Run away!

I am a fan of Monty Python and their movies have many memorable lines. One that sticks with me is from ‘Monty Python’s Holy Grail’ when the knights are attacking a castle and suddenly the unexpected happens; a cow comes flying over the wall. The cry goes out “Run away!” Sometimes when we are attacking a problem the unexpected happens and we need to react.

As we go through life we need to learn what to do when the unexpected happens and problems arise. Sometimes things happen and we need to react in the blink of an eye but other times we encounter the same situation over and over.

Too often we keep attacking the problem the same way expecting something different to happen. This is one definition of insanity- to keep doing the same thing and expect different results. Like when you see someone working on a computer and they keep pressing the same key and the computer still won’t work.

Other times we get angry and attack without thinking about alternatives and or consequences. We let emotion take over and respond blindly. We don’t think about the cost to ourselves and others.

In relationships someone does not respond the way we expect them to and our emotions come flying out. Many of us hold our feelings back most of the time but these unexpected emotions catch us off guard and we run away to avoid pain and conflict. We run away from our pain by finding ways to help us not feel like drugs and alcohol, working more, not talking with them, the list goes on an on, but we do not try to solve the problem.

Neither attacking obstacles thoughtlessly nor retreating is an effective way to handle the unexpected flying cows coming at us. Castles became obsolete with the invention of gunpowder. Someone thought of a new way to attack castles and overpowered them.

One of the most important skills we can learn is how to face situations in new and creative ways. Sometimes we need to take the time to talk with others to explore our options.

What would the world be like if more people could learn how to face problems effectively? To react quickly when necessary, other times to reflect on what is happening and try new, creative approaches to problems facing us instead of doing the same thing over and over or running away?

We need to learn to apply these principles to every day life. I see athletes who practice and learn about their sport. They go over game tapes and learn from their mistakes. Parents need to take a similar approach with their children. The most important thing we can teach them is how to think creatively for themselves, to teach them how to learn from their mistakes as well as their accomplishments. We can teach them to be ready for the flying cows that come their way.



A friend recently asked me what I see as the role of grandparents today.

For those of you who are at the stage of life I am in you are grandparents and it is worthwhile to reflect on what it means to my wife and myself what it means to be a grandparent and a step grandparent.


I like to believe that now I am more patient than I was when my own daughters where young. When the grandchildren spill something I can tell myself it was an accident and get them to help me clean up the mess. I can use the experience to teach them natural consequences. This is the first role I see as a grandparent, to be a mentor and teacher. Let your own life experiences guide you in showing your grandchildren, and sometimes your own children, how to live life. By the time you are a grandparent hopefully you know the difference between what is important and worth getting upset about and what is not.

We can take the time to listen and play with our grandchildren to pass on to them some of the things we have learned about life. When you are doing something as simple as playing a child’s game with them you can pass on your values about things such as being a good sport, playing by the rules and how to talk with others. To explore their intrests. My oldest grandson still has fond memories of the time when he and I went down in the basement and built a village out of some old paper I had on hand. Such play can ignite their imagination and creativity. Today he is an artist and designer.

Share time together doing something you both enjoy. When my middle grandson comes to visit from Orlando he and I love to go out to lunch at a different barbeque restaurant everyday for lunch. He and I both enjoy music and listing to each other’s collection on our IPods.

My granddaughter thought it was great that I was willing to go shopping with her while she tried on jewelry. The few minutes of standing around in the kids store with her was worth the smile on her face when we went home.

I am still proud I was the one who taught my youngest grandson how to laugh.

Each of these are examples of how by spending quality time together builds relationships. By taking some time with them I can be a meaningful part of their lives.

Family traditions and heritage

My wife’s family has shown me the importance of passing on family traditions. It is interesting to hear them talk about growing up and even though there is a twenty-year age spread between them, they share many of the same memories of growing up. The traditions range from something as simple as making homemade ice cream with everyone taking a turn turning the crank, to how they celebrated Christmas.

Now many of these traditions are being on to the grandchildren and great grand children as they are growing up.

In recent years my parents have begun tracing our families heritage and have been passing their findings on to the grandchildren and myself. Too often only scraps of stories survive from the distant past but even these are interesting antidotes. Such as one about a distant relation who was sailing to America, hiding under the skirt of a woman on shipboard while the British searched the ship for sailors. Then how latter he married her.

Before he died my own great-grandfather wrote an autobiography that has been passed on to my children. We can all learn to take pride in our own family stories and pass them on to the next generations. My father has been writing down some of his memories and passing them along from time to time in emails. One of his favorite memories was of a road trip he made with his grandparents just before World War II. They drove from Kansas City out to visit relatives in California. On the way back they came across the dessert and up into Colorado. He still remembers his grandmother kept their cash in a bag on a string dropped down the front of her blouse.

A few years before my mother died I made a video recording of my mother talking about her past and gave each of my daughters a copy. After my mother died my wife and I took my two daughters out for the day and after lunch we sat around and I told them stories about their grandmother.

Support for your adult children

Sometimes our own adult children can use a little support from us. Parents of newborns especially may need a little break from the demands of caring for a baby twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. By offering to spend sometime caring for the baby you can give them a break and give you some baby time.

When the children get older having them spend the night with you can be fun for all. I still can remember getting to go spend the night with my grandmother. She and my step-grandfather would pick me up in her big old Desoto and take me to eat at a restaurant with dark blue windows. Then we would go home and stay up late watching TV. In the morning she always fixed my favorite breakfast, pancakes. I don’t know what my parents did but I had a great time.

Many first time parents turn to their parents for advice on childcare and parenting. Remember thought to be careful about how you give advice, especially if they are not asking for it. Unwelcomed telling them how you would do it different can be upsetting.

In some cases grandparents may be faced with what to do when your own children are not able to meet the needs of the grandchildren. My suggestion is that you be very cautious about when and how to help out. Some of the tough situations can range from finding out your adult children are having finical problems to marital problems. Then there are extreme situations such as a death. Whatever your family faces it is important to treat everyone with respect and avoid being judgmental.


What is the purpose of pain?

But pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world. –C.S. Lewis

I heard a radio minister today close with the above quote. In my work as a counselor most of my clients come in to see me as a result of emotional pain. When the pain has become so great they can no longer bear it they reach out for help. A part of my role is to help them apply sound principles from Scripture and psychology to improve their lives and stop the pain.

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good.” Romans 8:28

One last road trip with Mom

I have been lucky in a way that until recently the loses in my life have been at moderate levels. They have prepared me in someways for the recent death of my mother. She was 82 years old so I knew death was coming but now that it finally has it still caught me of guard in some ways.

When I got the phone call from my uncle telling me my mother had died I was in disbelief and stayed that way for several days. We were on vacation and had to drive across country for two days to get back home. The time driving gave me a chance to reflect and begin to think about what life without my mother would be like. When she was younger she had enjoyed road trips. Years ago she had given me her old atlas with rest stops and places to eat marked. She loved to reminisce about the last big road trip we had been able to take. Mom, my sister and I had driven across country, from California to Maine. She and my sister had started out in Ventura, California along with my uncle, Jerry and his daughter. They all went as far as Branson, Missouri. There we all met up and went to a show there together. She retold some of the silly jokes from the show for years.

My uncle and his daughter had to stop the trip there and I joined my mother and sister to drive on to Maine. We made stops along the way at places we would always remember, such as Niagara Falls, where we got to see and do everything on a tour of the Falls area (this was just a few days after 9-11 and many people had canceled their travel plans). We stayed at Bar Harbor, Maine a couple of days before heading back. I had to catch a plane in Massachusetts to get back to work, but my sister and mom drove on the rest of the way back to California. They joked about how they felt like Lucky and Ethel on a road trip together. Neither of them could read a map very well and they frequently got lost on the way back.

I thought about trips like this I had made with my mom as I drove back home to Kansas City to make arrangements to fly out to California to say good by one last time to mom. All the way I kept expecting someone to call and say she was ok and there had been a mistake or to wake up and find out it was a bad dream.

It began to be more real as I sat down to write her obituary. How can you even begin to sum up a life in a few lines of newsprint? Then I decide to put together a slide show for the services. That was when I realized how few photographs I had of her (note to self take more pictures of people I love). Then I though about what music to put with the pictures. Mom had asked that the old song by Kansas “Dust in the Wind” be played but I felt it was too sad and expresses the futility of life to be the only music. I picked an old song by Frank Sinatra, “I’ll Remember You” because as long as I am alive I will remember you, my mom.

When we go to her apartment, where she had spent the last years of her life, it was not the same. It was not mom’s apartment. She had been giving away a lot of her things and my brother and sister had a ready started cleaning and packing things. As I drove around Ventura it was no longer her town. She always loved to go out to eat at special places but they were no longer her places. She even had certain ways to get around town but it was no longer her telling me which way to go.

Talking with the minister about what to say for the service and how to summarize a life in a few words was hard. The day of the funeral finally came and seeing her body in the casket began to make it more real. I spent the morning at the wake. I greeted people for a while but finally sought relief by going out side for a while. There I was able to talk to my daughters and hold my youngest grandson. However, much of the morning is already becoming a blur. I recall the service seemed to last forever, but then ended too soon. My sister came in just before the service started and placed a chocolate in mom’s hand because we all knew how much mom loved chocolate. She said the chocolate would have to last mom until she got to heaven.

After the services a lot of the family went to one of her favorite places to eat where I her favorite meal, a patty melt. We all sat around and told Martha stories. It made me feel good to hear how many people’s lives she had touched.

The day after the funeral my wife, daughters, grandson and son-in-law took a little road trip of our own. We drove up to a little town called Ojai. The only time we ever got up there with mom it had been closed. It was a Monday and most of the little shops had been closed for the day. Together with my family we made new memories doing what we like to do, tasting wine and poking around little shops. We had a nice lunch together and I told them stories about mom.

Our last day in Ventura I took my daughter Debra and her husband out to the marina and the beach mom had loved to come to spend the day, before it got to be too much trouble to go out there. That was one of the ways I knew how tired and weak she was getting.

The last night in Ventura we went to another of her favorite places to eat with mom’s best friend, Sandy. Where I had another of her favorite dishes, a plate of BQ ribs. We sat and told more Martha stories and Sandy talked about what a good friend mom had been to her. She never planned to get close to mom because she was just a room mate but over the course of nearly 20 years more they had become much more than roommates.

On our last day in California my wife and I went to see the Missions in Ventura and Santa Barbara. I recalled going to the Missions and many other places with mom on our road trips together. By taking this road trip this week I remembered mom and all the fun things we did together the last years of her life.

After dinner at a little place right on the beach Michelle wanted to go for a walk on the beach to watch the sun set. While we were sitting there I saw a cloud formation that looked like mom with her arms out stretched saying good-bye.

Do values count?

I recently watched the movie “A Solitary Man.” In it the lead character, Ben, finds out he has a medical condition, which needs to be treated. Instead of seeking treatment and talking with his family he chooses to become very hedonistic in how he lives his life. Over the next few years he leaves behind a trial of women he seduced, criminal dealings in his business and even a disappointed grandson.

His life became an example of “you reap what you sow.” His business dealings cost him fines and nearly got him thrown in jail. His womanizing cost him another business deal. His daughter told him to stop calling. She would not even let him talk with his grandson any more. His life got about as bad as it could get.

Yet, when things really got bad his daughter and ex-wife showed him unconditional love and reached out to him, offering him help.

What values control your life? Which way do you live your life? Do you think only of yourself and your desires or do you think of others and reach out to them when they need it most?