Saturday, August 20, 2011

The Family 'Busy-ness'

Wow!  I can't believe how long it's been since my last post!  We have seriously been busy this summer!  But... if my excuse for lagging in my writing about the family is that I've been too busy spending time with the family, then I think my priorities are in order.  I am proud to say that I have been too busy to blog much because my family has come first.

So... what have we been SO busy doing that I haven't had ten minutes together to sit down and type a blog post for nearly a fortnight? (Aren't I so witty with my British colloquialisms?)  Here is a rundown of what our family has been up to:

  • Outings-  Took my mom and sister-in-law to see 'Les Miserables' when the Broadway production was here touring in Portland (special thanks goes to the Hubster's work for the free tix!). Visited the Zoo a couple times (more to come on that soon). Spent hours playing video games from the past through to the present at the Oregon Museum of Science & Industry (otherwise affectionately known to the locals as OMSI) at their current exhibit entitled 'Game On 2.0'.  The sun finally made an appearance in the Great Northwest so we were able to spend a couple hours at Hagg Lake (about 5 miles from our house). TeenStar and Jabberjaw both brought friends along and did a little swimming while I caught up on some reading in a very picturesque locale.
  • Dental/Orthodontic work-  Regular visits for TeenStar's braces. Jabberjaw, on the other hand, had extensive work done to correct over-crowding in his diminutive-sized mouth.  He had 4 baby teeth and the 4 adult teeth behind them, removed all at once. Poor guy!  When they finished with him, he looked like he'd been run over by a pack of wild skateboarders (and a couple of kids on scooters, to boot!).

  • Summer Camps-  I mentioned in a previous post that I helped out at Jabberjaw's Cub Scout Day Camp last month.  TeenStar had Girl's Camp, this month, for our Church's Young Women and although I did not attend, I still had a lot of work to do to get her ready to go.  Also... got Genius off on a Scouting High Adventure river rafting trip.  Lots of fun!
  • Swimming Lessons-  Jabberjaw just finished two weeks of daily swimming lessons.  It's amazing how much time it takes out of the daily routine for a half-hour lesson!  Anyway... he had a great time and did really well in his first attempt at Level 4, learning new and challenging strokes such as the Butterfly and Breaststroke, as well as learning how to dive.

  • Reading-  Our Summer Reading Program has been going very well!  At this writing, we are less than a hundred pages away from hitting our goal of 9000 pages read for the summer, which we will easily complete before the weekend is over!  Everyone participated (even Hubs, who doesn't read books.  In fact, he actually did read a book, but it was still downloaded onto his laptop.  Still counts! Good job, honey!)  I'm very proud of all of my kids on this accomplishment!  They all finished several books each and it was lovely not having the TV running all day long, all summer long! Woo hoo!
  • Bowling-  I signed Jabberjaw up for a Kids Bowl Free Summer Program and he and I have been hitting the lanes quite a bit this summer.  I've always enjoyed bowling and have bowled on various leagues in the past.  I'm trying to brush up on my bowling skills, in the hopes of returning to bowling on a team when the kids go back to school.  This has given me lots of practice time, besides being a fun outing with my boy.  Jabberjaw's skills have improved significantly, as well, with all of the practice time. So much so, that he recently bowled without bumpers for the first time, getting both a Spare and a Strike and scoring a 74!  Way to go, buddy!
  • Movies, Movies, Movies!-  We've spent a lot of time at the movie theaters this summer.  There have been so many  big blockbuster movies that have come out this year... some of which we've loved so much, we've seen them more than once!  I'm  mostly the one who ends up seeing the movies multiple times, with different members of the family.  It helps that I've taken advantage of Regal's $5 Tuesdays and the second-run cheap theater here in town.  Here's a list of what we've seen, including the number of times I  have personally seen it (in parenthesis):  

Thor (2), Pirates of the Carribbean 4: On Stranger Tides (3),  X-Men: First Class (2), Super 8 (1), Green Lantern (2), Cars 2 (1), Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows Part 2 (3), Captain America (2), The Help (1).  I haven't yet had a chance to see Cowboys and Aliens and I'm debating on Rise of the Planet of the Apes.  I've never been a big fan of the Apes movies, but I'm hearing really good things about this one.  

Wow!  I just counted, and I saw those nine movies that I listed, a total of 17 times!  That's not even counting all of the DVD's we've watched this summer!  As you can see... I LOVE MY MOVIES!!  (Especially the Super Hero ones!)

Monday, August 8, 2011

Thinking Of 'Upgrading' Your Spouse?

The following is an article from an online magazine that I have an email subscription to.  I included it in it's entirety.  As I read it, it spoke volumes to me.  It stands on it's own without any extra commentary from me and it was so good, I just felt the need to pass it on.  We live in such an instant gratification, throw-away society today, I think we've forgotten what it means to stick with things, like marriage and family, for the long haul.  

Food for thought.

Is Selfishness Poisoning Your Marriage?

We live in an economy that survives by convincing us that what we have is not good enough and we deserve better. Advertisers constantly throw this idea in our faces. They need us to believe that we cannot live without whatever they are selling, or that our lives would be better with something new or different. 

For example, it appears that the flat panel TV I spent a small fortune on three years ago is now junk because it is not 3D. We are led to believe that we have never lived until we have the newest, best, or different thing. The problem I consistently see as a marriage counselor is that this selfish way of thinking overflows into our expectations in marriage. We start down the slippery path of thinking that our spouse is not good enough and we deserve better.  

To avoid this tendency we need to take stock of how we think of and relate to our spouse. Are you being too selfish in your marriage? When I ask this question of couples in counseling, I am typically engulfed by a laundry list of all the things the other spouse is doing wrong. However, focusing on what our spouse does wrong can hinder our ability to change whatever we may be doing wrong. Our spouse obviously may need to change as well, but our focus has to be on what we can control, which is ourselves. Here are some questions we should ask ourselves to see if we are being too selfish and 'consumeristic' in our relationships: 

1. Do I confuse my desires with my needs? Often when we want something from our marriage that does not seem to come in the time or way we want, we may begin to demand it more. We slowly convince ourselves that the want is a need. This can lead to increasing and unfair demands on our spouse.

2. Do I care more about “what’s in it for me?” than “what’s in it for my spouse?” I think most of us would like to say we always try to put our spouse first. However, if we are honest with ourselves, do we? I often suggest that people imagine if I could be a fly on the wall for two weeks, would my observations of their actions tell me their focus is on their best interest or on their spouse’s? We often sadly find ourselves in the position of jockeying for our interests or wants on issues. We see a good marriage as one where we can openly fight for our position and our spouse gives us what we want. After all, if they love us they will make sure we get what we want, right? Instead of focusing on jockeying for what we want, we would all be better served if our focus was on making sure our spouse gets what they want out of the relationship. We should fight for our spouse instead of ourselves. If both spouses do this, the wants are still met, but they are met in a way that benefits the relationship instead of just benefitting ourselves. 

3. Do I unfavorably compare my spouse to other people? This is a dangerous trap that many easily fall into. We see a friend's spouse, a co-worker, or the "perfect" couple at church. We may think something like, "I wish my husband/wife was more like that person," or "Why can't our relationship be like theirs?" The important thing to remember is that we don't have all the cards. Sure, that person may seem great, but didn't our spouse seem great when we first met them, too? If we lived with one of these "model" spouses, knew their imperfections, and experienced years of the stresses of life with them, they would likely lose their appeal. They may in reality be a hornet’s nest that no one else sees. Maybe others look at your spouse and wonder if their marriage were better if they had someone like your spouse. The tough reality of marriage is that we know more bad things about our spouses than anyone else in the world. Knowing anyone that well will certainly bring faults to the surface, no matter how good they are. Let's be grateful for what we have and realize that no one is perfect.

4. Do I believe that my relationship should be as exciting and easy as it seemed when we first got together? I am a firm believer that couples can have satisfying, exciting, meaningful relationships long term. However, it is not always smooth sailing. Many couples get married in younger years when the stresses of children, work, school, student loans, mortgages, church callings, etc. are not as severe. Adding those pressures will test any relationship. It may not be as exciting every day as it seemed when you first started dating, but it can still be wonderful.

5. Do I believe that unrealistic relationship fantasies can be reality? We often embark on the path of marriage with expectations, hopes, and dreams; however, rarely do things go as planned. Yet, we often still hope for the perfect marriage we are supposed to have. It is a great goal to have a strong marriage, but marriage is messy; it is not perfect. That is okay, and we need to have that realistic expectation. I typically encourage couples to think of relationship satisfaction on a 1 to 10 scale, with 10 being the best the relationship has been, and 1 being the worst. I think a realistic goal is to get the relationship to average somewhere between 7 and 8. There may be days it is a 10 and days it is a 5, but a 7-8 average is realistic and can be wonderfully satisfying.

6. Do I believe it is my spouse’s responsibility to make my relationship better? Both spouses have a responsibility to make the relationship better. Rarely does lasting improvement occur if only one spouse makes changes. The important thing to remember is that we can't control our spouse. Our focus has to be on what we can do to make the relationship better. Are we too focused on the laundry list of issues our spouse needs to improve? I often hear couples rationalize away their poor behavior by saying things like, "If he/she hadn't said that, then I wouldn't have been so rude," or "As soon as she/he stops nagging, it will be easy to be nice.” The fact is, we are responsible for what we say and do. If what we say or do is not how a loving spouse would act, we have no one to blame but ourselves. Take responsibility. Don't wait for your spouse to change before you do. Take the initiative and get the positive change moving in your relationship.

 If we can all focus on changing ourselves to be the best spouse we can be, marriage problems would largely vanish. President Monson gave incredibly wise counsel in the general Priesthood meeting of the most recent conference that supports these ideas. He quoted Howard W. Hunter who said, “Being happily and successfully married is generally not so much a matter of marrying the right person as it is being the right person.” President Monson added, "If any of you are having difficulty in your marriage, I urge you to do all that you can to make whatever repairs are necessary." 

For a printable selfishness in marriage questionnaire, visit:

Is there a marriage or family relationship issue that you would like our relationship expert Jonathan Swinton to address in future columns? If so, send him an email at

Jonathan Swinton is an LDS Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. He is an approved LDS Family Services Referred Provider, accepts bishop referrals, and is available to provide marriage and family therapy services and weekend couple retreats to anyone interested. He is also available to speak on marriage issues at Relief Society and ward activities. Contact him at Swinton Counseling: 801-647-9951,

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

"Spray - Part Deux" or "Phobia, Phobia... Who's Got A Phobia?"

Finally... here is the second part of my post entitled, To Spray Or Not To Spray, which I'm sure you've been waiting on bated breath to read (yes, I am a bit deluded).  In the previous post, I mention that I have overcome a very severe case of arachnophobia.  In this post, I will describe how I managed this.

The World English Dictionary describes arachnophobia as "an abnormal fear of spiders".  Notice the word abnormal.  That is the key word here.  Abnormal  fear of spiders.  I still strongly dislike  spiders and still have a rational  fear of them.  My definition of a rational  fear of spiders would include being afraid of an enormously large individual spider or being afraid of an enormously large combined group of them. Being mortally afraid of one tiny spider is not rational.  Being so scared of said tiny spider, that you are unable to move-- is abnormal. This is when the term arachnophobia applies.

Of course, I am obviously referring specifically to one phobia among many.  Many, many people suffer from ALL kinds of phobias.  Several internet sources conclude that phobias number in the thousands.  The most common phobias include:

  • Agoraphobia- Fear of inescapable situations such as crowds or open spaces
  • Acrophobia- Fear of heights
  • Ophidiophobia- Fear of snakes
and the number one most common phobia reported is:
  • Arachnophobia!! I am far from alone in this.  One source stated that nearly 1/2 of all women and about 10% of men have some type of fear of spiders.

So... how did I overcome the irrational aspect of this fear?  Well, I went to college and got some learnin'!  That's how!  Actually I had taken a psychology class in college during which we did a section on phobias.  I was fascinated as the teacher told a story of a case study in which the patient was cured of hemophobia, or the fear of blood.  The following story will show how the phobia was first developed and how it became progressively worse.  We'll call the patient John.

When John was about 3 years old, he would watch his father shave every morning.  John's father shaved the 'old-fashioned way' with shaving cream and a straight razor.  One day, John's mother was downstairs doing the dishes and realized it was way too quiet.  She went upstairs looking for John and upon entering the bathroom where John was 'shaving like daddy', discovered him holding the very large razor and covered in blood.  She screamed.  John wasn't in any pain, as he had only given himself a large number of surface cuts.  But upon hearing his mother scream, when she saw him, he looked down, saw blood, and started to cry.

As John grew older, he would associate blood with 'bad'.  If he fell, even if it didn't hurt, if he looked down and saw blood, he would cry. Pretty soon, he would become sick or even faint at the sight of blood, whether it was his own or someone else's.  His phobia steadily progressed to where he couldn't be near someone sick or injured; then he couldn't visit someone's hospital room; then he couldn't go in a hospital; then he couldn't drive past a hospital; until he was going out of his way to avoid driving within a certain distance of all hospitals.

John ended up seeing a psychiatrist for his condition.  The doctor prescribed a program that would require John to 'unravel' his phobia by working it backwards, one step at a time.  First, the doctor had him drive within a specified distance of a hospital, then past a hospital. Then the doctor had John go into a hospital, then visit a sick/injured friend, etc., etc.  During the course of these exercises, John was able to trace his phobia back to it's source, helping to reveal to him it's irrational beginnings.

After my humiliating run-in with the spider, that I mentioned in my previous post, I thought back on this Psych class and decided I needed to try to 'unravel' my own phobia by following the same type of program the psychologist had prescribed for 'John'.  My process didn't require nearly as many steps, but I basically pushed myself to face my fears. I forced myself to kill spiders on my own, without anyone else to step in and save me.  It was really hard, at first, but I found that the more I did it, the easier it became.  All the while, I would remind myself that I was far bigger than the little, tiny creature and that it was silly to be afraid of a bug. That's all it was... a bug.

I also traced my phobia back to it's source, recalling that when I was a child growing up in Southern California, we had a breed of spiders there that were whitish/clearish (don't know what kind they are but I've never seen them where I live now).  My mother, being a mom and all, was trying to protect me.  She would warn me to watch out for those spiders when I was outside playing with my brothers.  We often saw them crawling around in the plants around our home.  We had discovered that I was highly allergic to them and would break out in hives all over my body if I was bitten by one.  I had Benadryl (which you could only get by prescription back then) on hand and any time I left home for extended periods of time, mom would make sure I took my meds with me, 'just in case'.  

Understandably I became quite paranoid of being bitten by those little buggers, and thus began my phobia of spiders, which grew more irrational over the years.  Once I traced the phobia back to it's beginnings, I was able to understand how it got started and thereby debunk it, a little at a time.  

Some phobias are understandable, like a fear of heights or flying in an airplane.  But, for me, being debilitated by a little, tiny bug was, frankly, embarrassing.  Especially when my toddler had to come to my rescue...

Do you suffer from any phobias or irrational fears?