Chapter 12: Desserts Spelled Backwards Is Stressed. And Vice Versa.

Although Red has tackled most of the critical issues brought on by her new "life", she now hears herself saying the most outrageous things (at least for her) and recognizes her behavior's out of character. Nothing serious, but enough for her to realize she was becoming overwhelmed by stress caused by her new responsibilities. Black sends her an email with a sarcastic stress management technique, but Red needs more than humor.

P. S.This excerpt's as relevant today as it was when Red was going through her crisis. Maybe even more so. Because for Red, she realizes it's not always about learning something new, sometimes it's about remembering something learned in the past.


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I loved your e-mail. Obviously, I can't "drown" my problems, but I sure need some other ways to reduce stress. Any ideas?


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Here are your options:
A: Identify and eliminate things that are causing you stress.
B: Adjust your attitude and/or outlook.
C: Find a way to temporarily escape.
D: All of the above.


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I vote for C. Listing what's causing me stress won't eliminate any of them. And I'm not sure what you mean by adjusting my attitude or outlook.


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Change your perspective and how you look at things.


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Still not sure what you mean. Give me an example.


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OK. If I get annoyed or frustrated with Larry, I realize the best way to a man's heart is through his chest with a sharp knife!


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Funny, but not a real answer.


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Realer than you realize. One of the health columns in The Wall Street Journal referenced research that shows a connection between laughter and health, and how laughter reduces a stress hormone.


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Thank you for that scientific study, but besides male-bashing jokes, do you have any advice which is a bit more practical?


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That was practical. You need to try and lighten up. First of all, worrying about what has already happened is a total waste of time. Worrying about what might happen is also a waste of time. I know that things happen for a reason and things will work out, one way or another, and so I look ahead and do not dwell on the past. I may not be able to control the situation, but I know I can control how I deal with it — and that eliminates much of the stress in my life. And if I can laugh about any aspect of it — that makes things even better.


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I guess we look at things differently. I don't think I can put myself in your shoes (beside the fact I can't afford them) and look at things that pragmatically. But I know there are times you are under stress because you get pissy with me.


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True. And when I sense a "pissy" mood, as you call it, I go for a long run and think things out. Because running is a rhythmic activity (as is vacuuming, or so I am told), it allows my body to get into its own rhythm and then my mind is free to work out problems, find solutions or merely daydream. I usually come back with a plan or at least a clearer perspective on things, which makes me feel much better.


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I don't picture myself in your running shoes, either! And vacuuming was not exactly the suggestion I was hoping for. Any other suggestions?


Black's Head Black assets.rebelmouse.io




I will save the "Escape through Exercise" lecture for another time. Right now, you need to acknowledge that stress is going to be part of your life. Although you cannot avoid it, you can learn to deal with it. Find an activity — it could be as simple as a walk in the neighborhood or reading a magazine at Starbucks — that functions as a temporary escape. Let Nick and the girls know that you need some time away. And then last, but not least, schedule it. Put it on your calendar like an appointment. And make it a priority.


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You make it sound so easy.


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It is. Do not complicate it.

Chapter 16: I Have Three Children If You Count My Husband

Even before Red's life was turned upside down, she wanted to be the best mom possible, so often wondered and worried about the best way to raise her girls. And when she was in the midst of her "crisis" (her word, not Black's), her daughters were very young – Sawyer was 1-1/2 years old and Natasha just under 5, although she'd proclaim, "I'm almost 5." (It's funny how "young" is subjective, as at the time Red considered them young but now "very young".) But as Red turned to Black for "answers" to everything, Black understood one of Red's top priorities was making sure that the girls weren't getting short-changed. Given Black doesn't have any children, Red was amazed to receive what she's referred to as "Some of the best parental advice. Ever." (Black just rolls her eyes.)

P.S. – Looking back, Red claims that Black's advice not only made all the difference at the time but over the years. Somehow, the simple concept of treating kids as "little people" (Black calls them "munchkins"), so with respect and honesty, trusting them with responsibility and giving them credit for understanding and doing the right thing, was the closest thing to a "magical approach" for Red (yes, growing up, she and the girls watched a lot of Disney) that she's ever found. And, surprisingly enough, has even helped her with managing "big people."


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Patience, grasshopper. You also have to remember that when I first started dating Larry, his girls were 7 and 9, so I skipped over the phase you are in. I had dated men with children, but none as young as Larry's, so I was not quite sure how to deal with them. So, I decided to treat them like little people. In fact, that is why I started calling them the "Munchkins," like the little people from The Wizard of Oz.


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I always wondered about that. Were you the good witch or the bad witch?


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Neither. I was probably more like the Mayor of Munchkin City. Since I was used to working in a corporate environment, I applied the same people skills.


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You're kidding, right?
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Chapter 15: I Need A Warning System

In the midst of Red's "crisis", one of the many things she learned was the importance of communication. But talk about something (pun, intended) that gets lost in day-to-day living, especially when those first months found Red's life turned upside down and she was focused on "fighting fires", so there was little time to talk about day-to-day topics. But Red realized she needed a way for the family to talk about important subjects in a more proactive way than what they'd been doing. And she had come to realize that it needed to be two-way communications, not just parents talking and children expected to listen.

P.S. – When Black first introduced the idea of a family meeting to Red, it was a revelation … the idea that there could be a "neutral" setting that allowed everyone to share thoughts and opinions on topics big and small. So, did family meetings become a regular event at Red's house? It would be nice to say they did, but they didn't. However, the concept resulted in more productive one-on-ones (Black would probably argue those still qualify as meetings) where issues or problems could be tackled in a "safe" environment, and both sides would genuinely listen to the other with an open mind (ok, sometimes it was a semi-open mind). Interestingly, many years later, when Red's girls became young adults, she found they'd have impromptu family meetings, and that made Red smile as it reminded her of Black's initial idea all those years ago.



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Got a minute?


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Maybe. Depends on the topic. If you are calling about hopes, dreams or birthday gifts, the answer is no.


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None of the above. I like your idea of sitting down as a family and discussing important issues, like charity. Plus, it will help the girls learn the value of communication. However, I don't want them to think I am lecturing them. Any ideas?
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Chapter 7: My Husband Gets In Hot Water – I Want To Make Soup!

When Red was in the midst of her crisis and trying to deal with seemingly every aspect of her life, it quickly became obvious that she had been living in an old-fashioned sitcom where life appeared to be perfect. Adjusting to reality wouldn't be easy (now, that could be a sitcom!), especially when one of the biggest adjustments had to do with what she viewed as one of her strong suits – people skills. More specifically, her relationship with her husband because Red's expectations of her husband and her marriage definitely weren't related to reality.

P.S. – Since then, Red has learned about how important it is to have realistic expectations in any relationship, but when it comes to spouses/partners, it's essential. And Black has (finally) gotten her to realize that you need to be honest with yourself (ideally about both you and your partner), so that you set your relationship up for success, not failure. But Red will add a warning … understanding the logic of this mindset and approach is much easier than accepting and implementing it. Although she'll agree with Black that it's worth the effort if it results in a more successful relationship.

E-mail From: Black
Subject: Perception vs. Reality
Sent: Saturday, February 7

Not really, or at least nothing that I know of. But our marriage is not paradise. I went into it knowing I had made trade-offs and compromises. And that is OK. I had no false expectations. But at times I have to stop and ask myself if either of us has changed or whether I have merely forgotten to adjust my thinking for changing circumstances. I always thought Larry and I had the potential to be great together. Not because we were a perfect couple, but because we were an imperfect couple that appreciated our differences.

But when it comes to you and Nick … the two of you need to face reality. Together. As a team.

By the way, how is your house-hunting going? That is a perfect place to start working together. And a lot more productive than wasting the afternoon online with me.


Red's Head assets.rebelmouse.io


I found Black's comment about having a great marriage very interesting since I didn't think it existed in real life. However, her comment got me thinking that maybe my expectations of marriage needed to be adjusted to be more realistic. I guess I was thinking a great or even really good marriage was one where two people were perfect for one another. One where there were never any major issues that tested the relationship. One where problems had obvious and easy answers. One that ran on automatic and didn't require any special effort. OK, so I was living in a fantasy world. Nothing new there!