreign land of medical expertise desperately in search of an answer to my symptoms. For eight long months, I had been swept away by a tornado of puzzling pain into the medical specialty of gastroenterology. As much trust as I'd put in the wizards of medicine, as conscientiously as I'd sought answers from them to show me the way home to health, the man behind the curtain did not have the answers.

Now, after the fact, I've learned that the information my doctors needed for a differential diagnosis for a woman has been all but excluded from medical research until recently. According to Harvard Health Letter (Vol. 34, 9/09), medical research on heart disease has steadfastly overlooked women because maleness has been considered the top risk factor. There is precious little published, even for doctors, indicating that gastrointestinal distress is a possible much less definitive symptom of heart disease in women. Furthermore, according to the same Harvard Health Letter, even when diagnosed, a woman still must be "a little more aggressive in getting the care" she needs. I can attest that I passed from doctor to doctor in Los Angeles, seeing some of the best doctors in the country without arousing the slightest expression of urgency about what they were seeing and hearing.

Medically speaking, I had angina pectoris. The spasms radiating to my arms finally made sense. After the fact, everyone seemed to know that angina causes pain when the heart experiences competition for its oxygen from digestion. I can not imagine what would've been required to alert anyone of my doctors to imminent danger while I was traveling the yellow brick road of doctor's appointments. What more could I have done? I even had an attack during an appointment with the GI doctor. As it was, the diagnosis did not get made until after I nearly set off a heart attack during a routine stress echocardiogram. Who were these doctors seeing in their examination room?

Angina is dangerous. It typically sets in motion a quadruple by-pass. I was diagnosed on a Friday, went in for angioplasty on Monday. In an extraordinary procedure that is now so standard it takes your breath away, a surgeon weaved a little camera up through an artery in my groin to my heart and discovered a 90% blockage. Instantly, he inserted a stent. It saved my life. That's the only way to say it. I was very very lucky. Any untoward event. Any slight fender bender. A heated argument. Sudden anxiety. Traumatic surprise event – to me, a member of my family or one of my friends. Any unexpected stress that would've demanded more than 10% flow to my heart and I'd be dead. It's a humbling thought.

The first thing my friends say when they hear my story is "That's great. You're going to be fine now." And then there's a pause, a second take. The next thing they say is' Ohmigawd, 90% blockage, you could be dead. That's weird. How could your doctors miss that? '

I know I tell a harrowing truth that's hard to believe. No one, not one doctor, friend or family member ever mentioned the word 'angina' to me in eight months of suffering. Angina was not in anyone's vocabulary. Angina was never mentioned until my cardiologist said the word to me after the stress echocardiogram, a test ordered because he'd thought he heard a slight murmur in my earlier exam. Maybe my heart was murmuring to him, telling us to check out my heart and discover the angina behind my digestive distress.

Further in the 'believe it or not' department and to my complete delight, I've experienced a complete erasure of digestive distress since my angioplasty. All of my digestive problems have cleared up. I can eat anything I want. Drink wine and indulge in desert. My choice for the first time in almost a year.

But more important. Missing the diagnosis was extremely dangerous. Angina is as close as you can come to having a heart attack without having one. Angina is a build-up of plague in an artery of the heart – called atherosclerosis – that interferes with blood flow. Angina attacks do not kill heart muscle but angina is a ticking bomb, ready to set off a heart attack with just the right amount of pressure – from stress, exertion, excitement. I've run across an impressive anecdote about angina written in 1790. Before the tests of modern medicine, Dr. John Hunter showed himself to be an astute observer of his own angina pectoris when he wrote, "My life is in the hands of any rascal who chooses to annoy or tease me." What he knew is that an imbalance between the metabolic demands of the heart and the adequacy of one's coronary circulation to provide oxygen causes pain. I wish I had had his insight. I experienced surges of physical symptoms when I got angry, upset or frightened or ate too much but I had no inkling what it meant. Now I know, angina interferes with the flow of blood when we need it the most. Not during an ECG when the heart's at rest. If my heart had needed more than 10% blood flow to deal with a sudden jolt of fear, heavy lifting or – as with the stress echo – running, I'd have had a heart attack.

Time to ask the big question. But before I do, I'd like to make a qualifying statement. Even though it's clear to me, after the fact, that my doctor's lack of insight endangered my life, I'd like to make it clear that I'm not blaming my doctors for missing my diagnosis. I'm grateful for their continued concern and, ultimately, thankful for to their expertise. As I said, they saved my life. But why did not the absence of a source for the relentless distress I was experiencing arouse a sense of urgency in my doctors?

Recent news headlines about being in charge of your own health care have taken on new meaning for me. Here are some thoughts to ponder, more frightening than they seem when one's life is at stake.

1) It's no secret that there's a breakdown in the health system that does not encourage communication between specialties. I do not have statistics but, as in my case, it could be critical if lady luck is not on your side. My cardiologist believed I was in good hands for digestive distress and stayed his course until a stress echo that put me squarely in his ballpark. When my GI doctor tapped the bottom of his bag of tricks, he did not have a policy directive to pick up the phone and call my cardiologist even though he was seeing symptoms indicating a crossover. My internist, persistent and conscientious, is not a coordinator of services.

2) Medical training is not oriented to educate patients as partners in finding a diagnosis. Yet patients need help now. We need to know how to go beyond the walls of a particular specialty. Even my ability to ask in-depth relevant 'doctor to doctor' questions did not uncover my diagnosis. Not one of my doctors expressed the need for a stress echocardiogram. Though I'd seen the cardiologist initially in January, his response was routine. My internist, who I saw often, first in December and last in June, mentioned in passing "if you'd like to move your appointment (for the stress echo) up from August, you probably could." I took that to mean the stress-echo was one more elimination test.

3) Where does the fabric of integrity underlying the medical field as a whole come into action? My GI doctor, with whom I was in continuous contact, agreed with my plan to finish up my cardiac workup after I got back from France. But he expressed no sense of urgency and no possible explanation of how my heart might be related to my digestive problems. Is that an appropriate end to his responsibility? Did he suspect a connection between digestion and the heart and not say so? Or if not, why not? If the patient is the lynch pin, the only one carrying information from specialty to specialty, they need education as much as elimination to find a diagnosis.

True, I did not fit the picture for Coronary Heart Disease (CHD). I had no markers, as they call the signs of CHD in medical circles. My numbers are good. I'm a happy 70 year old in a relationship, slim and in general good health. I stretch, walk, and workout daily. I've followed a fairly good diet for years. And I had my heart checked. I'd had two ECG's. I'd had surgery, a high heart stressor. And I'd seen a cardiologist. I also felt fine when I was not having an attack. No doctor objected to my taking a long trip out of the country even though we did not know what was causing my problem. No one explained I might need more than an ECG – or insist on a stress echocardiogram or a nuclear cardiogram, the tests that take pictures of your heart in action and when increased blood flow is needed – to determine whether my heart was okay. Even the idea that blood flow might be related to my spasms and / or digestive problems did not enter the equation until after the fact.

It seems more important than ever to see oneself as a detective hot on the trail of your own case. Or, a Dorothy who has pulled back the curtain and knows a doctor is just a person, not a god. It's pretty much a medical fact these days that each doctor who sees you looks from their own particular specialty and that there's little crossover from one specialty to another. As I heard one cardiologist put it "When you're a hammer, everything you see is a nail". Makes it not only good but necessary, I believe, to track your own clues. As if you were finding fingerprints, you can identify a pattern running through one appointment after another even when logic is missing and everyone is looking in the wrong direction. As hidden as it may be, a magical through line exists. On the road, a tin man without a heart, a scarecrow without a brain, a lion without courage all became more than when they started. Even though nothing made sense, I persisted, never lost my curiosity and, in the end, I found the answer. Like a murder mystery without the murder, my tale would make a captivating adaptation of the Wizard of Oz.

The moral of my story? Do not hand over your ruby ​​red shoes. Doctors are ordinary people. It has to make sense to you before it makes any sense at all. Put angina in your vocabulary alongside heart attack and stroke. No reason to wait and wonder if your heart might be the heart of the matter. Check it out. Do not wait for your doctor to tell you it's urgent. And do not settle for a test that will not give you the full picture of your heart at work. It's when it has to go to work that your life depends on it.

I've lived my life citing a couple mantras. One from Bob Dylan – "Those not busy being born are busy dyin '." Another from Yevgeny Yevtusheko – 'Do not die before you're dead'. I've never had my life saved before. Now death is more than a metaphor. Perhaps old age is the age of miracles. Or at least the profound realization of life as miracle. Take it to heart. Literally.

By Jane Alexander Stewart, Ph.D.