July 29, 2018


by Rod Smith

“My wife is constantly on her phone – not talking, but texting and checking for “likes” and seeing what her friends are up to. She takes it everywhere with her and is always distracted. She sleeps with it under her pillow. It’s getting really ridiculous. She’s more worried about how and where she will charge her phone than if we have basic necessities in the house. I am not kidding. I cannot have a conversation with her where she doesn’t have one eye on the phone and can even be texting while I am talking to her. She says women can multitask and that I am just being over sensitive. I am not. If I want to see something she’s doing on her phone she holds it so I can see – I am not allowed to hold her phone. I hate to think she is hiding something from me but I can’t help wondering. Is it ok for me to establish some ground rules for us as a couple? When I think about that I feel like I am treating her like a teenager. I would rather it come from her that it be insisted on by me. Please help.” (Edited)

This is not about phones. Seek face-to-face help for yourself first, and then for the two of you as a couple.

July 26, 2018

Friday (hearty) applause for:

by Rod Smith
  • Parents who hold demanding jobs, yet are involved in their children’s academic and sports lives.
  • Men and women who love and enjoy their in-laws and who break the stereotypes of the alienated or rejected in laws.
  • Grandparents who lavish their grandchildren with love and attention while supporting the family values treasured by their grandchildren’s parents.
  • Men and women who work the late shifts and serve their communities while most of the population are asleep.
  • Men and women who have beaten their addictions and live productive, sober lives as recovered addicts.
  • Teachers who have worked faithfully, decade upon decade, so their students may learn and grow and be equipped to find great success.
  • Bosses and supervisors who are kind, who listen, who seek to understand more than they seek to whip things into shape or to wield their power.
  • Churches and places of worship that embrace and welcome all people.
  • Single parents who are able to hold things together and provide stable homes for their children.
  • Divorced parents who are able to be kind and cooperative with their former spouses, even if it is just for the sake of the children they co-parent.
  • Men and women who deal graciously with the pain of the distance of having family living overseas.
July 25, 2018

Doormat to respect?

by Rod Smith

Do you want to move from any semblance of being a doormat to greater fullness as a respected person?

• Learn to say yes when you mean yes and no when you mean no and try to not let them get mixed up.

• Know that it is acceptable and even essential to know how to say “no” to even the people we are closest to even if they are not accustomed to hearing it.

• Learn that you are in charge of yourself and in charge of your own calendar and daily activities even if you are someone’s wife or husband.

• Know that you were not destined to be a victim for any reason and that victim thinking will keep you in victim mode.

• Learn to identify the moments of success and courage you have already enjoyed and place yourself in similar circumstances so you can get lots of practice at what you are good at.

• Know that you can cope when others are unhappy with you and are displeased with your newfound attempts to advocate for yourself.

• Learn how to increase your ability to allow those whom you love to experience the worthwhile pain that comes with growth, your growth.

July 23, 2018

Character revealed……

by Rod Smith

Rearing two boys has given me a hyper-focus on my own behavior. It’s made me think a lot about what they are learning from me as we accompany each other through life.

Character, and what it means and stands for, is something I try to teach my sons – and, of course, mine is therefore tested day in and day out. I am willing to bet that that is your experience too.

Here are a few observations.

Things that reveal character, or the lack of it:

• How people respond when coming into unexpected wealth or poverty.

• How people respond to those who can offer them nothing.

• How people handle their anger, disappointments, and losses.

• How people handle gossip and whether they pass it on or stop it in its tracks.

• How people handle stress.

• How people talk about and handle people who are “different” for whatever reason – race, gender, sexual identity, academic differences, or matters of national origin or language.

• What people consider good humor and where they draw the line with what they consider targets of their humor.

• How people respond to the poor and the needy.

July 18, 2018

Good with people?

by Rod Smith

Do you want to be an excellent employee especially when working with people?

  • Look people in the eye. Listen with your whole body. Listen to others before you speak. When you do speak, speak up and speak clearly. Avoid thinking you already know what a person is going to tell you or is trying to tell you.
  • Anticipate needs and wants of your clients (customers) while simultaneously being aware that you may anticipate incorrectly. It’s a fine balance. When you near perfection at this you will regard your work as art and not a job.
  • When faced with complaints or problems do not escalate matters, take sides, or assign blame. Focus on understanding and solving, not diagnosing.
  • Don’t chew gum at work, ever. Dress well and be well groomed, always. Shower, often (not at work).
  • Tell the truth efficiently and kindly. A good reputation, which can take years to build, can be permanently ruined with one lie.
  • Don’t date co-workers or anyone with whom you work. You’re at work to earn a living not find a spouse.
  • Turn your phone off at work.

Seeking a fellow teacher: A teacher, whom I know well, wants to have her 40 students (eight and nine-year-olds) correspond with similarly aged students in KwaZulu-Natal. Teachers, please reach out to Stacy directly at SGraber@SRESDragons.org.

July 17, 2018

Family visits

by Rod Smith

In a couple of hours Nolan Smith (former Beachwood Boys’ High School) will drive the few blocks from his house in Indianapolis to mine and we’ll head together to the airport.

My sister and Ursula, Nolan’s mother, are waiting at their departure gate at JFK in New York. They will arrive in Indianapolis after a long night over the African continent and  the Pacific before descending into the Big Apple.

Both women have visited numerous times but this time they are flying together.

The joy of their coming is not in the sights as wonderful as they are.

Ursula’s grandchildren will be so excited to see her. My sons, while budding adulthood may get a little in the way of the sheer joy they once expressed when Jenny arrived, really love their aunt.

Visiting family is expensive. Long-haul flights are hard on the mind and hard on the body, but such visits keep us sane. They keep us hopeful and service the invisible loyalties that come with being family.

We will laugh a lot, talk a lot, and spend hours spinning old family stories but what we are really doing is paving and repaving the platform on which our children will build their beautiful lives long after such pleasurable visits have ended.

July 15, 2018

Teaching personal responsibility

by Rod Smith

It’s never too early to model and teach children about personal responsibility. There are people of all ages who persistently refuse to assume it for their lives, treating it as some heretical or selfish notion:

  • It is not selfish, unkind, or “unchristian” to expect people of all ages to be responsible for themselves. Of course there are exceptions like the ill and elderly.
  • It is usually unkind and selfish and “unchristian” to expect others to bail us out of the consequences of our own irresponsible behavior.
  • Teaching personal responsibility is more modeled than it is taught, but it must also be taught and talked about.
  • The sooner a person assumes full responsibility for his or her life the better. The evolving plan, beginning at birth, will hopefully have children fully prepared to be responsible for their lives by age 15 or 16.
  • If we rescue and enable others (especially those whom we love) we deny them the joy of taking responsibility for their lives and endorse a message that they can’t get on without us.
  • Rescuing, saving, running interference for a sibling, parent, child teaches that person a way of life and sets the rescuer up for a lifetime of rescuing. Avoid behaviors you are unwilling to perpetuate.
July 12, 2018

Volunteer, or, Victim?

by Rod Smith

The Mercury / Wednesday / Volunteer or Victim?

I am all for loyalty, commitment, and seeing things through. But, some loyalty can be horribly misguided. This is especially evident in churches, schools; organizations where there’s a high need for volunteers. It can also happen in a job, especially when someone has been employed to “help out” and where there’s no specific job description.

Here are symptoms that you may be too loyal, too committed. It might be time to jump ship or throw in the towel if only to preserve your sanity:

• You are discovering that your level of commitment seems to exceed what you see others offering. You are taken by surprise at the discovery. You thought people were equally invested.

• You seem to get landed with the tasks and responsibilities it appears no one else wants to take on. You thought everyone was willing to make sacrifices for the good of the organization.

• Your areas of responsibility seem to be growing, and growing, and growing. You can’t find it in you to say no. Even thinking about it evokes guilt. Others seem to be able to say no quite easily and apparently experience no guilt.

Is even one out of three true for you?

It may be time re-evaluate, time to speak up, or ship out. Your loyalty may be transforming you into a victim.

July 12, 2018


by Rod Smith

Why is it so hard to get obvious alcoholics to see or to admit they are addicts?

Here are the three indications (only one is needed) of an addiction whether the addict is willing to recognize them or not:

  • Physical craving
  • Loss of job or status
  • Loss or threat of loss of a significant relationship

For the typical alcoholic the label “alcoholic” often suggests someone who is more desperate, more out of control, than he or she perceives him or herself to be.

Many alcoholics are well-controlled men and women who have perfected the art of charade. They hold important roles in our communities and appear successful.

To admit there is a problem with alcohol (or drugs, sex, or gambling) is costly. Denial is at least perceived as the better option than exposure, than seeking help. The closet is safe, it’s routine, and there are usually family members well trained in the art of enabling.

“Rock bottom” is a frequently used term suggesting that an addict will usually resist the label or resist getting help until he or she reaches rock bottom. It’s a sad place to reach for the addict and for all who love the addict and for all who are caught up in the addict’s web of denial and survival.

July 11, 2018

Love is always the better option

by Rod Smith

A significant problem with disdain, contempt, rejection, or downright hate is that it impacts the source more than it usually does the victim.

If you (or I, of course) harbor negative thoughts and feelings toward a former spouse, in-laws, parents, or neighbors we poison our own wells. We damage ourselves, and the self-damage usually outshines the impact on our victims.

Hate (or contempt or disdain – people usually like to euphemize hate with “softer” terms):

  • Poisons our view on the world and on all other people, even those we love.
  • Even the beautiful things and beautiful experiences life has to offer get contaminated if we harbor hate for even one person.
  • Hate has trouble being contained and its power infects everything we do and see and experience.
  • Makes us cynical and we become cynical for so long it becomes a way of life making us contemptuous of those who are hopeful and who express optimism.

Love, forgiveness, grace, and goodness are better than hate – yet hate has quite a following.

Grace, goodness, kindness will lift our spirits and open a world of fresh and wonderful possibilities.

Love is courageous and creative. It’s always the best option.