If you’ve been following daily you may have noticed a couple of changes in the layout and functionality of the page. I did my best to make it seamless but fix some things that weren’t working properly and make it more user friendly. From what I’ve seen it accomplished what I set out for, but if anyone notices anything that looks odd or isn’t working right please do let us know.
The other change I’m implementing is I’m not holding myself to a midnight deadline anymore. It’s always midnight somewhere, right? The deadline was adding up to me either not sleeping or not making articles what I wanted them to be (as evidenced by the still not finished hobby article.) So I’m opting for quality over punctuality, which is a wild change in priorities for me ^_^ I want anyone who’s getting something out of this to really get everything beneficial I can offer though. So. Quality it is.
All of that said, today’s popular New Year’s Resolution and therefore project of the day is: Improve a Relationship! We all think about romance when we hear relationship, but there are scads of different kinds of relationships, and today it’s up to you which one you want to put effort into improving. I’m going to give some ideas of relationships that you may want to improve, but it’s up to you which one you think most deserves your attention for today. They’re all important, though not all may apply to you. Improve whatever relationship is going to be most beneficial to your life.
One family relationship you might want to consider improving is your relationship with your child(ren). Regardless of age, kids are trying to figure out the world, and a big source of how they’re doing that is by watching you, but as they get older they also start looking at dynamics with others and start questioning whether you are doing things the right way, and how much of their personal life they want to share with you. Are you making that easier for them, or is there a good possibility that they may be worrying about disappointing you or being judged by you? Do you respect their boundaries and privacy, or do you treat them like they’re your property and that you have the right to know everything that they do and every thought that they have? Can they bring friends or romantic partners home to meet you or are they worried about being embarrassed or judged? Do they have the freedom to grow as a person and transition to the independence of being an adult, or are they under thumb and under watch all day every day and then faced with being 18 and not knowing how to interact with the world on their own? Do you have a shared hobby or interest that you can bond over, and continue enjoying with you into adulthood, or do they feel smothered and resent spending time with you?
One recommended parenting approach to a good relationship with your child is to have a physical connection with them. Not excessive, and not inappropriate contact, but little moments of contact everyday where you give them a hug or a kiss on the forehead or a shoulder or foot massage or handholding with a little one. It’s also important to play with your kids. Play can mean different things for different ages, but it’s important to laugh and have fun and be silly and enjoy spending time together. Depending on your children’s age that may be playing pretend, or playing with Fisher Price Little People, or reading a story with fun voices, or playing on the swings together, or playing a board game, or a video game, or go for a bike ride together, or if they’re grown and long distance maybe an app or Facebook game or a shared experience that you can do things simultaneously and compare notes.
I spent a lot of time playing with friends as a little kid, but I also remember lots of times that my parents played with me throughout my life and it was always special and fun. Some memorable examples for me are things like when I was quite little, maybe 5, my dad set up a little scavenger hunt (we called it a “treasure hunt”) around the house and back yard where my sister and I followed little written clues around the house and outside to where we eventually found a little canister in the backyard (I believe it was an old fish food canister, lol) and there was some kind of little treat inside though I have absolutely no idea what it was, I just remember the fun of playing a special game my dad made for us. He was also good about watching my cartoons with me so if I was pretending to be a My Little Pony he could be the Smooze, or if I was playing Thundercats he could be Liono. My mom has been really good about continuing to play with me as an adult. We have played Mario Kart together on the Wii and she got hooked enough to buy her own and sends me screen shots every time she unlocks a new feature, so even though we live two states apart we still have that little thing that we can share. We’ve also done Just Dance and The Michael Jackson experience on the Wii and had a good time. There’s not a lot that beats watching your mother dance to Thriller, or the two of you being Michael Jackson and Paul McCartney in the living room. We also do board games and poker quite a bit when we see each other. Pictionary and Scrabble tend to be favorites.
Spend some special one on one time with your kids. Even if you have more than one kid, one on one means one on one. Each kid needs some individual time, and they need some individual time with each parent. Try to make it a regular weekly or monthly event that the two of you spend a few hours together. Sometimes do what you want, sometimes do what they want. Make it something special even if it’s something simple. From time to time take some day trips with your kids. Just little trips to a nearby tourist attraction or a town with lots of cute downtown shops or a special event somewhere, or a park, just spend some time together. One of the great things about spending some time in the car in a relaxed mood is that when people don’t have to make eye contact they are more likely to open up and share what’s on their mind and what’s going on in their lives.
When your child does open up, let them. Listen to them, let them have their emotions without telling them they’re wrong, empathize with them without telling them their perceived problem doesn’t matter, celebrate their accomplishes or general happy events. Don’t let yourself be distracted from the time you’re spending with them. When your child is open to spending time with you or talking with you, nurture that and give it your full attention. Kids remember the times they needed you and your support and didn’t get it. There are times you may think you’re protecting your child from your own emotions and that they shouldn’t see you when you’re upset, but the plain fact is that if something big happens that affects you both or the whole family, they need to be able to share those emotions with you, it’s good to let them see how you deal with it so they know how to deal with it themselves.
You may want to consider improving a relationship with someone in your extended family. Extended family can consist of grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins.. really anyone that isn’t your parent, child, or spouse that you have a blood relationship with. A lot of people build those relationships when they are young, and then lose them as they move on to starting their own immediate families and have less time and different priorities. As a military kid, I never lived close enough to any of my extended family to build real bonds and relationships, and that’s something that I have always felt is missing. I love my grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins, but it’s a rare exception that I can say I really feel like I know them. There are members of my extended family that just downright don’t like me, and I feel that the reasons they don’t are because of misunderstandings and misconceptions, so that is probably as much my fault as theirs for not giving them the opportunity to truly know me. Ways you can improve relationships with extended family members might consist of getting your children together to play, hosting a family dinner, or attending religious services together if you are within the same vicinity. If you’re long distance you could consider writing regular letter or emails, starting a family newsletter that requires you as the person leading it to reach out to family members on a regular basis so you know what’s going on with them and their lives, connecting on social media in a meaningful way, or starting a family Facebook group where everyone from that bloodline joins and can post about whatever topics are on their mind that day. If you have nearby elderly relatives, pay them some extra special attention. They won’t be there forever and will appreciate your love and care when you go to visit them. Bring them some special food or help them with their cleaning or play cards with them. Sit and talk and if they want to reminisce let them do it. No matter how many times you might have heard that same old family story, they’re telling it because it mean something special to them, and someday you may want to share it with other family members and then you’ll know it by heart 🙂
Think about whether or not you could or should build better relationships with your in-laws, or even just one of them. In-Laws can be tricky. Either you or they or both of you may feel like you’re in competition for the love and attention of your spouse. You might have a passive aggressive (or not so passive) blame toward them for all of your spouses flaws. They may have resentment toward you if your spouse was married before you. You might resent that they still consider that first marital partner family and still have pictures of them or still see them regularly. Remember that your in-laws are at least partially responsible for having shaped your spouse into the person you fell in love with and committed your life to. You probably even have quite a bit in common, because people do tend to look for spouses that are similar to their parents. Sometimes it can be really hard getting along with someone who is a lot like you are, and even if you’re a lot alike you may still have some huge differences.
Keys to improving and maintaining good relationships with your family-in-law include treating them with respect. You may be thinking “but I don’t respect them”, and that’s okay, you don’t have to, but treat them with the form of respect and common courtesy that is owed to every human being. Treat them like real family. You don’t get to choose the family you’re born into, and neither did your spouse. Treat them the way that you would treat blood relatives with hopefully unconditional love, but at the very least a sense of inclusion. Part of that involves truly being who you are. Don’t put on pretenses and airs to try to be the person you think they want you to be. Just be you. Your spouse grew up with these people and they chose you, so you must have qualities that match with this family’s values. Another part of it is not treating the family as separate entities. It’s not “Your family” vs “My family”, it is “our family.”
Don’t complain to them about your spouse, they’ll end up in a position of defensive and it will add to the possible perception that you broke up their family instead of adding to it. It will also increase how much complaining they do about you to your spouse and potentially create a rift when someone feels like they have to pick sides between people they love, and that’s not a position anyone should be forced into. If you have a complaint and truly want the feedback of your in-laws about your spouse, or your spouse about your in-laws, approach it from a stance of asking for advice, not from issuing a complaint. “I feel like ____ thinks ____. You know them best. What do you think I can/should do to make this situation better?” Keep communication open and honest (while tactful and respectful) to avoid festering misunderstandings and hurt feelings, and above all remember that love is infinite and that there are all different kinds of it. Your spouse can love their relatives devotedly without loving you any less. It’s not a competition.
You are also responsible for contributing to the quality of your relationship with your own parents and may consider if you should be doing more to improve and maintain it. In the modern age of broken and mixed families it can feel like a lot of work to keep up a good connection with everyone, but your parents deserve a special effort. They made you. They raised you. They played a big role in making you the person that you are. They’re human, they aren’t perfect, they give us all baggage, but they don’t need to be punished for things they can’t undo. You’ve got a great foundation to start from with having shared memories, shared people you’ve known throughout your lives, and hopefully shared love. Add on to that foundation with finding a shared interest. Maybe you and your dad don’t see eye to eye on anything in the world, but you can always have a good conversation about baseball. Maybe your mom is intrusive and overly involved in your personal life, but you can have quality time bonding over family recipes. You can spend pleasant time with your parents working on projects together… woodworking or crafting or tinkering with a car, or baking something special.
If you’re grown, there is a point where you have to transition from a stage of parent/child to mutual adults. Of course they’ll always be mom and dad, and you’ll always be their child, but communicating and acting as adults is vital to not feeling demeaned and belittled in your interactions with them. As an adult, interacting with your parents becomes more of a relationship between close friends who love each other very much, but still have boundaries to respect. Your parents are real people, and deserve to be treated as such. They too deserve your respect and common courtesies, but should also be subject to open and honest, if gentle, communication. Don’t ask for advice you don’t want. It’s not your job to seek approval anymore, you’re your own person now and the things that you do that don’t directly affect them really don’t need their stamp of approval. On that same token, don’t expect them to fix your problems for you either. It’s okay to ask for advice if you truly want it, and to expect mutual emotional support, but don’t expect them to be able to solve your personal problems, or to come out of retirement to fix your financial problems. Don’t abuse the privilege of built in babysitters or someone to vent all your frustrations to daily or assuming you’re always welcome and there’s always time for you. You’ve grown up to have your own life, and your parents have got their own lives too.
Do spend time talking with your parents just to talk. Look at old pictures, learn about older relatives you may have never known but your parents may have loved dearly. Learn the story of your family. Reminisce. Mutually share the accomplishments or regrets of your lives. Don’t guilt them for their mistakes and don’t let them guilt you for anything they might have wanted or expected that didn’t happen. It’s okay to talk about the hurts of your lives past and present, but don’t make it a matter of blame. Try and figure out each other’s perspectives and learn why things were the way they were.
A relationship that may be taken for granted but is absolutely worth your effort is the relationship you have with your pet. How you interact with your pet does, of course, depend on what kind of pet you have, but every pet has a loving side, a playful side, and a need for attention and exercise. There are lots of articles and books that exist on how to have the best relationship with your pet, and a lot of them seem to focus on letting your animal know that you’re in charge, and making sure they know that they rely on you to meet your needs. I, frankly, think that’s crap. You shouldn’t be spoiling your pets and treating them like children that need to come everywhere you go and need a bite of every food you eat. Pets are pets, they aren’t children. Foods that you eat can often do horrible things to your pet, and they don’t need to go into environments that aren’t designed for pets, or be left sitting in a car waiting for you. Your pet will have less separation anxiety at home in their familiar environment than in a car that IS either too hot or too cold for them no matter what it feels like to you in a parking lot being worried about every person that walks by. Don’t make your pet live in the backyard. It defeats the purpose of having a pet, and is a boring life for them that, again, is either too hot or too cold. Feed your pet healthy food, make time to play with them daily, even if only for a few minutes, exercise them in the manner that’s appropriate for their species, and make time to pet and love and snuggle with them. Your pet should view you as a source of love and their best friend, not as their leader, their provider, or punisher. Gentle behavioral corrections are appropriate. Hits or kicks or flicks or any sort of physical strike is not okay. The only time your hands should contact your pet for correction is if they’re actively doing something dangerous and you need to physically remove them from the situation.
One more family member that may need improvement is your sibling(s). To improve sibling relationships one of the most important things you can do is keep their confidences. They were likely your co-conspirator growing up, you’ve probably gotten into and out of trouble together your whole lives, and at any age one of the quickest ways to destroy that closeness and confidence is to gossip about their problems or activities to the rest of the family or mutual friends and acquaintances. Your sibling’s personal life isn’t yours to share. If they get into a fight with a family member or their significant other the best thing you can do is to stay neutral. Be supportive, but don’t take sides. You don’t want to become their enemy either by making them feel worse than they already do, or when they make up with the person they were fighting with but still remember all the bad things you said when you thought you were being supportive by taking their side.
Be open and honest with your sibling. If you feel like your relationship needs improvement, tell them you want to have a better or closer relationship with them so you can both put in mutual effort. Talk more often and spend time together enjoying mutual interests. If you weren’t close in your youth you may have to forgive some past hurts or traumas. Small things may be better to forget and move past, but if there’s something big that you need to patch up to move on from then talk to them about it. Find out their side and their feelings and their perspectives. Chances are they either didn’t know it was a big issue for you or if they did it was a big issue for them too and clearing the air will be better for everyone involved. It will help them to learn that they can turn to you for emotional support when they need it, and to provide support to you as well if they already have experience communicating openly with you. Just like your parents, as you and your sibling(s) have transitioned into adulthood your roles should be changing to mutual adults who are very close friends. You lose the roles of protector and protectee or plotter and scapegoat. Now you’re peers and should be able to share good times together and offer mutual support through the ups and downs.
Lastly on the subject of family you may want to improve your relationships with is stepfamily. This one may be the most challenging of all, depending on how your stepfamily came to be, and whether or not you share any values or interests with your new family you may not have had any choice about acquiring. The most important things that can be done to successfully build a stepfamily are done before they become stepfamily, but presumably at this stage you’re already connected by law and may have a hard road ahead of you that you may or may not have any interest in participating with. Likely, if you’re going to make the effort, it is because you love your family member that has remarried and given you new family members to contend with. Or you may be the new family member who has to contend with the premade family that came with your spouse and you’re making the effort because you love them and want them to be happy. If you’re going to make the effort, make it sincere and genuine. Don’t fake happiness and affection, and don’t force it or force it on someone who is not comfortable or receptive to it.
Get to know each other on a personal one on one basis as individuals. Find out who this person or these people are and what makes them tick. What do they enjoy? What do they value? Do you share spiritual beliefs? Are there any activities you can share bonding with each other? Practice open and honest communication as you would in all close personal relationships. You may never love each other. You may never like each other. But you all share someone you do love in common, so strive to treat each other with respect and courtesy, while being respectful of each other’s boundaries.
Those are only examples of family relationships to consider working on improving. There are many many more to consider, but if I write tips about all of them this entry will never end. So in addition to those I’m going to give some more ideas for you to consider for today, and save in-depth discussion of them for future articles. Those other relationships to consider working on include:
- Romantic Relationships, whether they be your current significant other or an ex that you may still need to have contact with for things like shared children.
- Your Relationship with Yourself. Are you as kind to yourself as you deserve? Do you hold yourself as accountable as you should?
- Someone Who Has Passed Away. Just because they’re gone, doesn’t mean your relationship with them is. Are there things you need to work on forgiving or understanding or letting go?
- Acquaintances. Is there someone you interact with or encounter regularly online or in a social group or a place of worship or any daily setting that you would like to have a nicer relationship with?
- Caregivers. Do you have someone that comes to help you on a regular basis? How does that make you feel? Are you resentful of needing help instead of grateful for having the help you need?
- Classmates. If you’re living the student life or taking any kind of classes is there someone in your class that you’d like to get to know better? Anyone that you really just don’t like and would tolerate or even enjoy more if you got to know and understand them?
- Friendships. Do you have any friends you’ve grown apart from that you’d like to be closer with? Any friends that you’re silently resenting that you’d have a healthier relationship with if you cleared the air? Anyone that’s taking up energy as a friend that you really could use some distance from?
- Neighbors. Do you know your neighbors names? Do you have any neighbors that you trust are looking out for you and would tell either you or the police if anything odd, suspicious, or dangerous were happening around you home?
- Teachers. If you’re in any form of classes do you feel like you have an appropriately cordial relationship with your teachers or professors? Do you feel like you have mutual respect for each other?
- God(s)/Goddess(es). Whatever deities or higher power you believe in, do you feel like you have a good relationship with them? Do you think they are pleased with the path you’re walking? Are you angry with them for things that have gone wrong in your life?
- Ministers. Or whatever religious authority figures exist within your belief system. Do you feel comfortable with them? Do you trust their guidance? Should you get to know them better? Do they know you and your family by name?
- Religious Practitioners. Do you get along with the people who worship or practice your spirituality with you? Do you have peaceful communion? Is there someone whose behavior doesn’t reflect what you believe your spirituality to represent that you would benefit from understanding or reaching out to?
- Boss. How’s your relationship with your direct superior? Do you have mutual respect? Do they recognize your accomplishments and dedication and efforts? Do you recognize theirs?
- Co-Workers. Do you have a co-worker that you want to get to know better and be able to consider a friend? Do you have a co-worker that you think of as a rival or an enemy? Would clearing up a misunderstanding between the two of you repair that? Would knowing them better give you empathy towards them as a person?
- Customers. Do you have a customer that you really just hate doing business with? Are there adjustments in the way you communicate that could make it more bearable? Do you have a customer that you especially appreciate? Have you told them so?
- Employees. Do your employees find you approachable? Do you show them enough appreciation on an individual basis? Is there a problem with someone you’ve been avoiding dealing with while it continues to escalate?
- Patients. Do you recognize that anyone you are providing care to is an individual and has come to you because they need help, and that things aren’t routine for them? Are you attentive and empathetic toward them? Do you have a patient that is a challenge to communicate with?
- Students. Teaching anyone anything can always be a challenge. Do you feel like you’re offering and receiving mutual respect? Are you approachable? Do you give appropriately detailed feedback? Do you have any students that you feel like could benefit from a little extra attention and guidance?
We chose to focus the most on family, because that is something that applies to everyone in some regard. But as you can see there are many non-family relationships that are vitally important to your health, wellbeing, and peace of mind. Choose whichever one has been the biggest struggle for you and make an action plan on what you can do to fix that relationship, even just a little. To make it a little better today that what it was yesterday. Then get to work on it.
Otherwise, here’s your list of daily tasks:
Give your hands some love. They do a lot of work and need some extra attention from time to time. Schedule yourself a manicure. Again, guys, you can do this too and it’s totally normal. The nail salons have men in them literally all the time. No one’s going to be laughing at you. You can choose to go without polish if you don’t want it, or with clear polish if you don’t want color. Or you can go all out as fancy as you feel like. My boyfriend currently has red and green toenails leftover from Christmas. I haven’t bothered offering him any nail polish remover and he hasn’t complained 🙂 If you don’t want or can’t afford a professional manicure, do the job yourself or exchange with a friend. Trim and file your nails, put on some cuticle lotion and push them back or trim them. Soak your hands in some warm clean water. Pumice any callouses and lotion up. Check out how hairy your hands or knuckles are. Does it look pretty okay or is it time to break out some wax or Veet? Polish as desired and let them dry thoroughly before you go touching anything and undoing all that pampering.
Clean Your Kitchen Counters. That’s it. Just the counters and whatever may be on them. That may involve cleaning out your microwave and wiping off finger smudges on the front of it. It may involve looking at your fruit bowl and deciding if the fruit in it is past it’s edible stage and time to be composted or garbage disposaled or if its past the point where you’ll eat it but not dangerous, left outside somewhere some wild life can find it. If you’ve let dishes gather up get them washed. If you have wrappers or food containers toss em out. Get the crumbs out of the toaster. If there are utensils strewn about that belong in a drawer or utensil holder get them put away. Sweep all the crumbs and crud off the counters into a waste bin or dust pan. Scrub down the counters with some 409 or disinfectant wipes or whatever your multipurpose cleanser of choice is. Make sure you get underneath all of your countertop items too. Crud collects in the strangest places. And that’s it for today’s cleaning! Don’t even have to do the rest of the kitchen today unless once you’ve got the momentum going you feel like it. But start with your counters.
If you have a pool at home that it’s warm enough to use then that’s awesome and I’m envious. If you don’t, then take another look at those New Year’s gym specials I mentioned. See which ones have a pool. If you live on a military base you’ve probably got access to one, don’t be shy about taking advantage of it. Consider joining The Y. I’ve never been, but I hear they have pools and are cheap. Swimming is great for you. It’s one of the most effective cardio exercises you can do, strengthens and tones muscles, and you can do it in pretty much any shape at all. I have trouble with much long-term exercise that involves standing or walking or jogging or any of that due to ankle reconstructive surgery, and when I talk to doctors about my difficulties the universal answer is always swim. If you happen to join a gym that has one spend a few minutes in the sauna too and get a good sweat going. Helps to clear those toxins out of the body and get crud out of your pores. Just be sure to shower afterwards and drink plenty of water.
And that’s it! See you all on Facebook later for the Question of the Day!
A word about music: We include songs for a reason. Music helps us deal with the world, helps to soothe the soul, and gives us something else we can focus on when everything is too much. Listen to the songs we post. Even if you already know them. Listen to them like you don’t. Pay attention to the lyrics. Pay attention to what the instruments are telling you. They all have a message, they all have a purpose, they’re all chosen for a reason. If you like the song, please support the artist by purchasing the MP3 or Album that features it.
Today’s music can be found on Amazon.com:
MP3: The Ultimate Hits
(I could not find an MP3 of only the song actually sung by Garth Brooks, so you’re getting a link to an entire digital album today instead. But it’s a wildly popular album with all amazing songs (there’s only one I don’t like, but other people love it, so, meh.) So, while I prefer to just link to the song, I’m comfortable with this one.
Album: Fresh Horses