***** 5 Star Serving Your Spouse *****

Question for Spouses and Lovers; If your lovin’ was named after a restaurant, what would it be? 

I didn’t ask my wife this question.  But rather I recently asked what’s her favorite restaurant.  Her answer was Citizen Kanes Steakhouse, a nice little spot in the St. Louis County municipal town named Kirkwood.  I took her there for our one and only visit during our most recent anniversary. 

Citizens came highly recommended by someone whose name escapes me.  But he or she had enough credibility to make break out in ‘big shot’ mode and make dinner reservations for what was sure to be a wonderful, but pricy experience. 

I was correct about all of the above.  The experience was awesome.  Sitting at a cozy little table in the corner upstairs, we enjoyed wine, appetizers and a steak that we both agreed was the best either of us ever had.  The service was nothing short of outstanding either.  We left the restaurant feeling extremely satisfied and thoroughly impressed.  We promised ourselves that we would visit again at some other special occasion.

citizen kanesCitizen Kanes

Part of what makes a restaurant experience unique, is the combination of meeting a primal need (eating for survival) and the extras that tap into another sensual desire which is to experience pleasure.  Eating touches four of the five senses.  i.e., sight, smell, touch, taste.  (You can get the fifth sense of hearing if the food is sizzling when you receive it.)

I liken the primal needs and pleasures of food to love and marriage.  Each partner embodies the restaurant service provider, as well as the one seeking to satisfy a hunger within.  To sustain health, we each need a steady diet.  Being fed once a month, week, or any random day is not going to make for a healthy and sustainable life.  However, food isn’t the only essential for creating an enjoyable dining experience.  There is also the atmosphere, the lighting, the décor.  A restaurant can have the best food, but if the atmosphere is not appealing to the eyes and nose, or if the host is not professional and inviting, even if the customer endures long enough to try to meal, the negative presentation can taint the entire experience.

The finest dining establishments entail minutia towards the slightest of details.  This includes the ingredients as well as the preparations.  The temperature and time in which to prepare certain items.  There isn’t just the main course, but the wine and the appetizers.  In order to succeed in providing Five Star service, I have to be on top of all the little details that make my abode a welcoming paradise.  Relationship food isn’t just functionally natural, it’s also emotional and spiritual.  It’s wrapped in a blanket of security and protection, fun and sensations.  I am the owner, the greeter, the server, the chef, and the general manager.  My #1 goal is to satisfy my customer so much that she never desires to eat at any other establishment.  I must be versatile and nuanced enough in becoming all things that I may please one.

wine

Perhaps you think this is all kind of over the top.  That it doesn’t take ‘all of that.’  Here is something to consider.  Your lover is your customer.  And your customer is going to be hungry.  You may think your customer should always just show up at your doorstep.  But don’t sleep on this; There are many restaurants to choose from.  All of them with signs advertising what it is they have to offer your lover.  Some restaurants cater to the cheap date.  They deliver fast food in just a few moments.  You can get drive-thru service; go to the window, make a request over the loudspeaker, (phone, email, IM) and ‘wham bam’ receive services without even getting out of the car.  Some go above that, perhaps he/she would have opportunity to sit down a while and enjoy a meal.  The experience may not be so good that they want to go everyday, but perhaps there is something on the menu they enjoy.  Other businesses go the the very top of the food chain.  (Pun intended)  And get this, none of these restaurants care about where your lover dined previously.  They will welcome his/her business now! It doesn’t always take that much effort either.  Hell, nowadays one can even get a meal at a gas station!

And so it is with your lover. My goal is to represent the best of what my wife desires, (the most flavorful steak ever with all of the extras) while being able to quickly convert to something she just wants to snack on.  Even she doesn’t want to eat steak every day.  In my eyes, when it comes to taste and service, the customer is always right.  As the service provider who wants her repeat and exclusive business, I must adapt according to what she desires on the menu at any given moment. I am her personal chef.  And I have to be open for business at all times.

The purpose behind the goal, is that as she goes about her business and she sees the lights of golden arches, spots the brightness of the castle; as she passes by that spot that sits outback, she won’t consider stopping in because she’s already full and satisfied. 

So I ask you, what is your loving like?  I want my lovin to be like….Citizen Kanes~

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Ending No Fault Divorce: Guest Commentary from Leah Ward Sears

I found this article on CNN.com to be interesting.  It’s definitely something we should talk about.  As a man who came from an unstable background as a child, the older I get, the more I feel that families and stable homes for children are the foundation of a solid community.  Strong families are what make nations great for so many reasons.    What do you think?

Leah Sears stepped down as chief justice of the Georgia Supreme Court to work on strengthening families.

Editor’s note: Leah Ward Sears stepped down this week as Chief Justice of the Georgia Supreme Court. In 1992, she became the first woman — and youngest person — appointed to Georgia’s highest court.

ATLANTA, Georgia (CNN) — After Tommy’s sudden death, we found among my brother’s personal effects a questionnaire he had completed in 2005 for a church class.

The very first question was a fill-in-the-blank that went like this: “At the end of my life, I’d love to be able to look back and know I’d done something about …..”

“Fathers,” Tommy wrote.

When asked to identify something that angered him that could be changed, Tommy wrote, “Re-establishment of equity and balance and sanity within the American family.”

My brother was born to be a father, and he grew into a good and loving one. Tommy was tall and handsome, smart, witty and fun. A graduate of the Naval Academy and a Stanford-educated lawyer, he married and fathered a little girl and boy who were the center of his life.

Tommy felt that one of the worst problems in our country today was family breakdown and fatherlessness. He railed against intentional unwed childbearing and the ease with which divorce was possible. He didn’t like that we have become a society that values the rights of adults to do their own thing over our responsibility to protect our children.

As a judge I have long held a front row seat to the wreckage left behind by our culture of disposable marriage and casual divorce that my brother so despised.

No-fault divorce was a response to a very real problem. The social and legal landscape that preceded it largely prevented casual divorce, but it often trapped people in abusive marriages. It also turned divorces into even uglier affairs than they are today, forcing people to expose in court damaging information about their children’s other parent. That system was intolerable, and we should never go back to that.

But no-fault divorce’s broad acceptance as an unquestioned social good helped usher in an era that fundamentally altered the seriousness with which marriage is viewed. It effectively ended marriage as a legal contract since either party can terminate it, with or without cause. This leaves many people struggling to remake their lives after painful divorces that they do not want. It also left many parents cut off from, or sidelined in, the lives of the children they love.

When Tommy divorced, as in so many cases, a bitter struggle over resources and the children ensued. My brother came to believe that the legal system turned him into a mere visitor of his children.

Tommy eventually accepted a job as a lawyer for the State Department and went to Iraq (and later to Dubai) in order to make the money needed to support his children. Being in a war zone, under terrible conditions without the children he loved, was unbearable to him.

On November 5, 2007, my phone rang before daybreak. A U.S. Foreign Service officer was on the other line. Was I the sister of William Thomas Sears?

I knew before I was told what had happened. Tommy had died. But the cause took my breath away: My brother had taken his own life.

I know I’ll never understand fully all that factored into his decision to kill himself. No doubt Tommy was wrestling with more demons than he had ever admitted to me or knew himself. But as a divorcee myself and, for a number of years, a single parent, I know the immense pain of divorce and its aftermath. The limitations the law placed on Tommy’s right to raise his own children after his divorce magnified my brother’s pain and was, I believe, more than he could live with.

Tommy was only 53 when he committed suicide. That was more than a year ago, and I am still learning to live without him and live with the fact that this man I looked up to all my life chose to end his own life.

Tommy’s loss has catapulted me even farther down a path I was already on. This may sound like heresy, but I believe the United States and a host of Western democracies are engaged in an unintended campaign to diminish the importance of marriage and fatherhood. By refusing to do everything we can to stem the rising rate of divorce and unwed childbearing, our country often isolates fathers (and sometimes mothers) from their children and their families.

Of course, there are occasions when divorce is necessary. And not everyone should marry. But it has become too easy for people to walk away from their families and commitments without a real regard for the gravity of their decision and the consequences for other people, particularly children.

Removing no-fault divorce as a legal option may not be the right way to move forward, and the solutions we need may not be entirely legal in nature. But answers must be found. The coupling and uncoupling we’ve become accustomed to undermines our democracy, destroys our families and devastates the lives of our children, who are not as resilient as we may wish to think. The one-parent norm, which is necessary and successful in many cases, nevertheless often creates a host of other problems, from poverty to crime, teen pregnancy and drug abuse.

The loss of my brother has changed my life, as these losses so often do to people. This summer, after 26 years, I’m hanging up my robe as a judge to return to private practice.

I will spend some of my time teaching a course in family law at the University of Georgia Law School. And I have accepted a fellowship at the Institute of American Values in New York — a private, nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that contributes intellectually to strengthening families and civil society in the United States and the world.

At my request, the fellowship is named after my brother. As the William Thomas Sears Distinguished Fellow in Family Law, perhaps now I can truly do “something about fathers” — a mission I’m on for Tommy and a critical calling for all of us.

The Wasted Wealth of Pro Athletes

 

 • By the time they have been retired for two years, 78% of former NFL players have gone bankrupt or are under financial stress because of joblessness or divorce.

Wow!  This is some kind of story.  I knew that many athletes lose a lot of their loot on silly things.  But I had no idea it was at this rate.

I think that many athletes are so focused on their careers, that they allow others to do their decision making for them. 

I am reminded of how Earvin “Magic” Johnson got into business years ago.  He knew nothing about business but knew he wanted to be as successful if not more successful as he was during his NBA playing days. 

Instead of being a knucklehead trying to play ball with the big boys of the business world, he humbled himself and sought being mentored by more than a few very successful businessmen who had a track record.  He specifically made it clear that he didn’t want to be the front man for anyone.  He wanted to learn how they made decisions so that he could make his own when the time came. 

The proof is the pudding. 

Magic waited till his playing days were pretty much over before he really got heavily involved in the business world so he could do his due diligence.   One can read Oscar De La Hoya’s book where he talks in great detail of how he’s worked with the best to be mentored into the business world.  It’s sad to hear how so many other athletes in 2009 still waste their wealth and do not learn from these examples. 

The truth that they don’t get is that they have to work even harder in the business world than they did on their athletic gifts.  This is mostly because they are not familiar with how the game of business is played nor their ever changing rules of engagement. 

Oprah said it best.  “Sign your own checks.”  But hell you’ll still sign anything someone else tells you if you don’t know any better.

I understand how most are confused and frustrated with the learning curve.  But as the saying goes, “if you think education cost, try ignorance.”

The Blossoming Butterfly, Part 2

proud-dad

Part II 

It was June of this year.  School was out and my sons were to arrive from Atlanta and live with me for the summer.  Of course they wanted to see their sister and she wanted to see them as well.  I hadn’t seen my daughter in almost a year.  When they arrived they stayed at her house first because I was very busy working and preparing to give my other daughter away in marriage.  The original time I was given to expect the boys was changed by a week with one days notice.  The older sis was happy to have her brothers.  Once things settled for me I had to pick them up from her home.  Of course I had no idea where she lived.  I got the address and arrived to pick them up.

It was also the first time I saw my grandson just over 4 months old.  I only had a texted photo of him from his great-aunt.  When I saw my daughter we were both polite and courteous, though I could feel her apprehension as I surveyed her new home.  I truly felt like an outsider.  Still I made some small talk and added some jokes to loosen things up.  I let her know that she could see her brothers whenever she wanted to, and if she needed a babysitter, I was game.  This was only my 54th request for babysitting – but what the heck right?  

After several months passed, finally I got an opportunity to keep my grandchildren for an evening.  Even overnight!  I was blessed to keep them on my granddaughter’s 3rd birthday.   My daughter was so glad to get a break.  She called to check on them that night.  She expressed how tired she was, how her boyfriend wasn’t helping out as much, and how much she was about to go crazy.  She sounded loose, at ease.  She talked about things about her personal life… things she would normally never tell me.

What is this happening?  Is she opening up?  

I assured her that I understood.  And that there are times when a girl needs a break. I said that life is tough, and if she doesn’t learn how to balance things out and take care of her spirit, she will burn out with the responsibilities and cares of the world.  I said, “Girl look, when you need to get out, if you can’t do it on your own call your dad? Shoot you’re 21 now.  I don’t have to take you to Applebee’s.  I can take you to Café’ Eau at the Chase Park Plaza!”  (One of my favorite watering holes) She laughed and said, “I don’t know what that is.. but it sounds good to me!  I’m ready to go!”  We laughed. She said she was so appreciative that I took her kids for her, and that she really needed to hear that I was there for her.  (Something I had said for years but for the first time she heard me.  She then said, “You know daddy, we have had our times you know.”  (talking about the estrangement between us)  Then she got quiet.  And I then said, “But you know what?  That is all in the past.  It’s all about what we do from here.  I look forward to being an important part of your life, as well I need you in mine.  “Yea daddy that’s cool.  I am glad you said that.” 

Since then things have been very positive.  She went from unemployment to gaining two jobs quickly.  We talk about more things now.  Not just the common stuff.  Adult stuff that she thinks and goes through.  She even talks some about her “not so cool” relationship which before was totally off limits.  Its like for the first time since she was kid, she looks at me like the daddy she needs.  Except now its as an adult not as a little kid.

The other day she sent me a text message. “Daddy, can you pick me up from work today?”  We worked out the times and from there I squeezed her in between work and a meeting I had to attend that evening.  We picked up the kids from the babysitters.  My granddaughter, who knows me well now in her surprise to see me yelled, “Hi PAW PAW!”  The older lady who keeps the children said to me, “Your daughter is really sweet.” 

I got them home and went about my business.  On the way to her house she went on and on about how appreciative she was about me picking her up.  Back in the day, hell I was “supposed to do that.”  But she was so genuine.  It was like she was a new person.  She even texted me later that night cause she knew I was in a hurry.  “Did you make it to your meeting on time?”  

A few days before she sent me another text.  Talking about how she was going to be getting her stuff together and for me to just watch.  She was going to be blossoming before my eyes.  Ha!  To quote Sarah Palin, “You bet she is.”  I can tell she is a new woman. It brings tears to my eyes just writing this.  Oh that she would know that I love her so and that nothing compares to her in her daddy’s eyes.  I think I’m starting to get my daughter back.  And I am thankful for that!   

mom-and-son

Charelle… I love you, Daddi (that’s how she spelled it when she wrote me notes as a kid)

*Above: Charelle after graduating high school with dad and her daughter Chariah

*Below: Charelle pictured with her son Cameron.  A grown ass woman!