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It was one morning in May, 2010 when I get a panic phone call from my mother. My mother is an undeclared Ice Queen and always reserved. For her to call me crying and upset brought the chill cold fingers of fear around my heart. Did dad die?

I couldn’t think of it but I couldn’t understand what mom was hollering about either. I gathered myself and calmly told her that I would be right over. I only lived a mile down the road. When I arrived at their house I could hear my mother hollering and my father, who had lost his ability to speak but he could grunt in some twisted yelling/panic conversation. I ran into the master bedroom where all the commotion was and my mother is crying, her face contorted in a painful kind of helplessness.

“What’s wrong? What’s going on?” “I can’t get your father out of the bathroom! I told him to use the pan but he REFUSED and now I can’t get him out of there.” “Okay. Did he fall in the shower – is he on the floor?” “NO,” she wailed, “he’s on the toilet and he won’t let me help him up! I can’t help him! I don’t want him to fall. And HE’S FIGHTING ME!” I walked into the bathroom and see dad sitting there. His eyes were spitting mad because his body was giving up on him. “Mom and I are going to help you up and back to bed, okay?”

We tried pulling him up but he fought back. It clicked – his legs aren’t going to support himself. With my mother screaming at him and my father howling with unimaginable indignation I let go of his arm and yelled at them both to shut up. I kicked mom out of the bathroom and turned my attention to dad.

He always had a strong front for my mom – but whenever we talked he would confide in me.
Once mom left the room I saw the defeat in his eyes. But I was NOT going to give up.

Straight off I said, “Dad – I can’t carry you and I’m not going to try but I am going to put you on my back.” I turned around and presented my back and squatted so he could get leverage on my shoulders.
Holding his arms I stood back up and he was able to get on his feet. He got nervous because he started pulling at me, choking me like a panicked drowning man.

Very calmly I said, “Dad. DAD! If you pull me we will both fall down. Don’t fight – just lean on my back. If you work with me we’ll get you to bed. You have to trust me. I will never drop you but you have to help me. Do you understand what I’m saying?”

His grasp loosened and I was able to leverage his armpits over my shoulders while he rested on me. “Now one step at a time, okay?”

22 steps later, with my mother clucking, wiping him up, and pulling up his sweatpants the entire way, we finally got him settled in. He was exhausted. With a kiss on his forehead I said, “See? I told you I wouldn’t drop you.”

I couldn’t stay longer than that. The adrenaline had left my body and I didn’t want to let him see how upset and shaken I was. The man who used to toss me into the air and catch me; who taught me how to ride a bike and drive a car; who insisted I learn how to change a tire and replace a toilet was too weak to walk or wipe himself. I cried for the longest mile drive I have ever taken. When I got home I hid under my bed covers and bawled like a baby. It was the last time my dad got out of that bed – thus began the business of dying.

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Many times there is a breakdown in communication and a purposeful lack of understanding because we are so busy thinking about our next argument that we don’t LISTEN to what the other person is saying.

What does this have to do with the title Talk TO me – not AT me? Well – they walk hand in hand with each other. Let me explain.

There are times when you are going to have a verbal disagreement with someone. Many times the “fight” becomes unfair because instead of dealing with the real issue, you’re busy slinging hash, name calling, bringing up old history, or laying blame. It’s a method of deferment – and it’s dirty pool.

Effective listening requires shutting your mouth and not talking over the other person. It also means you need to actively LISTEN to what the other party is saying. You do NOT have to agree with that they’re saying but at least you are letting them express themselves. This also means stop thinking about a rebuttal before they’re finished speaking because if you do that then you may only be hearing half of what they’re saying.

I would challenge all of you to really think about how you speak to others (or how others speak to you) when you are in a verbal repartee. Note the difference in the following examples:

  1. “I do not like how you’re talking to me” vs. “You’re an asshole.”
  2. “I don’t understand what you mean” vs. “You’re always so vague!”
  3. “I feel like I’m always doing all the work” vs. “You don’t do sh** around here.”

Recently I showed displeasure when my husband kept leaving his beer & soda cans strewn throughout the house.
“I feel like I can’t keep up between working from home and cleaning up after you and the pets.”
His reply, “Oh, like you don’t make a mess?”

I wanted to throw something at him! So I tried again.

“I’m just trying to say that I would like a little help around here.”
With much fanfare and dripping sarcasm he walks over to the recycling bag, “Look, HONEY. I’m putting my can in the bag.”

— except he didn’t drain and rinse it first (which he sees me doing all the time).

Passive-Aggression anyone?

From there I usually shut up or call him an asshole.

The point that I’m trying to get through is this – when having a discussion with someone, do your best to omit the words “YOU” because it’s like a big, verbal, poking finger. Instead implement the words “ME, MY, and I” to express YOUR feelings. Keep your ears open to see if they are speaking TO you or AT you too.

As for my husband? Well, he’s a work in progress but he’s getting better. He just needs a little more practice.

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One night, my husband and I were talking about impossible decisions.  And this is one which we vehemently disagree.  I’m curious to see how you all respond.  Note:  This is not to undermine a very real situation but perhaps to open a dialogue with those you love who need to know exactly how you feel and how you would react.

Here is the situation:

There is a young couple very much in love. Great communication, great sex, best friends…

She is quite healthy. Hardly sick a day in her life. She is also very pregnant and about to give birth to a child who, for the entire pregnancy, is also very healthy. All seems to go well with delivery… until it doesn’t go well.

Mother is bleeding out. Only one will survive. The doctors approach the husband with the impossible choice:

a) save the mama or b) save the baby

CHOOSE OR THEY BOTH DIE

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All of us, at some point in our life, has either been the recipient or the presenter of THE SILENT TREATMENT. No one really likes it but we have to admit, it can be used as a powerful tool to close a deal or get one’s way. But it can be a symptom of a communication/relationship breakdown.

PART 1:  WHEN THE SILENT TREATMENT IS EFFECTIVE

ONE:  As a parent I admit I am a yeller. I yell, and Yell, and YELL! My kids are used to the yelling. Most of the time I’m just being vocal because I’m frustrated, and they don’t listen to the yelling. It’s just white noise to them.

But when I’m angry! Really, really angry… I get quiet… and then they’re scared because that silence is LOUD. Generally, their behavior snaps to good, they clean up, and they’re trying to make mom happy again because mom’s silence is SCARY. They’ll say anything to get you to talk “You still love me, don’t you, mommy?”

TWO:  Closing the deal. Whether you’re a salesperson or selling an idea to your spouse, the silent treatment is an absolute must-have skill because the first one to speak generally caves in.

Example 1:
salesperson: So what do you think?

customer: [silently thinking “how will I explain the motorcycle purchase to my wife?]

salesperson gets nervous: “We can take an extra 10% off for being a loyal customer

customer: [silence. 10% off, I can justify that to my wife] salesperson nervous about losing the sale gives other incentives…and his commission isn’t nearly as good.

The salesman caved because he spoke first.

Example 2:
salesperson: So what do you think?

customer: [silently thinking]

salesperson: [silently waiting tick tock, tick tock]

customer: I’ll take it.

DEAL CLOSED.

Example 1:
child: Mommy, can I have that shiny new Tonka truck, please?

mom: No. I don’t want to spend the money.

child: [Throws a tantrum, makes a lot of noise. Mother is TICKED!]

DEFINITELY NO TOY

Example 2:

child: Mommy, can I have that shiny new Tonka truck, please?

mom: No. I don’t want to spend the money

child: [forlorn but quietly accepts the decision. He’s sad but he smiles with hope in his eyes every time you look his way.]

mom: SIGH you’ve been so good. Go ahead and get your truck.

WIN FOR THE KID!

Tell me I’m wrong?

In these cases, the silent treatment gives the other party time to think about the decision. Too many people are uncomfortable with the silence. They need an immediate answer or instant gratification so they talk first to plead the case. Little do they realize they are sabotaging themselves.

Now in the case of sample B: with the little boy. Even if mom sincerely couldn’t afford the toy right then and there, you can bet she was probably thinking how much he deserved it for being so good so the next trip out she might surprise him with it. Am I wrong?

PART 2: WHEN THE SILENT TREATMENT IS BAD

As I mentioned in Part 1, we’ve all used the Silent Treatment to close a sale or get our way, but there are times when this powerful tool is used for evil.

Q: How can being silent be bad?
A: When there is a lack of communication or relationship breakdown.

When people are in a relationship one would hope they’ve learned how to meaningfully communicate with each other. Sometimes this is not the case.

A case of the empty nest: An example might be two very busy people with jobs, kids, house duties…and they haven’t REALLY spoken to each other in years except to pass off messages: Pick the kids up from school; Please pick up milk on your way home, etc. Then once the kids are gone you have nothing to talk about. Sometimes that silence is unbearable.

A case of emotional abuse: A: When in the midst of a discussion and it gets heated, especially when there is a disagreement, and one person turns away and gives the silent treatment/cold shoulder – it is a break in communication. It is a physical manifestation of denying the existence or opinions of the other person. Said that way, it’s hurtful when that happens, isn’t it?

If you feel like you’re being nagged and you ignore them because you KNOW it drives them crazy. You have stopped communicating and now you are being passive-aggressive.

But how is being quiet wrong?
1. Perhaps because you are not dealing with the reason WHY they might be nagging at you. Perhaps you don’t want to be blamed, acknowledge that you have faults, or feel guilty about not following through on something you promised.

2. Now there is the other scenario where the silent treatment is implemented because you feel like you don’t have a voice in the relationship so you shut up just to get away from “the discussion” as soon as possible.

If you don’t have a voice in a partnership then it is not a healthy one! There is no healthy dialogue and you don’t feel like your opinion counts. If that happens, then your self-esteem plummets.

3. Using the silent treatment as a form of manipulation. For example, at a party: “Well, since my boyfriend isn’t talking to me then I’m just going to ignore him the ENTIRE night. Maybe I’ll just go talk to that cute boy over there.” – or – “If she really cares about me then she’s going to ask what’s wrong.”

The one who plays the silent treatment card is assuming the other person can read their mind.

Guess what?
We can’t read your mind!

HEAL THE COMMUNICATION GAP

To heal the communication gap it’s always best to acknowledge it. “I am too angry to talk about this right now. Let’s try to discuss this when we’re both calm. I need time to think.”

“I don’t feel like you’re listening to what I have to say so I’m going to walk away right now.”

Even a “Please let me know when it’s my turn to talk” is better than shutting up in these cases.

If you are using it for manipulation then acknowledge that! Speak up. “Hey, I don’t feel comfortable standing at the party by myself. Can you introduce me to some of your friends?”

“We should talk” works and be willing to be quiet and actively listen!  It’s much healthier than closing your mouth and your ears!

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I was trolling around the web trying to find some interesting tidbit in history and August 10th is kind of a slow day. But that doesn’t mean I couldn’t find anything! If you haven’t noticed from my previous history posts, I’ve been leaning more toward the dark and macabre. Sorry, no serial killers today!

Alas, August 10 was the wedding day of actor Nicolas Cage to “The King’s” daughter, Lisa Marie Presley.

Uhh, and for those of you who don’t know, “The King” (of rock n’ roll) is Elvis. (good lord, I can’t be that old!)

Anyway… The year was 2002. Presley was Nicolas Cage’s second wife. His first wife was actress Patricia Arquette.

Cage was Lisa Marie’s third husband. Husband #1 was Danny Keough and husband #2 was the “Prince of Pop,” Michael Jackson.

According to some articles these two crazy kids got married ten days after their first date. That’s right. 10 days. They were married in a lavish ceremony in Hawaii and the gossip mills were placing bets on how long it would last.

The answer: 107 days. In fact, their divorce took longer than their marriage.

Yeah, yeah “I’m all shook up” about it.

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Having been married twice and in several varying length relationships in my 40-something years, I can’t say that I’m an expert in relationships but I can tell you that from my experience any long-term affair has to hit three distinct spots at the same time:

  1. Your O-zone Physical attraction is definitely important! You want to be compatible in the sack because sloppy sex is just bad – and who wants to stick around for that??? Okay, sometimes the first time with a partner is…not good because of nerves or whatever, but no one likes bad nooky on a regular basis. Are they paying attention to your O-zone at least once in a while? (And we’re not talking about the “honeymoon” phase when sex is like Adventures in Candy Land).
  2. Your Heart This is kind of a no-brainer but your partner has to give your heart a little skip. Love is important but it’s fickle. You have to LIKE the person too. Sure – you won’t like them ALL the time but more often than not you’re happy to see them. Or, perhaps, a random memory pops in your head and makes you giggle. Do you miss them when they’re not at your side? Your heart is the emotion so you want to listen to it – but it can’t be the only factor.
  3. Your Head If your partner isn’t stimulating your brain then what the heck are you going to talk about when the sex goes away? Do you have anything in common? Any shared interests? Something has got to get you through the drought periods in the relationship (and trust me – there are many) and being able to communicate with each other is definitely a key to relationship longevity.

Sex is good but after a while it kind of fizzles out and goes away. Emotions change so you can’t just go with your heart all the time. If you’re only attracted to their brain then you may as well shake hands and call them friend.

Husband #1 is the perfect example. He had my heart and o-zone but I had to “dumb it down” for him. We had nothing in common and when the kids started coming eventually he was getting his o-zone taken care of by someone else – which of course, killed my heart.  End of relationship.

For a long-lasting partnership you must have all three because one or two out of the three just won’t get you through the challenging times. I know.  I’ve been there.

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I should have said “I love you” more
You were the very first love of my life
When I was helpless you took care of me
You comforted me and raised me up
You dried my tears and cleaned my wounds
You kissed away every boo boo
But as I started growing up
You ceased being my entire world
And were kicked to the side
Replaced by friends, school and boys
I never knew how much that hurt
Not until I had my own children
And experienced the brush off myself
And as I got older I realized
How truly brilliant you were
And though you were never replaced in my heart
I should have said “I LOVE YOU” more.

To my dad – the missing piece in my heart.
Rest in Peace. Oct. 24, 1950 to June 22, 2010

photo courtesy of Meredith Loughran. All rights reserved.
originally posted January 30, 2014

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