This time last week I found myself smiling while driving, while doing the dishes, while brushing my teeth...I looked like a complete goober.
I had just returned from hosting the TRIBE Retreat for Moms and I just kept thinking of the women, and the fun, and the deep conversation, and the vulnerability, and the connection, and the support that all went down...it was beautiful.
Hosting the retreat is probably my most favorite event I've ever done.
It was EXACTLY what I wanted it to be and had been dreaming of facilitating. It was a mix of deep work and play, connecting with other women and connecting more deeply with oneself, fireside guitar playing and permanently purple hands cake decorating, and yoga and wine sipping.
We had women from Missouri, California, Tennessee, & New York. Some I knew, some I knew a little, and some I didn't know at all, but I'm so glad to have connected with all of them and they each brought something completely different and equally valuable to the retreat.
My favorite thing that was said about the retreat?
"Went with one of my best friends and came back with so many more friends!"
And then I smiled some more.
And the positive feedback just kept rolling in in our private Facebook group where the women are continuing to support each other in small and big ways. This mama had a particularly tough week ahead:
"I can't stop thinking about how grateful I am to have shared time with each of you. I am carrying you all in my pocket as I navigate this week ... "
And that's when I started smile/crying.
It's taken me a full week to digest all the goodness so that I could even tell you about it.
And...I've loved it SO much that I've already booked the next retreat for the Fall. JOIN US! Unless you don't like fun, connection, powerful tribes of women, laughter, fireside chats, wine, growth, yoga, good support, and food....then never mind.
You deserve self care that's more than a pedi,
"How often are you having sex?" is a question I ask every couple I see. I've heard every answer from, "Non-existent," to "[giggle, giggle] Ummm, OK I guess," and many times each partner has a different perspective on the same sex life. Sexual frequency can be a barometer for how the relationship is going, but it can also be a barometer for stress levels and personal well-being.
For the sake of this article I'll be generalizing men and women based on what's most common, but I see all sorts of differences in drive that don't fit into what's most common. <--This is probably a whole other article.
What I see frequently in heterosexual relationships is that most men are trying to figure out how to have more physical intimacy and most women are trying to figure out how to have more emotional intimacy, but they're both making the same HUGE mistake.
Let's start with the nuts and bolts: men and women are inherently, genetically and hormonally, different creatures.
Let's just talk testosterone for a minute. Men have 9x the testosterone that women do and testosterone plays a HUGE part in sex drive (wanting or desiring sex). NINE TIMES. In Dr. Laurie Mintz's book, The Tired Woman's Guide to Passionate Sex she likens this difference to men having 9/10 of a tank of gas and women having 1/10 of a tank.
Dr. Mintz says she once asked a medical doctor about this difference in testosterone and he said it's why a man can be standing in a pile of elephant feces, see a beautiful woman walk by, and think about sex....and a woman can be on her way to the bedroom, see a dirty sock on the floor, and it's all over. It's easier for women to run out of gas.
More mothers can relate to this than not.
What impacts testosterone levels? Stress: the aforementioned dirty sock on the floor, to-do lists, not enough support, young children in the home, care taking, moving, paying bills, being a stay-at-home parent, being a working parent, grocery shopping, saving for retirement, renovation projects, holidays - so basically being an adult.
High stress and low amounts of sleep have an almost immediate impact on testosterone levels.
When stress goes up testosterone levels go down, but women have a definite disadvantage in this area. Sexual desire is something most men in early-middle adulthood don't have to worry about, but most women at some point in this stage wonder, "Is there something wrong with me?".
I think about this drive-lessening response to stress as your body's way of saying, "Pssst. Might not be a good time to have a baby."
Years ago I worked with a couple and remember explaining this to them. He looked at me quite seriously and said, "So, what do I do?" I said, "Reduce her stress levels." He seemed perplexed. She was smiling.
She recounted stories of how he would "grab my boobs" while she did the dishes, and "smack my butt" while she folded laundry. I asked him what his intent was: "What were you trying to communicate?"
He smirked, "That I wanted to...ya know..."
I asked her if this got her closer to the bed or further away from the bed. With irritation she boomed, "FURTHER. AWAY!" and her tone indicated she felt this was ridiculously obvious. "How could he not know this?"
what I wanted; he didn't want it at all.
If a husband gropes...it's probably because he wants to be groped. My husband would be exactly 50x more thrilled if I groped him than he was at his one and only surprise party. His day would have been made and I could have saved a lot of money, but I didn't deeply understand our differences at 23.
This wife was SO different in what got her closer to the bedroom that she vocalized she found his squeezes and thwaps to be "adolescent, disgusting, and irritating - especially in the midst of chores".
This wife craved emotional intimacy: to feel deeply seen and understood. When he groped her while she was working through her mile-long (invisible) to-do list she felt like he didn't care ("Don't you see me?") because that's what it would mean if she pulled something like this while he was obviously in the middle of something.
How would he feel about being groped in the middle of folding laundry? We don't need a research study to know the answer to this question.
I asked how much closer she'd be to the bed if he would have instead said, "You look stressed. What can I take off your to-do list?"
She sighed, "YAS! A LOT closer."
WHY IS THIS SUBJECT SO HARD TO TALK ABOUT? Because it's value-laden. Sexual intimacy is inherently deeply vulnerable. It's easy to start questioning your enoughness when it comes to this subject - "Am I enough?" - which, in turn, makes our self-protective defensiveness flare fast. It seems common for conversations about this subject to escalate quickly and go no where.
For example, I meet so many men who take their wife's lower drive so personally. The amount of times I've heard, "Maybe I should workout more?" as a possible solution from men is more than I can count. What the man is really assuming is, “I’m probably not physically enough.”
For men, physical attraction is a priority, but for most women it's SO not. This is why there are so many more strip clubs with naked ladies on the stage than men.
The problem isn't our differences, it's assuming we're the same and attaching meaning deducted from the misinformation gathered through our very different lenses AND THEN trying to communicate about it through hurt feelings that quickly morph into anger and defensiveness...it's easy to see why so many couples have a really hard time communicating about this subject in a meaningful, not-exhausting way. Just typing this paragraph was exhausting.
Engaging in tough, really uncomfortable conversations that escalate quickly and leave you with zero results makes people want to not ever talk about the subject again.
About a month after our session where we teased out some of the non-verbal communication, wants, and needs underlying the irritation the same couple, now equipped with some very strategic ways to communicate about drive, wants, and needs, came in after the Holidays.
He reported that he was shut-down with a big fat NO for sex on Christmas Eve morning. She just had "too much to do". He began asking what he could take off her list and after wrapping presents, making a dish, and coming up with a white elephant gift they had sex TWICE.
He seemed pretty proud of himself.
Men, I know what you're thinking: "WHOA, WHOA, Mika....I work my butt off ALL DAY and you want me to do MORE???"
Men, I don't want you to do anything you don't want to do. But if there's something that you want and need in your relationship that you're not getting it's your job to figure out how to get it. If this is the case, increasing your wife's low drive is your job, too.
Men: Speak her language and let her know you want to know when she's overwhelmed and that it's OK to ask for help and that you are not...in no way, shape, or form...a mind reader.
Ladies: Pay attention to your drive. Does it come back with a vengeance when you go on a vacation without kids? If so, there's probably a good chance that cutting yourself some to-do list and expectations-of-yourself slack could increase your drive and well-being overall. I suggest getting better at being kind to yourself: saying NO more and clearly asking for more support.
Having a lower sex drive than your partner, or than what's generally expected for your gender, can be a shameful thing. It's easy to start feeling defective and like a failure. It seems like it's really easy for the person with lower drive to take on all the responsibility and that just seems to turn into a whole lot of pressure. Super-romantic, right? Nope. Actually pressure is a sex drive killer.
I've found that taking a curious stance together regarding the one person's lower drive to be a more effective strategy (**read: more likely to get laid). This might include being willing to engage in uncomfortable conversations and really open to hearing complaints and suggestions about what gets her further away and closer to the bed. Ninja-like communication skills come in handy here.
This is just ONE way to increase drive: everyone's different.
Wanna learn lots more about the highly misunderstood topic of sex drive? Come to my Date Night Workshop Series in June. We'll cover this topic in great depth and I hope participants leave feeling less crazy and more empowered to work through their differences in drive in a way that leads to some really clear next best steps instead of tears, anger, defensiveness, and shut-downs. Lots more info and tickets here. Early bird pricing still available :)
You deserve happy relationships...sex included,
We're craving villages, emotional intimacy, connection, and support but this goes against our American ideals of independence, pulling yourself up by your bootstraps, and the great importance of being "fine".
I had a mom to an 18-month-old ask at a recent talk I gave to a group of women, "Does anyone talk on the phone anymore?" and "...how do you make those kind of friends?"
She was in a room full of about 20 other moms wondering how to be more connected.
I don't know that there's anything worse than being in relationship AND feeling alone.
And so I've started wondering lately, "Is small talk killing the village?"
I used to be so good at mingling. I think I mastered small talk in the midst of grave (and not so grave) life experiences as a child.
Mingling probably saved me in a lot of ways.
Stuck at home with a soap-opera watching Grandma at age 3? Mingle enough with surrounding families and they'll entertain you and feed you lunch.
Tensions flying high in my parents' highly conflictual marriage? Mingle with ANY neighborhood kid that will bite...then play 'til the lights go out.
Parents divorce and I move out of state at THE WORST and most AWKWARD age EVER? Mingle your way into the hearts of some better-feeling families so that you're welcome 24/7.
DON'T BURDEN THEM WITH YOUR CRAP. Be light! Easy breezy. Smile! And especially smile when you tell them WHY you moved to St. Louis; you don't want them to think you're DYSFUNCTIONAL...Here, practice these lines, "We moved to St. Louis when my parents' divorced. No, don't be sorry. The divorce wasn't hard, it was expected."
No one taught me how to mingle. The unspoken rule was clear: Don't burden people with your crap.
The truth is that behind all that smiley small-talk I was an anxious and depressed child with a plummeting self-esteem.
I mingled my way through college, into the hearts of a few boyfriend's families, and into my Master's program while successfully not fully owning any of my issues and not truly deeply connecting with anyone except for maybe my therapist.
When I was 24 mingling became impossible when my 3-month-old niece passed away. It turns out the part of my brain that knows how to shoot the shit literally shuts-down for months (maybe years) after helping my half-sister pick out a casket for her baby.
I just couldn't talk about the weather, or the game, or your hair...I just couldn't. And I knew you didn't want to talk about dead babies as you would quickly contort your face and say, "Oh, I'm sorry," with an implied "THE END. WE'RE DONE HERE. FINITO." as you'd quickly change the subject to my hair.
Strangely, this mingling master was in a master's program where we were being taught to NOT small talk. If psychotherapists are small-talking we're wasting your time and money.
Nothing therapeutic or healing happens in small talk. NOTHING.
Do our brains have the ability to shut off the small talk when we need it the least? I have no idea. All my research in affective neuroscience hasn't revealed this phenomena, but I know many others who have experienced it as well.
And now, in my office, where I have worked deeply with couples and individuals for over a decade, I see the effects of all of this small talk: Moms feeling deep loneliness, people panicked wondering if they're feelings are normal or if they're somehow defective, and a degree of emotional distance and charade that is literally pinching us off from a basic human need to feel like we belong - like we're part of a tribe.
So what can you do if you're feeling like you're craving a tribe?
1. Stop wearing your "It's fine!" mask and see who's left. YES, there are people who are in your life now who will not like you as much when you're not fine....and there are people out there who will love you MORE.
How are you going to find your tribe of people if you're not wearing YOURSELF...they will never recognize you.
I met my most recent tribe member at a social event for our kids. In a group of women small-talking she said, "Well I have 4 kids, so I always look like shit and my house always looks like shit." I started inviting her over and out immediately.
2. Imperfectly invite people over. Don't wait until the house is clean (or in my case- not under construction). Host not-fancy dinner parties, happy hours, fire-pit gatherings, or book clubs. I started a book club last year and literally called it THE IMPERFECT BOOK CLUB - yoga pants casual, wine welcome.
The ways you are imperfect allow people to connect to you and love you even more... and the people who are not in your tribe might run away screaming. It's a great litmus test.
3. Stalk people. As busy adults it's so rare that friendships just spontaneously happen. When I had my first child I felt so alone. Many of my friends moved out of state within a 2 year period and I was the first to have a child. To my dismay, new friends didn't fall out of the sky and into my kitchen.
I remember seeing an old acquaintance on MySpace (yes, it was THAT long ago) and thinking, "She likes Indian food, baby wearing is one of her interests, and she's funny....I think we could totally be friends." I asked her and her family on a date to the Indian Buffet for lunch.
Did it feel strange? YES! Did I feel like a stalker? ABSOLUTELY. And we've been great friends ever since and she loves to tell people the story of how I stalked her on MySpace.
If there's someone out there you'd like to get to know more ask them to connect 3 times before giving up.
4. Know you deserve (and need...just ask Maslow) a tribe. Historically for our species living in close, inter-reliant groups of 30-50 is what's normal. It's no wonder we're all craving that village. Listen to this FASCINATING snippet from the Ted Radio Hour where journalist Sebastian Junger explains that the need to belong is so innate and so strong it's why some veterans actually miss war. He says their experience of trusted brotherhood while at war mimic more closely a village than anything else in our society.
5. If you're a mom, attend my upcoming TRIBE retreat for Moms in May, 2017. I've worked deeply with moms for the last 10 years and have created this retreat just for YOU (or the mom in your life). For all the details click here.
It will definitely be a no mingling zone.
You deserve happy relationships....without having to go to war,
I don't know about you, but lately I'm feeling scattered and lost. I'm making dinner less. I'm working less. I'm cleaning less. I'm connecting less. I'm procrastinating everything more.
Wandering aimlessly is my new past-time.
I wake up most mornings at 6am to write with my Australian writing buddy who lives in Atlanta (accountability is hugely important when a task requires me waking up when it's dark outside...and hearing an Australian accent first-thing isn't so bad) and as I hopped on our Google Hangout Jetsony video call I realized I have not a frappin' clue what I'm going to write about today.
As I was saying all of this out-loud to my writing buddy I realized I'm feeling a little bit paralyzed by all of the current events: keeping up with all of the changes, listening to the swirling outrage, educating myself, forming opinions, figuring out HOW on EARTH people's opinions could differ from mine, reading about what everyone's doing, about what I should be doing, deciphering what Joe Schmo on my Facebook page thinks about the current events through all the grammatical errors (I'm just asking for a big grammatical error in this post by writing that...if you find it, you win a prize!)...
and I'm forgetting to breathe.
I'm forgetting to notice what's good.
I'm forgetting to look within.
I'm forgetting to reach out for support.
I'm forgetting about how powerful I am.
I'm allowing myself to become overwhelmed and overstimulated and frazzled by a never-ending barrage of information that I have control over.
And it's taking its toll.
The world doesn't need us to be overwhelmed, overstimulated, frazzled, and under-productive.
I've never heard of any great change or leadership or well-being coming from a frazzled and overwhelmed human being.
The world needs us to be clear, focused, and collected.
I believe this lies somewhere between what I've been doing lately and burying my head in the sand and never watching or reading another news source again.
Here's what I'm going to try:
Limit information intake: I'm going to do this by time and by source.
I think we need to ask ourselves a few questions about the information we're consuming:
1. Is it addicting?
2. Am I learning something or is this just confirming my opinion?, and
3. Would this article NOT do a damned thing to convince others of my opinion?
If the answer is YES to any of these questions I believe these articles or programs are a waste of my time, energy, and resources and I'm pretty sure that 90% of what I've allowed myself to consume falls into this category.
Limit social media time or filter your feed: Jumping on Facebook is no longer the destresser it used to be. I haven't decided yet, but I'm either limiting my time there and/or filtering political posts or posts from known not-so-great-sources from my feed. More on that HERE.
Come up with doable action steps: There are so many ways to get involved it sends my brain into a tail-spin. If I choose one action item per week it will be about, rouuuuggghhly....my math could be really wrong here...51 more ways I am consciously being involved than last year.
And I have to REMEMBER: no amount of caring is too small. I can send $2 or $200 to organizations and causes I care about depending on what feels good to me that week.
Get Some Accountability: Know someone in the same boat?...I bet you do. Come up with your own guidelines for yourself so that you can harness your energy and VOW to send a despicable organization of your choice a check if you veer off course. EEP! This one hurts.
We might as well be sending the other side an energetic check when we allow ourselves to be drained, overwhelmed, and paralyzed, right? Why not just double-down to keep yourself on track?
You're boiling inside about something your partner just said or did...maybe it's the VERY thing you've talked about 457 times before and it's STILL happening.
The thing to do next to actually come to a resolution is probably THE most counterintuitive...
So, let's start with that witch that lives inside you
You know...the one who says things like, "YOU SUCK" or "YOU'RE A TERRIBLE MOTHER" or "YOU'RE JUST A SCREW UP" or "YOU'RE NOT DOING ENOUGH"
I think we all live with some version of that voice. Our brains are wired for it. I don't really care what you call it: ego, fear, the devil...
One of the very first things I do when I work with couples is I try to tease out the specific-to-you destructive core beliefs at play within each person that are being triggered within the relationship.
We all have destructive core beliefs shaping our lens through which we see ourselves, each other, and the world. When left unexamined, they can slowly deteriorate relationships and put an upper limit on success and happiness.
Last weekend I made an extensive list of these beliefs on a whiteboard for a classroom full of couples and asked them to pick the ones that most resonated with them.
And what happened is what usually happens, people have a REALLY hard time identifying these beliefs...especially as they pertain to their relationship.
It's like when I've had my sunglasses on my head for hours and then am booming, "WHERE ARE MY SUNGLASSES?! HAS ANYONE SEEN MY SUNGLASSES?!" as I'm trying to get out the door.
They've been there so long I can't feel them anymore.
I approached a couple who looked confused. He said, "I can't really figure out what mine is." I had asked the group to think of some arguments, irritations, blow-ups, or times they shut down with their partner, and then see if they could find a theme of one of the underlying beliefs on the board.
He had plenty of examples. "Like when she asks me to change the baby's diaper and then has an opinion on how much diaper cream I've used, or when I'm making dinner and she takes over a task because she doesn't like the way I'm doing it...."
I said, "So, it feels like you can't do it right? Or like she feels like you're not competent or capable?"
These thoughts fit clearly under the belief in inferiority (I'm less than you) and in fact were listed on the board.
And this is REALLY common. I wonder if the toughness in seeing these beliefs in ourselves is that in those moments of defensiveness or shut-down we're so focused on the OTHER person's part that it makes a blind-spot for seeing our own.
THE HUGE TRUTH IS...if there wasn't a part of you that believed that insert your destructive core belief here it wouldn't bother you when it seemed like someone else thought it too.
I also wonder if in many of us one defense mechanism we've created in living with such beliefs is portraying the opposite in an effort to prove to ourselves and the world that we're O.K.
For instance, it's easy to begin acting from a superior intent when you perceive that someone is treating you like you're inferior.
Imagine the outcome if he snaps back, "YOU're always micromanaging ME!"
"It sounds like you think I'm not capable?"
One elicits defensiveness in the listener and the other invites a conversation about the real underlying issue.
What I see in my office is just a few themes of core beliefs:
In men I mostly see some variation of: I can't DO it right or I can't DO enough - focused on DOING.
In women I mostly see some variation of: I am not enough - focused on BEING.
There's also the insidious, "I'm defective", "I'm a failure", and "I'm bad."
I have one client who is, career-wise - REALLY successful, but also moves through his personal life with a large dose of belief in his defectiveness. Because of a diagnosis of depression and anxiety it's like he can't trust his own feelings or his brain at large. This keeps him from addressing emotional issues in the moment which has his partner feeling like she's playing a game without the rules as she gets blindsided with his true feelings long after the fact.
This triggers her belief that she's not enough and sets off a big reaction to which he attributes to him not feeling or thinking about this "right" and ends up being one more piece of evidence for the stack labeled, "I'm defective".
In the workshop I hosted this weekend a man said, "I think mine is that 'I'm bad', but I'm not really sure." He told me this comes up for him when he travels a lot for work leaving his wife home to parent their 3 young children.
"I know she wants me to call, but sometimes I'm in meetings and in different time zones and it just makes it not possible."
His wife was in the restroom. I asked him if her core belief was, "I'm not important". His eyes got big and he tapped on her worksheet, "YES."
I love when people think I'm a witch.
I often see couples' destructive core beliefs fitting together like puzzle pieces - holding them in a go-nowhere pattern of interaction like Chinese handcuffs. The more they do what's intuitive from the perspective their destructive core belief creates, the more they're locked into an argument that feels like it never gets resolved and probably happens on repeat.
I teach couples to lean in to these moments so that they can be set free (same deal with Chinese handcuffs). To lean into these tough conversations we have to learn how to wrap our mouths around our own destructive core beliefs and those of our partner.
THE MOST RIDICULOUS EXAMPLE: Months after we had our first child we were attempting to go on date nights. It was a real joke. Despite being away from the baby, it seemed we couldn't remember how to talk about anything but the baby: when the baby last pooped, was it a big poop?, or a small poop?, how long the baby had slept, and when the baby will sleep again....
You get the idea.
In a really conscious effort to get us talking about something else I said, "So, what places to visit are on your bucket list?"
"I don't know," he said abruptly with a HINT of a "that's a stupid question" tone.
I read his response as confusion: I had changed the subject REALLY QUICKLY. So, I gave him some examples, "You know, like I REALLY want to go to Greece, and Italy, and Hawaii, and Spain. THOSE are the places I'm really drawn to. So, how about you?"
I don't know.
Like where have you always dreamed of going?
I DON'T know.
I . DON'T . KNOW.
It was clear that he really wasn't saying "I don't know," at this point and I dropped the subject. I thought maybe he was just in a bad mood.
Same thing happened on the next date night. It was clear he was irritated with the topic.
Because I know some big destructive core beliefs for him are "I don't do it right" and "I don't do enough" I thought, "HOW could he be perceiving this conversation through THAT lens?"
Wait...Do you think I'm saying that it's YOUR job to get me to these places?
YES! What else would you be saying?
He also heard that he wasn't doing enough because he hadn't gotten me to any of these places yet.
THAT WAS SO NOT MY INTENT. But now, because his perception of my intent was clear, I had a chance to clear it up. "ERIC, I work! If I want to get these places it's my job to get me there...not yours. My happiness is MY job."
When we're not clear of our destructive core beliefs and how to talk about them in the moment, it can be SO easy to get off track.
We had the bucket-list-places-to-visit conversation recently and it went really differently. I asked him if he remembered the last time we talked about it, and he didn't (our oldest is 9).
And as I'm writing this I'm realizing that just the context of having a new baby could have really magnified his destructive core beliefs: They are often mirrored back to you by the people and things you care about the most. A baby's cry sure can sound a lot like, "YOU'RE NOT DOING IT RIGHT!" and "YOU'RE NOT DOING ENOUGH!"
I was going to take more credit for us being able to get through that conversation this time without him taking my dreams personally, but maybe the fact that we don't have a newborn plays as big a part as all of the relationship work we've done??
So, what's the first step in wanting to scratch your partner's eyes out less? Examining and addressing the witch that lives inside of you...and the one in your partner.
If it bother's you, it lives in you.
You deserve happy relationships,
This husband and wife owned restaurant is a no-brainer starting point for the Date Night STL crawl I'm doing to kick off my 2017 Date Night Workshop Series.
I just had to know: Where do Katie and Ted go for date night? Babysitter on stand-by.
But first...about my love affair with their place:
My first date with Katie's Pizza & Pasta Osteria was in the winter of 2014, but it wasn't with my husband.
We'd been trapped with a crabby and sick 2-year-old for days of our winter break and I was itching to get out of the house. In researching for our upcoming move I'd stumbled upon this snazzy-looking new restaurant.
"Pizza, pasta, wine...that should please everyone."
I loaded our older kids in the car and headed to Katie's. I was immediately smitten. The mismatched chairs, the big white modern lights, the art (much of it by Ted himself), the open kitchen, the wine list, the cool staff...I felt like I was adulting and it was all happening in a strip mall....with my children. What is this place?
Wait just a hot pizza minute - I want all notions of strip mall restaurants with the word PIZZA in the name to leave your mind. In nearly every way, this is not Katie's.
I'm not sure if it's intentional, but it's like they somehow straddle the lines between upscale-hip-foodie-date-night place AND a casual-family-friendly-come-as-you-are kinda place. Like that drawing where if you look one way it's the back of a lady's head and if you look another way it's an angry man's face...it's BOTH.
It's tiny bottles of dry prosecco AND pizza dough balls for the kids to play with.
It's a never-disappointing place to eat and connect with friends and family. Hard.to.find.
It's like going to your coolest friend's house for a dinner party...with or without kids...and no one has to clean up.
And this friend is an amazing chef; let's talk food. Embarrassingly, I stuck to the amaze-balls salads for my first YEAR of ordering at Katie's. The prawn salad with fennel and oranges, the fried artichoke salad with asparagus, goat cheese, and balsamic, the watermelon salad (seasonal)...My mouth waters just typing those things.
And then one day the clouds parted and I gave up on my order-as-few-carbs-as-possible goal. Enter: The LEMON STROZZAPRETI. Lemony, perfectly-textured, slightly chewy hand-crafted pasta dripping with lemon cream sauce lounging around with roasted cauliflower and pistachios.
I think I had an out-of-body experience. I dream about their pasta.
And the STAFF. Having years of experience under my belt in the restaurant and retail industries: front of the house, back of the house, and manager...I really mean it when I say their staff is our favorite in town.
For my next Date Night STL crawl spot, I thought, Who better to ask than the Queen of Flavortown? What do they like to eat? Where do they like to go? GENIUS. So I chatted with Katie and got some surprising answers.
Do you have a place you frequent...as much as I frequent KPPO?
Katie: We LOVE Olive + Oak. The service is great, it's comfortable, the energy isn't too stuffy, and the menu changes every week so you can go back and not have the same experience twice. And, the story is really great, too.* We love supporting other people doing good in the community.
*The restaurant is keeping the memory and energy of 2 owners' sons, Oliver and Oakes, alive and well. Both were born with congenital heart defects and passed in 2013 and 2012. Olive + Oak is dedicated to supporting causes related to CHD.
You have a day off, where are you and Ted going for fun together?
Katie: Fishing or floating. Ted really got me into fishing. I know people think I'm trying to be cute when I say that, but I'm totally serious.
45 minutes to an hour outside of St. Louis are some really great spring-fed rivers and creeks: the Courtois, Huzzah, and Meramec Rivers. The Bass River Resort has horseback riding and ziplining. It would be a great place to take the kids.
We pack our fishing poles and a lunch and just drive out for the day. It is so pretty and relaxing. Totally peaceful and quiet - there's NO cell phone service. We wade in the stream, watch bald eagles fly by....you really feel like you're on vacation...and it's SO CHEAP!
Dessert or drinks. Day or night. What's your favorite place?
Katie: Well, we don't drink, so we can't give you THAT answer. But my new favorite place for desserts is Nathaniel Reid Bakery on Manchester. Nathaniel is the real deal. He's worked at some of the best restaurants in the country and we are so lucky to have him here in St. Louis.
I get their pastries or macarons. They have a cute sitting area and also offer sandwiches and salads.
Recently I was picking up pastries for a family party and he personally helped me out to the car. He didn't even know who I was. I was blown away by the customer service.
[ME: "KATIE! He knew who you were!!!" But...she disagreed.]
AND we also have a thing for ice cream. It's a problem. We have to cut ourselves off from Ted Drewes for a few weeks per year when we put on the pounds.
And there you have it folks!! The queen has spoken. High-tail it to all these places for your next date night. I have to say that I have NEVER thought of a fishing date, but I am SO looking forward to planning one! I think it might have to wait until next Spring.
Next? I'll be hitting up one of these places to see where THEY date night. HOW WILL I CHOOSE!?!?! Maybe you could vote in the comments? Help me out!
PS - Is your relationship not terrible, but you'd love to take it to the next level....and dinner and a movie date nights just aren't cutting it? The 2017 Date Night Workshop Series might be for you.
Here's my vision: You grab a babysitter for a Saturday night. Before dinner & drinks you head to a relationship-deepening workshop (with me, Therapist & Relationship Coach, Mika Ross). The workshops will be strategically formatted to give you the tools, time, and space to create change in your relationships. The January workshop SOLD OUT fast, so grab your tickets for March ASAP - we'll be focusing on COMMUNICATION.
I won't tell you that following your truth will be easy, that listening to what's in your heart will be a breeze, that standing up for yourself will be comfortable, or that choosing the path less traveled will be like an all-inclusive trip to the Caribbean...but I will tell you, it's SO worth it.
I was with a client today who's been choosing dreadful and draining and "good on paper" for the last 20+ years. And in the last 6 months I've had the pleasure of supporting her in choosing brutal and beautiful instead.
She's terrified of being "selfish", but she's clear what sweeping her entire self under the rug nets her...and she just can't go back to that.
She's exhausted and in love. She's navigating the toughest of situations and getting more support than ever. She's feeling the heat of more judgment from others and being more compassionate with herself. Many think she's lost her mind; she's never felt more sane.
She's giving less fucks than ever before.
She needs a damn nap, but CHEESE AND RICE I just want to give her a hug and a high 5.
It's truly brutiful...one of my fav new words from Glennon Doyle Melton.
I cannot imagine doing anything else.
So, this summer I realized in a conversation with my 9-year-old that perhaps she was hearing things about S-E-X. And then I realized, "SHE'S 9!!" Seriously, how do they grow up so fast?
In my mind I had planned to talk to my kids about sex between the ages of 6 and 8. There was a time that I could have spouted off more research backing up my decision, but right now....I can't remember the details. I just have been clear that I didn't want the talk to be a ONE TIME, really awkward, out-of-no-where thing; I didn't want them hearing about it from someone else first; and if an adult is ever inappropriate with them I want them to be able to have clear words to put around it.
I want this subject to feel a lot more approachable than it did with my parents. This is not a very high standard considering the extent of "the talk" for me was throwing a book on the subject in my direction and my mom - with a Cheshire grin and a high-pitched tone- saying, "What did YOU learn today?!" at the dinner table after that intensely uncomfortable 5th grade class.
"I don't know. Nothing." EW. I was NOT answering that question. And that was that.
I've been talking to my kids about periods, uterus-es, tampons, boobies, and pubic hair since before they were in Kindergarten. My 4-year-olds could tell you that "Once a month mommy has to wear a diaper in her vagina because a fluffy pillow inside her body comes out as blood when a baby doesn't land on it."
One day in the car last year my daughter said, "How come all the BAD stuff happens to GIRLS when they get older?" So true, sister....so true. And then in an un-thought-out effort to help her feel better I said, "Well, when Kyan gets older his penis will get bigger when he kisses someone he likes and it will be hard to hide....that's kind of awkward."
The two of them erupted in laughter and disbelief....AND THEN my 3rd grader told all her friends at school the next day. I, apparently, hadn't been clear that this was information only to be talked about with parents.
MOM-FAIL. I picked myself up, and dusted myself off.
The day after I realized my daughter MIGHT be hearing things about S-E-X I sat down with both my 9 and 7-year-old (HOLY CRAP, he's SEVEN!!) and gave them the scoop.
I think most of the screaming happened when I told them that men's penises get hard and go INSIDE the vagina.
They screamed so loud the neighbor outside asked my husband who was "doing yard work", aka HIDING, what was going on.
It's like the discomfort had to come out somehow. And so they screamed. And we laughed. And they yelled, "MOM!!!! WHY ARE YOU TELLING US THIS!!!!?" And we watched videos of the sperm uniting with the egg. And they were in awe. And then my daughter said, "So you and Dad DO THIS?!" And they screamed at the response. And they asked questions. And we talked about how it can feel really good. And we talked about how it can feel really bad. And we talked about how, like most things in life, it's complicated. And they screamed some more.
And I thought about how I wished I had a place to scream when learning the nitty-gritty details of the birds and the bees, and I was glad that they felt comfortable enough to vacillate between letting it all out and re-engaging in the discussion.
And now, every once in a while I'll check in to see if they have any questions to which my daughter booms a clear, "NO."
And, MAYBE a couple of times, I have used the threat of talking about sex to get them to stop fighting with each other. "SO, THE COUPLE START KISSING, AND THE MAN'S PENIS GETS HARD, AND...."
"MOM!!" What are you doing?"
"Oh, just talking about sex until you stop fighting."
And, like magic, they're a united front. Sibling rivalry be gone.
I know...I'll probably be paying for their therapy some day ;-)
And then I'm editing the picture below today for my online course for couples as my kids walked in the door from school (there is an exclusive $700 coupon code available for those who've signed up for my newsletter until FRIDAY):
And my kids come up behind me and my daughter says, "Ewwwwww, that picture's GROSS, Mom." I stared at the picture trying to figure out what she didn't like...I LOVE the colors...I think it's pretty...I'm confused.
And then my son pipes in, "MOM! I can READ!!!" and I get it. S-E-X.
But hey, no screaming...so I guess that's improvement?
Talking about S-E-X with your partner is HARD ENOUGH. Have you thought about how you'll handle the talk with your kids? What's your plan? If you've already done it, what worked and what didn't?
P.S. If you're interested in the online course for couples, don't panic. I don't expect the course to sell out immediately. However, the first 10 couples who sign up will get free tickets to my March 4th Date Night Workshop Series (the January event has already SOLD OUT). Sign up for the newsletter to be sent your $700 discount code later today. Registration ends this Friday, 11/25.
Can you feel it? We are about to enter the most seriously awkward of holiday seasons EVER.
Politics. Bullying. Name-calling. Racism. Sexism. Misogyny. Social justice. Conservatives! Liberals!.....it's all about to be going down around your holiday spread. Grab the....stuffing.
Already imagining infuriating things your relatives are capable of saying?
YOU are not alone.
And I don't think Adele can save us this year.
So, I've put together a few expert tips to get you through this most-difficult of Holiday Seasons.
1. This one's tough.....Check all your righteous superiority at the door. Here's how I think about it. Superiority is:
I'm right; you're wrong.
I'm better than you; you're less than me.
I'm smart; you're stupid.
And it's definitely not correlated with creating change, but it is likely to produce increased levels of defensiveness in the listener.
It will behoove you to check all of that at the door. In EVERYONE's MIND they're RIGHT. EVERYONE is doing what they think is BEST.
I KNOW...that's REALLY hard to believe right now.
But when you enter into a conversation from a superior place, you are inherently communicating that the other person is wrong, less than you, or stupid. This will most likely get met with defensiveness and MORE superiority. What does that get for you? A conversation where everyone is talking, but no one is listening...and these can easily escalate.
Yelling happens when people don't feel heard.
When someone tries to enter a conversation with me from this place I don't engage the content, I address the intent instead: "I hear you saying that you're right and I'm wrong....."
If someone is seeking to understand, by all means, we can chat all day about our differing opinions....if not, I WILL NOT go there. At this point you have 2 choices depending on what's happening inside of you: Stay, and seek to understand their perspective (if you do a REALLY good job at this they could deescalate and may even become willing and ready to seek to understand YOUR perspective) OR walk away. Excusing yourself might be a good option if you're finding yourself boiling inside with defensiveness and superiority....really wanting to teach THAT STUPID JERK A LESSON!!!! Breathe, friend. Breathe.
2. Be clear about what's NOT OK before you walk in the door. Bullying and disrespect are not OK...even if it's bullying or disrespecting someone who's not in the room.
I had a client this week say, "You know, I usually ignore my in-laws' racist and sexist comments, but my kids are getting old enough to understand...." Sound familiar? So, what's your plan?
I know people don't want to "fight in front of the kids", but I think we get confused about the difference between fighting and drawing boundaries.
Engaging in conflicts that involve name-calling and yelling? NO! I don't want that for my kids.
CLEARLY understanding how to draw clear, firm, yet gentle boundaries with ANYONE...even loved ones... is something I do want for my kids.
But here's the problem I see. MANY people are so overly concerned with being nice and keeping the peace that they perceive drawing boundaries as MEAN. They see drawing boundaries as bullying.
We HAVE TO GET CLEAR on the difference. The difference is the intent.
Bullying comes from a place of superiority: I'm better than you.
Boundaries come from a place of equality: We are equal, and your behavior is NOT OK.
Ignoring disrespect to avoid a conflict with another person doesn't make the conflict disappear...it invites the conflict inside of you. Who goes home with all the discomfort? YOU. Who goes home having imaginary conversations blasting that other person with your perfect imaginary comebacks? YOU.
Ignoring disrespect is disrespectful to yourself. It's also disrespectful to the relationship as you're inviting resentment into the relationship that the other person didn't ask for.
Put words around what you're not ok with BEFORE you walk in the door and keep your responses 10 words or LESS.
3. Don't EXPLAIN your boundary. Boundaries are simply expressing what you are not ok with. DO NOT get roped into explaining them. Boundaries DO NOT require explanation!
Boundary = "Hey, Uncle Frank, talking about Muslims like that is not ok with me."
An explanation FEEDS the bully, it invites him into an argument. Explanations are arguable statements. Boundaries are inarguable statements. Just put your boundary on repeat.
Boundary on repeat = "Talking about Muslims like that is not ok."
4. Pretend you're British or an alien - Wha?! Stick with me on this one. If you were from another country or planet... PERHAPS you could behave more like an anthropologist at Thanksgiving....an outsider, looking in...studying these people, trying to figure out what the frap they're all thinking and WHY. You could seek to understand them and observe without taking any of it personally. If someone says something you REALLY disagree with, if you're from another planet, you get to think something like, "Huh, that's SO interesting. Just fascinating," instead of "CHEESE AND RICE, what a moron!!!!" and reaching for your 12th glass of wine.
I love you all...and it is my beliefs that we're all just doing our best with what we have and that growth and change is possible, that will get me through these 2016 Holidays.
Happy Thanksgiving, America!
P.S. It's the very best time of year to join my 8-week online course for couples, the Love, Sex, Kids Course (no kids required). You get the $700 discount, and the "clock" doesn't start on the training until Jan 1.
This means you can "stock up" now, enjoy the training at your leisure, and you don't have to start until 2017.
The discount code is only valid until Black Friday and is available to those on my Newsletter List. Sign up here, you can unsubscribe at any time.
You send a friend a text message and she doesn't respond. You find yourself checking your phone, waiting for her response.
You start to think things like,
"How rude. I WOULD NEVER not respond to someone."
"If people are important to me I MAKE TIME to respond."
Maybe you even start fantasizing about teaching her a lesson that includes the word "SHOULD" in there somewhere.
If you have thoughts like these the truth is, you're hurt. How do I know that? Read those thoughts again, the intent behind them is superiority: I'm better than you.
We only feel the need to be superior when we feel inferior.
Our initial response to situations harbors a whole lot more information about how we think and feel about ourselves than proof of the rightness or wrongness of another's behavior or what others think and feel about us.
For instance, if you find that your reaction in moments like these is superiority, then these reactions most likely have roots in some beliefs based in inferiority you have about yourself like:
If you're reading this and you're like, "DANG. I do that!" you're probably wondering how to stop it.
Uncovering and unraveling the core beliefs and the response to life they create takes time and practice. Choosing another response over and over again, checking out your perceptions, and really questioning the meaning you're attaching to situations takes deep introspection and often an outsider to help you know when you're doing it...again.
The goal is to eventually BELIEVE in the truth of who you are. You are important. You are enough. You are valuable. You are worthy.
But in order to start collecting evidence for those beliefs you have to start acting from them FIRST. It is not the other way around.
Recently I emailed another business owner about partnering in a strategic and win-win type of way. One of my core beliefs that comes up for me often (especially when stretching into unchartered territory) is that I'm a burden. As I crafted the email that familiar, fear-based voice inside my head started yammering: Are you REALLY going to bug her with this? This is ridiculous. This business doesn't want to do something with measly little YOU.
I recognize this voice. This voice has lied to me more times in my life than I can count. I've learned to not let this voice drive anymore, though. She cannot touch the wheel. She cannot make decisions UNLESS there's something in my immediate physical space I need to seriously be afraid of, like a saber-toothed tiger.
BUUUUUUTT...just to make sure the voice wasn't right, I sent the email to my husband in the other room and said, "ARE YOU SURE I SHOULD SEND IT??!!!" He texted back: "Send it. There's no reason they wouldn't want to partner with you."
I sent the email.
She didn't respond for 3 days. It didn't mean anything about me. She was excited to partner and wanted to know next steps. Whoohoo!!
I sent next steps which included setting up a meeting. No response.
1 week went by. I could have backed off at that point. I could have made the silence mean something about my worth and value and enoughness, but I didn't. As a business owner myself I know things I really care about can get lost.
So, I sent another message ALL ABOUT ME. I think it's really easy to feel guilt or shame when you're on the other end of a 2nd message. I'm careful to not even say, "I haven't heard from you..." because I think it can be read as, "You should have responded by now..." and shoulding on people and teaching people lessons IS NOT an intent I want to be perceived as coming from. SO, here's what I sent. I'm not above stalking ;-)
Just stalking you ;-) Last week I was deathly ill so couldn't have met anyway. Let me know if you can meet up this week.
I bet you're thinking, "She TOTALLY got a response!" Right? That might be because it's easy for you to see my worth and value. You're right about my worth and value...and another week went by with no response.
Old me would have died a slow death and avoided this person for the rest of my life at all costs.
Nope. I was not going to take this personally until I got word from her that I should.
I know something about people, and it's that they LOVE being lead to a decision. Think about these 2 scenarios....
SCENARIO 1: You're at my house and I say, "Hey, I gotta run upstairs and change....help yourself to whatever's in the fridge."
SCENARIO 2: Now, think about if I said, "Hey, gotta go change. There's this guacamole in my fridge and it's my grandmother's secret recipe. You have to try it! Help yourself and I'll be back down in a minute."
Which scenario would have lead you to be more likely to open my refrigerator door? The one where I lead you to a clear decision about what to eat, right?
And so, here's email #3:
Hi! I have some availability to meet this Friday from 1-4. If a 20-minute slot in there works for you, let me know.
I received an almost immediate response. Was it because I was more clear and specific? Maybe? What did it mean that she didn't respond to the first few emails? I have no FREAKIN' IDEA, but I'm not going to abuse myself by making up things that it means about me.
I hope you don't do that to yourself either. Think of the friendships, connections, relationships, and opportunities you might be missing out on...
You deserve happy relationships...but you have to believe that first,