“The Seven Principles For Making Marriage Work”–Chapter Three

This chapter begins with the premise that healthy marriages have two people who are emotionally intelligent.  By this, the authors mean that each person in the marriage stores important information about their spouse:  they remember important history, know who their spouse’s friends are, their spouse’s fears, likes, dislikes, anxieties, quirks, joys, passions.  The authors call this having a detailed “love map”.

The authors cite one of the major causes of marital divorce is actually the birth of the first child.  “Sixty-seven percent of couples in our newlywed study underwent a precipitous drop in marital satisfaction the first time they became parents.  But the remaining 33 percent did not experience this drop – in fact, about half of them saw their marriage improve……What separated these two groups?  You guessed it:  The couples whose marriages thrived after the birth had detailed love maps from the get-go….” Continue reading

Late To Waldorf? Overwhelmed?

If you are coming in late to Waldorf homeschooling or feel overwhelmed and overrun by dogma, I have a solution for you!  Please read the lectures given by Rudolf Steiner compiled in “The Renewal of Education.”  This set of lectures, given to a group of Swiss public educators only eight months after the first Waldorf school formed, is so accessible. The foreword is written by a favorite Waldorf educator of mine, Eugene Schwartz, in which he compares and contrasts Waldorf Education to John Dewey and Maria Montessori’s work and sheds light on the hallmarks of Waldorf Education:  the self –renewal and self-development of the teacher, the balance that feeling provides in education, and the approach of Waldorf education to the holistic child.

Waldorf education approaches the child from four different avenues. Continue reading

Chapter Two: The Seven Principles of Making Marriage Work


Chapter Two is entitled, “How I Predict Divorce.”  Based upon observing couples in his lab, Dr. Gottman lists the following difficulties couples face in communication, and especially in how they handle disagreements:


1.  “The Harsh Start-Up”.  His theory is that if a discussion starts off with criticism or sarcasm, that the conversation should be tabled until a different time.  Start over.  Harsh start-ups can be a predicting sign of other negative ways to interact as a couple.


2.  Criticism:  “You will always have some complaints about the person you live with.  But there’s a world of difference between a complaint and a criticism.  A complaint only addresses the specific action at which your spouse failed.  A criticism is more global – it adds on some negative words about your mate’s character or personality.”  “A complaint focuses on specific behavior but a criticism ups the ante by throwing in blame and general character assassination.”


3.  Contempt: Sarcasm, cynicism, name-calling, eye-rolling, sneering, mockery, and hostile humor all fall under this category.  These behaviors make a problem impossible to solve.    Contempt attacks character.  It demeans.  It conveys negativity.  Belligerence, which is anger that contains a threat or provocation, also falls under this category.


4. Defensiveness:  Research shows that defensiveness rarely makes a partner back down or apologize.  Defensiveness is a way of blaming your partner, and it tends to escalate the  conflict at hand. 


5.  Stonewalling:  Harsh startups, criticism and contempt and defensiveness all lead to  an essential tuning out of one partner.  In order to avoid a fight, the person just turns away.  Many times this is a protection mechanism because that person feels attacked and flooded by negativity.  Here is a sobering quote from this section of the chapter:  “The more often you feel flooded by your spouse’s criticism or contempt, the more hypervigilant you are for cues that your spouse is about to “blow” again.  All you can think about it protecting yourself from the turbulence your spouse’s onslaught causes.  And the way to do that is to disengage emotionally from the relationship.” 


6.  Body Language/Physiological Response to Negative Flooding – Men actually are more physiologically reactive to stress than females (see the book for more details why), so they are more likely to be the stonewaller in a marriage and shut down.  Men generally also seem to think in terms of righteousness and are indignant after an argument, or they consider themselves the innocent victim of their wife’s anger or complaint. 


Dr.  Gottman says that women normally bring up the sensitive issues in a marriage and the men, not as able to cope with these issues, avoid the subject or become belligerent or contemptuous in order to silence her.  However,  he contends that even if your marriage follows the patterns mentioned above, it is not a given that divorce is likely.  “In fact,”  Dr. Gottman writes on page 39, “you’ll find examples of all four horseman and even occasional flooding in stable marriages.”  (The four horseman are what I listed under numbers three through six).


7.  Failed Repair Attempts – the failure of repair attempts during disagreements are the strongest predictor of divorce.  In marriages where there is mainly criticism, contempt, defensiveness, it is likely repair attempts will fail. 


8.  Bad Memories – Happy couples tend to look back on their courtship, marriage and early married days with fondness.  They may even glorify the struggles they have gone through.  Unhappy couples tend to re-write the past with a negative slant.  


Dr. Gottman notes that when a couple at the end stage of marriage comes for counseling, they often are not fighting because they have so withdrawn from the whole situation.  They are distanced and emotionally disengaged.  He remarks that some people leave marriage by divorcing, or some remain married and just lead “parallel lives together.”  He also talks about an affair being a symptom of a dying marriage, not the cause of a dying marriage.  But, he also talks about how it is not over until it’s over and how he is convinced many marriages could be saved with the principles in this book of how couples interact when they are not disagreeing.


I say, lead on Dr. Gottman. I can’t wait to read more!

Many blessings,


Three Books of Import–Christian Book Reviews


I am back doing less work and projects right now, and more reading.  I recently finished “Making God Real in the Orthodox Christian Home” by Fr. Anthony Coniaris, which was lent to me by a dear local friend.    Thank you, dear friend.


There is something so peaceful and soothing about this book.  When I get bogged down in “what is this all about – parenting, homeschooling, juggling all these balls in the air” – this book reminds me:  “the primary lesson for children is to know the eternal God, the One Who gives everlasting life” (St. Clement).  A balm for the mothering soul, and such a great simplifying thought. Continue reading

Parenting Just For Today

One of my dear local friends  just sent me the most beautiful prayer from the book “Making God Real In The Orthodox Home” by Fr. Anthony Coniaris  (here is the Amazon link:  http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0937032077/ref=ox_sc_act_title_1?ie=UTF8&m=A6MHEJ10672MS) .  Here is the beautiful prayer she shared with me:

Continue reading

Sunday Inspiration From “Beginning to Pray”


“Beginning to Pray” by His Eminence Metropolitan Anthony Bloom is a classic that I think really  should be read by anyone on a journey to draw closer to Our Creator.  Here is a link to read a brief description about the really interesting life of Metropolitan Anthony:  http://orthodoxwiki.org/Anthony_%28Bloom%29_of_Sourozh


Here is an inspiring quote from this book:


“What we must do is to collect all knowledge of God which we possess in order to come into His presence, but then remember that all we know about God is our past, as it were, behind our back, and  we are standing face to face with God in all His complexity, all His simplicity, so close and yet so unknown.  Only if we can stand completely open before the unknown, can the unknown reveal itself, Himself, as He chooses to reveal Himself to us as we are today.  So, with this open-heartedness and open-mindedness, we must stand before God without trying to give Him a shape or imprison Him in concepts and images, and we must knock at the door.

Where?  The Gospel tells us that the kingdom of God is within us first of all.  If we cannot find the kingdom of God within us, if we cannot meet God within, in the very depth of ourselves, our chances of meeting Him outside ourselves is very remote.”


Metropolitan Anthony has many wonderful things to say about prayer, living up to prayer, taking up one’s crosses, going inward and how to do this, and so much more.  Here is the link to this book on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Beginning-Pray-Anthony-Bloom/dp/0809115093/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1310776866&sr=8-1


A lovely beginning to a day of rest –

Many blessings,


The Christopherus Early Years Book

is out!  Here is the link to the blog post announcing its arrival, and there is a link at the bottom of the post to order the book. The book is available only in eBook version, and costs twenty dollars.  It is over 430 pages long, and  has responses from so many wise mothers regarding  many of the most commonly asked questions and dilemmas of parenting in the early years.


Many blessings to you all,


A Review: “Ancient Paths: Discover Christian Formation The Benedictine Way”

I picked up this book at a local bookstore because I was very intrigued by the author’s experience as a Presbyterian minister who is also a Benedictine oblate at a monastery in Oregon.  I also have been recently interested in Christian formation from a contemplative perspective.  I feel myself drawn more and more to this path in deepening my own walk and am studying many of the lives of the Saints and the Desert Fathers in accordance with Anglican/Episcopalian tradition.  There are actually a number of Anglican/Episcopalian monasteries based upon The Rule of St. Benedict, and a number of Benedictine oblates who seek to live their lives in faith according to the Rule of St. Benedict within their own place in the world, whatever their job or marital status might be.

This book is divided into two main parts. Part One includes “Ancient Perspectives On Christian Formation” and has 7 chapters, including How Benedict Transformed the World, Benedictine Essentials for the Journey, The Path of Communal Prayer, The Path of Spiritual Guidance, The Path of Ordinary Spirituality, The Path of Lectio Divinia, The Path of Hospitality.  Part Two includes “Christian Formation As A Way of Life Together” and includes chapters on How Benedict is Still Transforming the World, Five Case Studies of Christian Formation, A Guide For Christian Formation in a Local Church, User’s Guide to Going on a Monastic Retreat,  and A Year of Tools for Christian Formation. Each chapter has a bullet-point list associated with it at the end with different activities and further reading to do in order to take steps into deeper Christian formation.  

The book starts with an apt description of private spirituality, antimomian spirituality and nomadic spirituality and moves into the inner and outer life of the Christian.  Benedictine formation begins with a commitment to stability in community, fidelity in community and obedience in community.  Then the author takes the time to talk about the life of Benedict, which was really fascinating in and of itself and he also discusses the impact Benedict and Benedictine monasteries had upon the world in the arts, literacy, health care and economic development.  Later in the book, the author writes, “In this efficient system of communal labor, Benedictine monks planted orchards and vineyards, hand copied hundreds of thousands of biblical manuscripts, founded and maintained most of the first libraries of Europe, created crafts guilds that birthed the artisan middle class of medieval Europe, dug wells, and built irrigation systems interlacing much of Europe.”

Chapter Two details the essentials of the Benedictine way of life, including spiritual leadership, shared wisdom, tools for spiritual formation, obedience and humility.  There are twelve steps in an ascending ladder of humility alone, which provides so much food for thought in how to live.  One of my favorite chapters was Chapter Three, which went through “praying in the dark”, morning prayer, praying through the psalms and The Divine Office.  I love how the author points out that “the Jewish people have always viewed the book of Psalms as their prayer book, the instruction manual for the life of prayer, both in community and solitude.”  Jesus prayed the Psalms from the cross,  and the early church prayed the Psalms, so it was fascinating to see how this is such a rich and important part of prayer life for so many.   This is probably one of my most favorite chapters in the book, along with the section regarding “Silence and Solitude” in Chapter Six and Chapter Twelve:   “A Year of Tools For Christian Formation.”  I think the chapters and sections on obedience are also important for thoughtful reading as obedience doesn’t seem to be a popular idea any more but  vital to living life in the Christian faith and I think also with  living peacefully with each other. 

I didn’t feel as drawn to the chapters in the book discussing how to implement a Benedictine Rule within your own place of worship; I guess I was reading this book and thinking more of this path for myself rather than for my parish. However, with the emphasis within the Rule of St. Benedict, of course this makes perfect sense.  Perhaps it is just the idea of bringing this into community and organizing that seems challenging to a beginner like me who is just starting to deepen my walk into contemplative practices.

All in all, a book well worth reading from Paraclete Press,  Here is a link to the e-book version so you can look at it for yourself:   http://www.paracletepress.com/ancient-paths-discovering-christian-formation-the-benedictine-way-epub.html 

Many blessings,


A Review: Autumn Tales by Suzanne Down

The funny thing about doing reviews is that I can tell you what I like or don’t like about something, but those may not be the things YOU like or dislike.  So, like everything else on this blog, please filter it through the fact that you are the expert on your own family and you will find in your heart what works best or does not work best.  Find what resonates with you!

Onto the review!  This is a paperback, spiral-bound little book of about 38 pages or so entitled “Autumn Tales:  A seasonal collection of poems and stories to be a helpful resource for teachers and parents.”

This book begins with 11 pages of verses that cover all the things one would see or associate with fall:  leaves, wind, farm animals and worker archetypal characters, geese, Harvest moons, pumpkins, spiders, witches for Halloween, apples, acorn fairies, ponies, Michaelmas swords and taming dragons, lanterns, Jack Frost, scarecrows and more!  The verses would be especially wonderful for ages 3-6, and perhaps you could even stretch them into using them for the grades or using the suggestion of movement from a verse for Form Drawing or  poetry or handwriting practice for the grades after the children learn the verses orally.  (yes, there is that oral work to handwriting to reading practice again!) .  I also like the idea of taking these verses and using them as a basis for your Nature Table or even taking the verses and crafting a fine story out of them.  For example, there is a sweet verse about a spider and a mouse living in a warm, snug little pumpkin house all winter that would be easy to make into a longer story.

The stories themselves are: Harvest Moon Magic, Piper’s Wild Plum Pie, How Witchamaroo Became the Pocket Witch (this story is a Halloween tradition in our house!  Who does not like Witchamaroo?), The Star House (great for visits to the apple orchard to pick apples), The Apple Elves, Star Kisses, Mother Earth’s Children, Little Boy Knight (a Michaelmas tale for young children), Why Trees Turn Color in Autumn, How Corn Came to the World, The Wise Ant  and Autumn Bear.

The stories themselves would most likely appeal to the four to six year old crowd, although a three-year-old could follow “Autumn Bear”.   I find many of the stories delightful myself as an adult, so again, I think it would all depend how you decide to work with them and bring them into gardening or seasonal traditions. 

There is one page at the back of the book with some simple patterns for a maple leaf, a pumpkin, a red apple and a mouse in order to make some finger puppets.

If you are interested in learning more about this book, please see this link over at Juniper Tree School of Story and Puppetry Arts:  http://junipertreepuppets.com/books/

I had the great fortune of once attending a workshop with Suzanne Down; my secret dream is to one day go through her puppetry arts training.  Ah, the big dreams of life!

Many blessings,


The Christopherus Waldorf Curriculum Overview for Homeschoolers: A Review

“The Christopherus Waldorf Curriculum Overview For Homeschoolers” by Donna Simmons is an engaging resource that will take you grade by grade, topic by topic, through what is typically done in a Waldorf School, and most importantly, how to work with this in the home environment and how to use your home as the advantage that it is within your Waldorf homeschooling experience.

Homeschooling with Waldorf is not about re-creating a Waldorf School within your home; being home as advantages in its own right.  Donna Simmons writes in the preface of this work that she wrote this book “…because there seemed to be a distinct lack of material available to homeschoolers presenting Waldorf education in a meaningful, yet doable way.  I wanted to help parents catch a glimpse of the depth of knowledge that informs Waldorf education and to also enable them to find their own way of working with it, preventing burnout and feeling of overwhelm.”   She also notes on page 4 that “Waldorf-inspired homeschoolers, in my opinion, should not seek to copy what happens in Waldorf schools, but rather to understand how and especially why certain topics, subjects, methods and practice occur in Waldorf schools, and then find material that fits the bill.”  I think those statements resonate with so many Waldorf homeschooling mothers!  I like that the mission of Christopherus Homeschool Resources, and indeed this resource, is to help parents learn about Waldorf education and bring it into their homeschool experience, no matter what method they would label their homeschooling. 

Part One includes chapters on Waldorf Education and Homeschooling, A Visit to a Waldorf School, The Waldorf Home, Homeschooling with Waldorf.  Part Two includes a look at grade by grade and topic by topic (which includes tracing language arts, handwork/crafts/gardening, foreign language, math, music, history (including fairy tales, legends and myths), art (drawing, painting, modeling), geography, form drawing, science, and movement/games/sports through the curriculum.  Part Three includes the chapters Home is not School, Nuts and Bolts, Questions and Answers and A Peek at the Future:  High School.

Donna Simmons writes about the first three seven-year cycles of ages 0-7, 7-14 and 14-21 and provides insights into these phases that will shape your children for the rest of their adult lives.  She provides a look into a Waldorf school grade by grade (grades 1-8) and then looks at “The Waldorf Home” in Chapter Three.  This chapter has such important information regarding how to be a homemaker.  This is one of my favorite quotes from page 42:  “Play clips and pink cloths aside, it seems to me that there is a fundamental principle or understanding which surely must live in a home which strives to be “Waldorf”….Taking in, living with, thoughts around what is best for a child as she grows, what helps her develop and flourish, needs to be the basis of our family and home life as much as it needs to be the basis of our homeschooling.”    She talks about developing a rhythm in the home, about discipline and how discipline looks different depending upon which seven-year cycle the child is in,  views on media and how this changes as the child grows…really profound things for ALL parents to think about, not just Waldorf homeschooling parents.

She talks about love being the bedrock for the Waldorf-inspired homeschool, and the importance of self-development along with knowledge of child development.  In the grade by grade section, each grade is discussed with a possible schedule for the year laid out.  There are lists for resources of each topic/subject and suggestions as to how to bring these things at home.  I like the chapter entitled “Home is not School” where the differences between home and school are thoroughly discussed.    Donna Simmons writes on page 198, “To my mind, family is the number one reason to homeschool.  I feel that for many people homeschooling is the way for them to build truly healthy families which nurture healthy individuals.  Within such a setting wonderful educational opportunities can arise and by working with Waldorf, which is concerned with each individual’s health, we can watch our children and families flourish.’    Yes!

There are suggestions for child-led versus curriculum, working with multi-age children, designing a schedule.  The Question and Answers section alone probably has many of things Waldorf-inspired homeschooling parents wonder about.

This is a resource that will help you through many years, and I think one you will turn back to over and over.  It offers pearls of wisdom for beginner and veteran Waldorf-inspired homeschoolers alike.  Here is a link so you may look at it for yourself:  http://www.christopherushomeschool.org/bookstore-for-waldorf-homeschooling/essential-christopherus-publications/waldorf-overview-for-homeschoolers.html

Many blessings,