The Art of Sustained Attraction...

In my last piece I had alluded to beginning a journey with you all in search of the “Art of Life”, through remembrances of my own personal narrative.  We had begun with romantic love and the beginnings of a long and sustaining relationship.  In that vain creating a positive and successful romantic relationship I consider certain attributes essential: chemistry of course gets the ball rolling we all know that.  We are attracted to each other, “fall in love,” and then what?  They say, “First comes love then marriage then the baby carriage,” “happily ever after and all that.”  But what we really know is that over time the statistic remains quite steady, fifty percent of all marriages fail.

If chemistry is the seed of any romantic relationship: how important is it to cultivate that seed?  I have found it to be of the utmost importance.  After thirty-five years of marriage I can honestly say if it were not for our attraction to each other we would not have made it!  When times get especially rough there was always that chemical bond that would not allow us to separate from each other; like a moth to a flame.  At times I even felt like an addict often going back when I knew it was not good for me.  Over time, I have been glad that it kept me from “throwing out the baby with the dishwater” on those occasions of extreme frustration and anger.

As time has progressed obviously the lusty side of our relationship has waned.  The onset of menopause has been especially devastating to me personally.  I have met many women whose menopause did not impact their sexuality and for them this blessing cannot be underestimated.  I will say that I have been fortunate that my husband has continued to be attracted to me and we have worked with my physician and a therapist to work out the kinks.  I think we are over the hurdle and we are working on implementing new strategies and making an effort that will sustain us over the long haul.

I would recommend that any couple at any stage of a relationship, whenever they find themselves in a rut, make a commitment to seek the help they need.  We are sexual beings and having based our earliest connection to each other on that attraction it is paramount to a vigorous and long relationship to nurture and care for that key element.

Some of the things I have learned include:  spending committed time alone together, that includes weekly “date nights,” and vacations at least once a year alone.  It also requires a commitment to stay attractive, not only for your spouse, but also more importantly for yourself.  When you do not feel good about yourself, you do not feel sexual.  When you go on those weekly nights out, getting “gussied up,” feeling pretty/handsome is as important to you as it is to your partner.  I can say to this day, putting on a pretty dress and a pair of heels can do wonders for your self-esteem.  Add in a new hairdo and some pretty nails and you feel like a million.

I remember there were times in our relationship we were so broke the idea of buying a new dress, going to the hairdresser or nail salon before going out to dinner was literally a fantasy.  Luckily that was in the earlier years in our relationship and working at keeping ourselves attracted to each other was not a problem.  A bottle of cheap wine and sitting on the stoop of our apartment was “good times.”  As time progressed, I found the gold mine of “thrifting.”  I could go to a place, literally where you bought clothes by the pound.  I could spend five bucks and get a new outfit and a pair of earrings to match.  I could get all dolled up and we could go to happy hour at TacoCabana…. we had moved up!

There is one thing I can say about being young, poor, and in love.  You sure appreciate the little things.  We went out the other night for our “date night” and the tab was one hundred dollars including tip.  We could not get over it!  It wasn’t even a birthday or anniversary.  But it sure was fun!  We reminisced about the past, as we often do on those evenings, thanking heaven for our good fortune and dumb luck to have found each other.

We sure don’t have all the answers but I will say I feel like one of the luckiest women in the world and he says the same to me.  Nurture the seed of your relationship, water it, fertilize it and pamper it. Your primary romantic relationship will grow and sustain you in good times and bad.  In the pursuit of the art of life, finding happiness is our ultimate goal and sustaining a long and rewarding romantic relationship is one of the greatest ways to find such happiness.


Written by:
Tara Ubelhor M.Ed., LP 




The Art of Revisiting S.M.A.R.T.

In revisiting the Art of S.M.A.R.T. the acronym for goal setting, created by the authors of the Keys to Community College Success, Carol Carter and Sarah Kravits whom coined the “SMART Goal – Achievement Plan;” where S is for setting a strategic goal, M stands for making sure the goal is measurable, A stands for making the it achievable, and R for realistic, and finally T which guides the user to set it all within a timeframe.  Setting goals and attaining them are skills applicable to us all as lifelong learners. 

 I find this to be a simplistic but effective planning tool that is not only helpful but inspiring.  I find it inspiring because I believe it will be helpful in not only for defining my specific goals but helpful in breaking the goal down into achievable concrete steps.  This will help to alleviate anxiety and more importantly help with the “biting off more than you can chew” syndrome.  I tend to set goals, such as in the case of wanting to run a marathon as describe in my earlier piece: for the marathon itself.  Rather than setting the more achievable goal of relearning how to run first. One should start with the baby steps like stretching, jogging, endurance building and exercising.  These baby steps will help me to feel successfull by completing one weeks’ worth of outlined goals on the road to a “pie in the sky” marathon.  By patting myself on the back after a week of outlined goals I will build confidence slowly that I can attain my ultimate goal.

I also like this SMART system, because although outlined in the text for students and for goal setting related to educational and learning goals, as demonstrated with the goal of running a marathon it can be adapted to any and all goals.  I can see this being utilized for goals like budgeting as well as for personal and relational goals.  For example:  I would like to be more communicative with my spouse.  Specifically I would like to set aside time each week as a measurable goal.  I would like for the time we spend to be at a time and location when we have no outside distractions, TV, work, electronics, family etc.  This could be achieved by planning our monthly calendar together and setting aside two evenings per month when we are both free and available.  Utilizing our calendar we would have made it measurable as well as achievable while at the same time setting a time frame for implementation.   Thus setting a goal that is specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and within a set time frame!

This goal is one that all couples regardless of age, longevity, or status could and would benefit from.  The goal could grow and change, maybe adding specific topics to cover during those special evenings alone.  Or specific topics could be named that are taboo for those evenings, such as kids,…. for those of us with children.  Couples with children often find themselves only talking about the children and neglect talking about themselves.  This tool would help hone the specific, measurable, achievable and realistic goals.

I challenge you to pick one small goal to utilize the SMART tool on.  Once you have taken your small goal through the steps the second goal will be easier.  By the third goal you will have memorized the steps and possibly will begin using these steps to help strategically break down and create a plan for obtaining even the most difficult goals.



Written by:
Tara Ubelhor M.Ed., LP 

The Art of Friendships

I have recently made a new friend.  This alone might seem a simple and common thing.  I however have come to realize how very important and rare an occurrence this is. 

I am the type of person whom has had very few, but very real friends in my life.  Unfortunately, although at the time each was integral to my life; they are no longer with us or have moved on.  I can count the number for my lifetime on one hand. 

The first was a childhood friend whom remained a true friend until sometime in high school.  We began to drift and ultimately, although she was in my wedding our friendship ended and was never revived.  She would say it ended because we were different people than when we were children.  I would agree; that is obvious.  What was not obvious and sadly led to our demise was the change in life status.  I married young and she did not approve, I understood.  I also in high school, when we began to drift, did not approve of choices she was making and vice versa.  Most would say we outgrew each other.  But, I say although true, it was sad.  Know one else would ever know, no matter how many stories you told, the history we shared; it was a monumental loss.

The replacement friend I made in high school also judged my early marriage and ultimately failed to feel safe enough to share her own demons.  She drifted away and never revealed her true self.  This was a huge loss for her, as I would have embraced her had she shared with me, and could have been lifelong allies.  In the end I learned her secrets through others and I was sad she had not felt she could trust me with her choices.  Again this was an epic loss for me.

The first adult friend I made was one of survival.  We both shared our burdens; her more than I and ultimately it was our demise.  My husband would always tell me, “misery loves company”. Once my problems were faced and overcome, the bases for the relationship disappeared.  Although, I missed her, in the end I realized it was one of those one sided relationships.  We have all had those.

The forth, also an adult friend, made a little later yet simultaneous to the above mentioned; was one forged in similar lives.  We shared everything!  Our eldest children were two weeks apart in age.  We shared family get-togethers, birthdays, anniversaries, separations, addictions; you name it!  She was one of the finest human beings I ever had the good fortune to know.  My greatest regret is our inability to face our daemons at the same time and ultimately were not able to help each other at the most needed of times.  She lost herself and I was not there to help her.  She lost her life and I lost my dearest friend.  She is sorely and always missed!

My longest held friend was made entirely of her kindness and generosity.  I was new to our town, to my job, and to our way of life.  My children were overwhelmed with the transition on lifestyle, from big city to small town life.  We were all fish out of water and she could see it.  She came to me and offered friendship, guidance and solace.  She made overtures for my daughter, to help ingratiate herself to a rigid and unkind generational community of teenagers.  She was a pillar of the community and through her grace and goodness; although never ingratiated into the community, we were tolerated rather than overly maligned.  As the years progressed she came to know me well and was there for me in even my darkest hours.  She was a pillar of support and love, never wavering, nor judging.  We have both since seen our children leave home, left our jobs together, and moved into new lives.  We still call and meet every once in a while.  Our children stay in contact and even work together.  Proximity and time have taken a toll and I miss her presence in a profound way.  The sentiments are the same; the admiration and love will never change. Possibly with time we will make more time for each other as our lives allow.  But I do miss her.

That brings me to my new friend.  She works with me and does the same job with the same credentials.  We speak the same work language.  We have similar stories in many ways, and yet not, which keeps it interesting.  We are close in age and have children of the same age.  We both have successful children, which allow us both to brag yet not be envious.   We share a common set of values that transcend conversation, we have come to each other’s aid in response to those values and they have built a bond.  We are old enough and had our share of losses; enough to be cognizant of the fear of trust and betrayal.  Deciding to dive into a friendship is a scary experience.  It sometimes can be easier to stay superficial and not take the risk.  I am happy to say we have both decided to dive in.  I am ready for a new chapter of friendship. 

Although each of my past friendships has had some form of heartbreak, I would not trade a single one of them.  As I often tell my daughter, lessons, experiences, people, they all serve a purpose.  Finding the positive purpose is the key.  I am excited at the prospect of cultivating a new friendship whose purpose; I hope will be to carry us both into our golden years!


Written by:
Tara Ubelhor M.Ed., LPC 

The Art of the Masterpiece

It is with a weary heart that I write this piece.  We had a major loss at our school this week and the sorrow and suffering was deep and immense.  The overwhelming outpouring of love and concern was the saving grace of such a tragedy.

I found it particularly hard to see so many young people in the midst of grappling with the inability to feel whole.  Each student was trying so ardently to fill the gap, the need to “do something,” utilizing any and all tools available.  There were cards, pictures, posters, signs, Facebook pages, twitter messages.  It was a barrage of anecdotal attempts at filling the void.  As we have visited loss before, and are all familiar with the stages of grief, none of this took anyone by surprise.

What did take many of us adults by surprise and filled us with pride and joy was the enormous “collective.”  The school came together as it had never done before.  People joined together as “one” in a message of love and support.  Although I do not know these families myself, I can imagine that they could not help but be filled with gratitude and more importantly with vast feelings of love and support.

A vigil was announced the evening the two individuals passed at the local high school.  Literally hundreds of people came.  It was somber and sad.  But at the same time it was filled with a vitality of caring the likes the school had not seen nor the community itself had experienced for quite some time. 

We all say that bad things often happen for unknown reasons and that we may find good may come of it later.  In this instance, the good was easily and readily seen and accepted.  This is a community that should be so very proud of all its inhabitants and most importantly of its young people.

The lesson of living life to the fullest was the message learned among the spreading of many hugs and “I love yous.”  It was heartening to see young teenage boys, cry without abandon.  There was not only no shame, but these young men lead!  There was a feeling of openness available to all, to be who they were and to conceal nothing.

I only wish the youth of this community could look outside themselves and see their bravery, kindness and love.  I was particularly touched by one young man who shared his grief with our class regarding his own personal struggles and mentioned specifically the importance of paying attention to teenage angst.  They feel so strongly at this age, both positive and negative feelings.  He mentioned something that will forever stick with me and hopefully with all those in the room where he shared.  He drew from his spirituality and stated that we are all created as a “masterpiece.”  I do so hope these beautiful young people can come to see that within themselves.

We will all work together as a community to foster this new found cohesiveness and help to insure that the loss of these beautiful young people was not in vain.  Let us all as communities of humanity, all take heed and count our blessings and remember to thank those we love around us.  Smile to all and keep in mind each day that we are here such a very short time.  We must try to live each day as much as possible, as if it were our last.


Written by:
Tara Ubelhor M.Ed., LPC

The Art of New Beginnings...

May is a season of endings and beginnings both.  For many it is the end of a school year yet the beginning of summer.  For others, the end of elementary school and the beginning of middle school and so on.  I believe this time of year is inspirational in that respect.  We come to an end but are renewed in our efforts with our new beginnings, whether it be with something as profound as a graduation or as simple as the end of an ordinary school year.  Summer entices us to celebrate.

What will this summer bring?  Will it be a time of relaxation, rejuvenation in an effort to prepare for the coming fall?  Or will it be a time to get caught up on all the things we never seem to have the time for during the year, like catching up with friends and family, or cleaning out closets, garages and stacks of old mementos.

But then there are those for whom the summer is just one big continuation of the rest of the year.  There may not be that natural break that comes with the education system.  In fact, it can be more burdensome in regards to daycare and finding activities for children when there is no school in place.  For those I wonder, is there still a satisfaction that comes with the season?  Will the family vacation taken in the summer be sufficient to rejuvenate and sustain those with lesser breaks?

We are a nation with longer work weeks, less vacation time, and less family leave than in most developing countries.  We as a nation are doing much more with much less.  Our pull ourselves up by our bootstrap mentality which has served our nation well, has also been a burden to self respite.  I often wonder if the next generation, might turn as many did in the revolutionary sixties, to a more “turn on and tune out mentality”?  Quality of life may be the new mecca for those of the newer generation.  Rather than do more with less, possibly live with less and enjoy more! 

We all need times of rejuvenation and self-care.  If it is not built into our work schedule we must find a way to take those “mental health” days and care for ourselves.  Return to our inner artist, renew or reinvigorate with something we feel passionate about. Even a sunny afternoon at Barton Springs can serve as a chink in the armor of life.  There is a reason the old saying “stop and smell the roses” has survived the test of time.

I challenge us all to make the most of this summer in whatever way is kindly to your soul.  Make it memorable in its love of time and joy.  Make the most of the schedule you have to devote time to those whom you care the most doing the things you love.  Create some forever memories.  To new beginnings and happy summer!


Written by:
Tara Ubelhor M.Ed., LPC

The Art of Family Projects...

As I leave winter behind and enter spring season, I am uplifted and encouraged.  Much like the bourgeoning flora, I am renewed.  I long to drop the heavy cloak, both metaphorically and truly.  Although in early fall, the idea of heavy sweaters, wool socks, and cozy fires invigorate me with a scence of love and security; over time I have grown tired of its burden.

I look forward to the long sunny days, the outdoor activities and spring festivities.  I am particularly excited by transformative projects.  In our household we have always had “transformative” projects.  So much so that for most in my family the idea of “another” project brings distaste if not disgust.

We live in a hundred year old farmhouse.  It was not the farm house of a landed aristocrat but rather of a lowly sharecropper.  Actually the story goes; the home belonged to a well digger.  He used a forked stick, much like the bone of a chicken only much larger.  Legend has it that when used the pointed end would be drawn down earthward pointing to the place where one should dig, where water flowed beneath the ground.  It all sounds a bit like Ouija board type stuff, but never the less we have had numerous old-timers stop by our place over the years commenting on these amazing stories relating to this old place.

The reason they usually stop, speaks to my original objective; they come to comment on the glorious work my husband has done on this place.  They will talk about the days they played here as children and how markedly different the place now looks.  My husband with help from my children transformed the old farmhouse from a one story twelve hundred square foot “shack like” structure into a twostory two thousand six hundred square foot home.  It can count a wraparound porch, double back decks and some built in closets among its many additions and transformations.

Although daunting and at times overwhelming, this home is a treasure to me and to my family.  It warms my heart when I see, even my son taking someone new to our home on the “tour,” when they come to our home for the first time.  Anyway why shouldn’t he:  It is his elbow grease mixed in with that of his father, sister and lesser his mother.  I was the visionary; able to see potential where others could not.  I would labor for hours, daily on just the perfect combination of colors, textures, transformative structure changes, etc.

We spent a year without a kitchen, and a year with a bathroom upstairs at the end of a ladder and another with black plastic and tape as a wall serving as shelter from the cold.  At the beginning of the adventure we all slept in the living room with plastic and duct tape over the floors.  The addition of the first completed room was anticipated and celebrated probably more than any other.  Freedom at last from “each other.”  It is hard to imagine doing it all again and understandably why remodeling projects are not looked on with favor in our family.

However, although looked on with distaste I can tell you both my children can conceive of, create, and fix anything they set their mind to after their long arduous apprenticeship with their father.

My daughter at an Engineering camp the summer before she left for college was called out by one of her professors.  He said to us, ”you have got one hell of a daughter there,” she came in and worked the tools better than any of the young men in the group.  They did not take kindly to her for it either.  He said, “I took notice and watched from afar as she struggled to work and persevere without their help and with their sexist disdain."  It was a proud moment for us all.

My son has gone on to buy his first home.  A “fixer upper” in central Austin.   Much to his father’s chagrin.  But, they both got in there and turned a bland fifty’s bungalow into an open concept kitchen bathed in external light.  It is an entertainment mecca.  I believe they thoroughly enjoyed each other company through the process in lieu of its many and often overwhelming challenges.

So with this in mind.  We pick one small project per year and devote our spring to it.  So as the time approaches I prioritize my list and begin the narrowing down process.

So many things to do…so little time.


Written by:
Tara Ubelhor M.Ed., LPC

The Art of Filling an Empty Nest

As spring nears, I embark on a season of birthdays for those new to my family.  These are the birthdays of my new children.  Both my grown children have married within the last few years.  They both knew their spouses for over 5 years before marrying, so, although newly married, I have known them both now for quite some time.

However long I have known them they are both not only welcome additions to my grown children’s lives but to my life as well. As I have alluded to in the past, each has the bountiful gift of intelligence and humor.  My son in law can make fun of an obnoxious fool with the wit of a comedic savant.  The only person who will not know they are the butt of his joke is the obnoxious fool (and anyone not paying attention).  It is an art form at its highest level and good for a raucous laugh and endless storytelling.  When decorum and niceties prevail, but that one obnoxious fool continues, my new son-in-law to the rescue is the perfect medicine.  It is his profound intelligence that allows this sleuth like humor to avoid conflict and allows an otherwise antagonistic situation to turn to one of immense humor.

My new daughter-in-law, although quiet and reserved on the surface, also has a subtle yet biting sense of humor.   She takes you by complete surprise and brings you to your knees in both astonishment and revere.  On one occasion, as we prepared for a family gathering, my husband was rattling off complaints of some sort or another, either it was too hot, or too much work, or I had asked him to complete some “unnecessary” tasks, (probably that one) and she bluntly asked him, “would you like me to get you a tampon and some Pamprin.. maybe some cranberry juice?”  My husband, also not too shabby in the dry humor department, at this remark, bowled over  …he could not contain himself – “Check-mate!  I bow to you”, he said.  We all laughed for days over that one, and continue to tell the story often.

These two are diamonds; which, of course, I believe my children deserve.  They are well made matches all around.  Although humor was a staple in my children’s home, many of the things their partners have brought to the table were not.  For example, my son-in-law is an aficionado in the sleeping late department, which, for my daughter, is the trait that sealed the deal!   For a young woman who believes a Saturday nap till two in the afternoon is what weekends are designed for, she has met her match.

For my son, one, of the new additions his wife has brought to his life is the world of fine cooking and dining.   My daughter-in-law, a writer by trade, can write a description of boiled water that would make you drool.  She appreciates the subtleties of texture, color, and the intricacies of taste.  For a boy raised on Hamburger Helper this can only heighten his senses in every way!

These are single examples in a litany of what each has brought to the table in terms of each of their lives. They have made good matches!  They have chosen partners that not only are gifted genetically, as each is both bright and beautiful, but they are both well educated.  Beyond their education they are each profoundly aware; they each have a personality uniquely suited to my children and for that I am eternally grateful. 

The incorporation of new individuals into a family, infusing new and different ways of looking at the world, experiencing its nuances and sharing it with each other and with their father and I has been an unexpected addition and joy in my life.  The empty nest syndrome is very real.  It has its very real times of loneliness, sadness, and regret.  But the infusion of new and vibrant personalities into my life has been one of the greatest joys of this period of time in my life.  So for those going through this or soon to be, take heart, there is so much more to share and learn!

With this in mind, I would like to take this opportunity to thank both my “new children” for the joy they have brought to our family, but most importantly for loving my children in a way that makes me happy and secure in their future happiness.  I would also like to take this opportunity to wish my new children both a very happy birthday and thank them from the bottom of my heart for taking my treasures and keeping them safe with their love, their respect, and their friendship.


Written by:
Tara Ubelhor M.Ed., LPC

The Art Of S.M.A.R.T a Beginning…

As I continue to prepare for my upcoming class I am reminded of the building blocks to success

Although the emphasis on the course is learning and how to go about learning in the best way possible, I am reminded that although learning for its own sake is unmeasurably valuable, learning with a plan or goal in mind is of the utmost importance in regards to learning and retention of that learning.

For example, if I were reading an article in the course of a pleasurable respite, I might come across tidbits of information that I believe might be useful to me in the future.  I might turn down the page or even possibly tear out the page to place in my “save for later” file.  Possibly, if a pen or a highlighter were handy, I might notate my new found information.  But more than not neither a pen nor a highlighter is handy nor as I am comfy in my relaxed reading spot am I not too likely to stop and retrieve these items.  I might tell myself, I will come back to it later after I am done and take notes. But we know better, even if I retrieve the information later and place it in a “safe” place (folder etc.)  I probably will not go back and retrieve that information, much less incorporate it into my personal body of knowledge.

On the other hand, if I have a problem, a question, or a concern and go online or to the library to access that particular piece of information since I have a goal in mind, I am much more apt to prepare for the retrieval of the information by providing a pen and paper in advance.  I would probably take notes and even follow-up with further sources.  Having a specific goal in mind, searching for an answer to a specific problem, question or concern helped to prepare me and further to cement the information.

In my journey to prepare my students for my new class I have only began to scratch the surface of the many facets that will lead my students to a more successful journey.  These skills are applicable to us all as lifelong learners.  The author of the Keys to Community College Success, Carol Carter and Sarah Kravits, coined the “SMART Goal – Achievement Plan”. The acronym SMART stands for a tool used to set goals; one of the key elements to successful learning.  

The S stands for specific, M stands for measurable, A for achievable, R for realistic, and T for time frame.  The acronym serves to guide us as learners, advocating that in order to succeed one must set a specific goal.  This can serve as a guide for short term and long term goals. It can work in an educational setting as well as in our personal lives. 

To begin, the goal must be measurable.  From actual time measurement; hour to hour, day to day, month to month or something more ambiguous like, am I feeling stronger than before, healthier, happier, more satisfied, less stressed etc.?  Depending on the goal one would monitor measurable progress over time.

The A in SMART is for Achievable, which helps to set limits on the goal, helping to break it up into something manageable. For example I might wish to compete in a marathon but haven’t run in years.  So for now the achievable goal will be to start by running half a mile. 

The R in SMART, for realistic, might seem at first to be the same as achievable but realistic pertains more to the logistics of the goal.  For example, do I have the time, the resources and the circumstances in my daily life to make this a realistic goal and if I do not what am I willing or able to change to make the goal realistic?

Finally, the T in SMART is for time frame; this is the part where a very specific time line needs to be created in order to identify the steps for working toward the goal.  As in the case of the marathon; setting a time frame for achieving the first half mile of running, the second and so on. Setting a six month time line with daily activities from stretching to running, adding distance and time; this will help in the management of that often seemingly unattainable goal.

I am hopeful this tool will encourage my students as well as my readers in their quest for setting and securing some or all of their many goals!


Written by:
Tara Ubelhor M.Ed., LPC

The Art of Valentines...

The Art of (MY) Valentines

Valentines is the holiday for lovers.  It is also the holiday of red hearts, roses, cupid’s arrow and amore’.  It is a holiday that brings us memories of shared valentines at school, candy hearts with little sayings, our first Valentine’s Day dance and our first boyfriend or girlfriend.  It is a day that reminds us of the gifts in elementary or middle school and the parties to go along with it all.

Valentine’s Day for me is none of these things.  Valentine’s Day for me is my son’s birthday. 

I want to take this opportunity to pay a special tribute to him.   My son is grown now and he is happily married to a lovely girl and he has a very successful career.  He has played by the rules, done everything as he should and he has been and become quite successful.

These are of course reasons for me and his father to be more than proud.  But these are the little reasons to be proud.  The bigger reasons are for things like the way he thinks of others before himself.  From the time he was a baby he never took anything for himself that he did not ask for his sister to have one as well.  Although all boy, he was so kind and thoughtful.  I remember an instance when he was very small; it broke my heart that he had noticed my tendency to worry and he bought me a worry stone to add to my collection of rocks he had given to me over the years.  He didn’t want his Mommy to worry.

He has always been willing to work hard to make someone else happy.   His father, a master plumber by trade, wanted his son to work with his brain and not his back.  He made sure to take him to work to teach him what hard labor was like.  My son worked right alongside his father’s workers and they would comment that he could keep up with them.   For his first “girlfriend” in elementary school he wanted to buy her a mum for homecoming. His dad told him he had to earn the money, so he worked in the attic that whole weekend helping lay insulation.  For those not familiar - this is a dirty, hot, itchy job - and I don’t know an eight year old that would have done it.  When he was done he took his money and at the flower shop he painstakingly picked out each ribbon and bling to be placed on the mum and paid for it with his hard earned cash.

He has always been this way.  He is a boss now and he has employees that would rather drive in Austin traffic on a daily basis than transfer closer to home and loose him as a boss.  Everyone who meets him loves him and they should.  His sister puts it so well,

“my brother is my hero.” 

Not to say I can’t write a tribute to her as well and will, it’s just not for “My Valentine’s Day,” the best one in the whole world for a mother of a perfect son.  I remember once his girlfriend at the time, and eventually my daughter-in-law, made a powerful comment to me, after I had read an application letter my son had written for school.  He had written in the section asking for his goals in life; that he wished to be a good husband, a good father and a good man.  I had jokingly commented that he had left out a good son.  And she correctly stated; “he has already given you that.”   How right she was and how very fortunate I am!

He is truly a genuinely nice guy, and always has been.  He really stops to help old ladies, and people who need a jump start, he is the first to volunteer to help and the last one standing to help with a clean-up. He is a friend for life and cares and loves all those dear to him.  He has a smile that lights up a room!  These are but a few of the many examples I could give of his generous and sensitive nature.

Although he is lives right here in town, he is grown now and has his own life.  I must say I miss him very much!  It is hard to give up being around “that kind of special” on a daily basis.  For all you empty nester moms out there; although I enjoy my freedom, I sure miss the heck out of those days!  Thank you all for your indulgence in allowing me to share my immense pride and joy in wishing my son with all my love and admiration a Happy Valentine’s Day and Happy Birthday! 


Written by:
Tara Ubelhor M.Ed., LPC

The Art of Learning...

As the holidays come to an end and anniversaries have come and gone and one more year completed; I am embarking on a new untraveled path.  I was recently asked to return to the classroom as a professor for a community college.  I will be teaching a course in the psychology department on Keys to Success, a beginner course for students entering the world of community college.

Specifically, the course is designed for students entering an Early College High School.  This is a relatively new phenomenon; a little different from Dual Credit, which has been around for a while.  This program is designed to enable a cohort of students to take a designated set of courses, which leads to both a high school diploma and an associate’s degree.

As life long learners, the art of learning is a psychological journey we all embrace on a daily basis.  Although the course syllabus hopes to cover practical skills, knowledge and practice as appropriate to the course much of what will be taught is applicable to us all in our daily quest as life long learners. 

As I venture down this path I hope to uncover and share some of these universal truths.  This includes many important aspects of learning; from the type of learner we are to the variety of intelligences we have to the various ways we can cultivate our strengths and apply them to these universal-learning truths. I hope to share my journey from time to time.

As I prepare, I think of the young student who may sit in my class.  Will he or she have the skills, the confidence, and the work ethic to be successful in their first college class?  Keep in mind these students are only freshman level High School students.  Will the topics, assignments, and tests truly work to prepare my young impressionable audience?

The greater knowledge adheres to the principals that we can lean, how to learn.  We can maximize our abilities, learn to solve problems and make decisions.  Students can be instructed to utilize tools and effective strategies for reading, listening, note taking, studying, testing and retention; which will help pave the way.

I hope to institute a love for learning along with teaching the practical skills.  I will set the stage for learning how to learn.  I will begin with simple skills like time management strategies and goal setting activities designed to allow students to apply the strategies to their own goals; allowing them to learn through application and self-awareness.  They will be introduced to the importance of critical thinking skills and the necessity for creativity in producing work of their own. 

Hopefully, these skills will transcend the classroom and the community college experience to life itself.  Thus, allowing the adventure and the telling of it to be helpful to not only my students and the reader, but myself as well. I am confident with good preparation, a love for the student and the material I can be of service to these (nimble) young, minds.  I hope you will join me in this journey as I am taught, as well as teach, the art of learning!


Written by:
Tara Ubelhor M.Ed., LPC

The Art of Wedding Anniversaries..

I am fortunate to have a wedding anniversary neither on Christmas or New Years, but during the same holiday period.  As I approach yet another anniversary of our marriage I am reminded of all the day commemorates, both for me and for others celebrating anniversaries in this upcoming year.  Anniversaries are yearly celebrations of something “for the first time,” for example the anniversary of one’s first date, first kiss, first time love was mentioned and ergo the “Anniversary” usually is synonymous with love and happiness.

However we also celebrate our yearly anniversaries at work, yearly celebrations of milestones accomplished, anniversaries of friendship beginnings and sadly we also commemorate anniversaries of the passing of loved ones.  The most celebrated anniversary is known by its own name…the birthday!

As I approach yet another wedding anniversary I am reminded of the many anniversaries past.  The anniversaries before our children were born for example.  The anniversaries when our children were small and we often failed to celebrate.  The ones that came later as the children grew.  The ones when we were “madly” in love and the ones we weren’t.

So as hard as it might be to say and to hear…there were years we weren’t madly in love, far from it. Thinking back I realize how could it have been otherwise?  It is all the years good and bad that make the fabric of our lives.  It is the years we weren’t that built on the ones we were.  It is through those arduous times we came to discover what love really meant.  It was those hard times that built the foundation that holds us to this day.

There were those periods when I was consumed with worry. What if we didn’t make it?  What would life be with a broken love and a broken family?  I had come from one of those families and sworn to never inflict that family on my children.  Surely we could figure it out!  But sometimes it just seemed there was no other way but to end it.

But we are still here and the fights are smaller and less frequent.  They aren’t about the big things any more.  Those have either been sorted out or we decided we loved each other more than we wanted to be right or to get our own way.  We have learned how to communicate and to compromise!  There are no more exciting tantrums or silent treatment reciprocations.  There is a shared respect for each other’s needs and feelings and a commitment to put our relationship first.  We have grown into a comfortable love that really is forever.  We have built a life with memories, children, property, and trust.  We are each other’s life and each other’s best friend and confidant.  I can say that when no one else is on our side…we are on each other’s side!

We were always these things to each other, but in the past, before we had sorted through the bad parts, the thing that got us through was a shared commitment to the marriage.  I will always know and remember at the worst of times we were each willing and able to reach out for help.  Seeing a counselor was embarrassing and scary.  It made us look in the mirror and face each other and ourselves.  We went to bad counselors, good counselors, and ok councilors – but most importantly we went!

In grad school I was told the first fifty percent of healing occurs in the making of the phone call for the first appointment to a counselor.  I believe it!  It is one hard call to make.  Sometimes it takes couples months, even years, of suffering before making the call. 

The next twenty-five percent of healing occurs on that first drive to the appointment. I remember the first drive during one episode, I must have pulled over three times deciding whether to turn around and go home or not. The last twenty-five percent is hard work, but is made easier by the joint commitment involved in taking the steps to go. It is in the follow-through to that scary place that solidifies the commitment to healing. 

So for those of you in a new relationship looking forward to those early “honeymoon” anniversaries, I say to you, Enjoy!  But remember when things go south for whatever reason (and the reasons are as varied as there are couples) don’t despair and don’t give up.  Think back to the reasons you fell in love in the first place.  Those reasons still exist. You might have gotten mired in the negative aspects of daily living, which has left you bereft of those early feelings.  You might have stumbled into patterns dictated by the homes you grew up in, each different and troubled in its own way. You might need a little help getting back there, but if you are both willing to work very hard to get it back, you can.  You can share many anniversaries, more “in love” than not in love.

Here’s to anniversaries!


Written by:
Tara Ubelhor M.Ed., LPC



The Art of the New Year’s Resolution

Taking stock, taking a moral inventory, as the Alcoholics Anonymous Big Book would say, seems an appropriate approach to New Year’s resolutions.  I have challenged you and myself in regards to goal setting, care taking and usefulness, but taking a moral inventory is something deeper; something possibly spiritual.

In order to take a moral inventory one must look inward.  As a mother, the first place I begin is in a very deep and heart wrenching place; parenthood.  Not that being a parent was not the greatest gift and happiest time of my life, but as any parent will tell you it is nothing if not a guilt ridden institution.  The what-if’s and if-only’s can become a lifetime burden.  Hind-sight is twenty-twenty as they say, and in my case ever so.  I often tell my husband, “I wish I could do it all over again, knowing what I know now, having lived what we have lived.”  My husband, ever the man to not look in the rear view mirror, retorts, “look at how amazing our children are, if not for the mistakes and life experiences they had, good or bad, they would not be who they are today.”  He is correct and on some level his words calm me, and I move on.  But I still ask; did it have to be so hard, did they have to learn their lessons due to our inequities – because of us?

If someone were to ask me what the number one thing I would change if I could go back.  The answer would be to recognize my own power.  If I had known the power I had as a woman, as a mother, as a partner;  I would have made better choices.  I might not have compromised quite as much and stood firm on things that might have worked out better for me and therefore my family.  As I realize this I am aware that, unfortunately, this is still the disease of many relationships. 

It begins in our families of origin.  We feel “less than” in so many ways.  We may not have received the positive messages we should have.  We possibly failed to learn to love ourselves in the best way possible.  This leads to compromising of what we know inside to be best, in order to satisfy “other.”  This is equally true of both members in a relationship. It is not gender unique!  There will be times in the relationship when one partner may have more power and later it may be the other.  Or, there may be specific areas where each partner is more powerful.  Combine this with poor communication skills and what you have is a formula for the very least trouble and the very worst disaster.  It is a miracle we survive fifty percent of marriages!  Maybe we need to be a little more proud of our successes when relationships last, as they certainly are a testament to fortitude if nothing else.

Now, after many years, I marvel at our ability, my husband and myself, to talk openly about the inequality that existed in the past.  Experience has enabled our ability to dictate the “new” rules of our relationship.  There is a kinder gentler approach tempered by time and maturity. If only I had known then what I know now?  But then again…maybe my husband is right.  I also would not be who I am today if not for the trials and tribulations of our past.  As I have often quoted in the past Limp Bizkit says it best, “life is a lesson, and you learn it when you are through.”

 So this year I resolve to look forward and vow to use experience to make the better choice but to embrace the past as my best teacher.    


Written by:
Tara Ubelhor M.Ed., LPC

The Art of Christmas Giving..

On a random shopping trip I happened upon a store.  It seemed to be a home decoration store, something I am always interested in visiting.  It was early in the fall - well before Halloween.  As I started into the store, I realized it felt familiar to me.  It was filled with decorations, not of Halloween or even Thanksgiving, but of Christmas.  As I walked among the faux trees, the colored balls and shiny wrapping paper; although months before the actual season, I began to anticipate the many facets of the upcoming Christmas holiday. The magical, wondrous smells; the cozy, furry warm clothing and family get-togethers began to come to mind.

 As my mind wondered I began thinking of individual family members, friends and coworkers.  I could picture each one and began to contemplate how I would express my love and friendship in a unique and creative way this season.  Would I wonder aimlessly in various stores, catalogs or internet sites and stumble on just the perfect gift?  Or would something come to me at a random moment and I would just know the perfect thing that would express my love in a unique way?

I have been a gift giver from the time I was very small.  I remember vividly at a very young age anticipating with great enthusiasm the arrival of the Sears and Roebuck Catalog.  The catalog was for our family, a lifeline to civilization. We lived far from shopping malls and big box stores.   For a young child the stuffed animal and toy section was filled with choices for my Christmas shopping. I was the big sister to a brother and sister at the time, my youngest sister was yet to be born.  I can still remember the stuffed animals I picked for each, a painstaking task of choosing and then changing my mind again and again until I just knew it was the perfect fit.

The gift I labored over the most was always the one for my mother.  It had to be perfect!  I would labor endlessly.  It wasn’t that I loved my mother more than the others; I believe it was her gracious mystery that challenged me.  I knew she would “love” anything I gave her.  That was not enough; it needed to convey just the right sentiment of admiration and love.  To this day I find myself often commenting “oh my other gave that to me”, as she often finds jus the perfect gift for me.

The process of giving at Christmas started immediately after Christmas each year.  Not only have I always been a giver but a “saver,” as well.  I would begin to save my allowance and plan ways to make extra money. I wanted my treasure trove filled by next December. It is something I do to this day, my Christmas fund firmly embedded in my budgeting process.

For me the planning, the saving and the giving are a process that has led to traditions I am quite fond of.  For example, my son-in-law; I am a lover of books and politics.  As a new son-in-law, intelligent and well educated I assumed he would be also.  For his first Christmas with our family I gave him a book from one of my favorite political writers, only to find he hated reading.  The book sits on a shelf gathering dust. Incorporating another of our traditions, humor; in addition to his “real” gift, I continue to give him a book every year, in spite of himself.    

Another tradition I enjoy is the planning and execution of the gift opening.  Marking each present with a number indicating the order in which they are to be opened. The order is determined by importance building to a climax of sorts.  It is always a challenge and fun to keep everyone guessing. For example although important and traditional we usually begin the opening of presents with an ornament. Which when the children were small, was not usually the favorite gift.  This was also another way my husband and I incorporated humor as we teased the children with anticipation.

A tradition I was introduced to by my mother was the joy of Christmas wrapping.  I remember coming home from school each day in the weeks before Christmas break to new and more beautiful packages each day. When my son, newly graduated from Pharmacy School and making real money for the first time, gave me a bottle of Channel for Christmas, I was of course overjoyed.  But it was the small box immaculately wrapped in a beautiful foil wrap and ribbon with a tiny matching bow that filled me with emotion. He had learned to wrap from me as I had from my mother.  But more importantly he made the special effort to make sure it was wrapped just perfectly, knowing what it meant to me. It was an example of thoughtfulness; that is the spirit of Christmas! So on that note…. however you may celebrate, whatever your traditions may be, may your gifts of love be the center of your holiday, Merry Christmas to all.


Written by:
Tara Ubelhor M.Ed., LPC

The Art of Giving Thanks..

I am thankful to the pilgrims.  I am not sure our school day history lessons are accurate in regards to the so called Thanksgiving Day feast we celebrate each year, but I don’t give a hooey.  Our nation has embraced a custom that gathers families and friends each year in a spirit of thanks and that is what matters.

Most of us have some form of ritual and tradition which we practice and carry forward with our prospective families.  As most families in America we will buy our turkey and will bake or fry (a new thing) it. We will stuff the turkey; albeit with all kinds of different trimmings.  If there is going to be a bone of contention at ones' celebration, what to put in the stuffing will be one of them.    Everyone seems to have things they “love” and must have in the stuffing, while for others a certain addition will ruin the  experience.  There will be yams, sweet potatoes in one form or another and cranberry sauce from a can or the real deal depending on whose family tradition we are following.  Probably a green bean casserole and mashed potatoes as well.  There will be various breads or roles and the piece-de-resistance pumpkin pie among a litany of other things.

From family to family traditions will vary.  They may include a formal sit down dinner or even a restaurant, but for many the expectation for the day is football fever.  My experience growing up was the latter.   I remember vividly the women in the kitchen were working all day while the men were in the living room, where football was king.  Early on I knew this was not the kind of Thanksgiving celebration I wanted to carry forward and when I was old enough to have a family and create my own traditions I aimed for the sit down dinner.  Ironically, now that my children are grown and creating Thanksgiving traditions of their own, football reins king in their homes.  Alas, I may have to wait for the tide to turn in the next generation?

Be that as it may, I am enamored and proud, as year after year, I know my daughter living far away is the master of Thanksgiving central to family members living there.  She has created a tradition for those who without her would have missed out on yearly traditions and family comradery, so far from their homes.  She plans, she shops, she cooks, she cleans, and she is the mama hen for them all. 

My son and his young wife are newlyweds and are still trying to figure it all out.  They have the push and pull from family members on both sides and commitments of their own.  Although their house is small it may be easier to host in their home rather than run about.  This also allows them the opportunity to begin the process of creating their own traditions; which for them will include U.T. football.

All this is to say how wondrous it is to see a family at its best.  Holidays help families to reconnect, remember and renew in their difficult endeavor to remain close yet maintain autonomy as they juggle their commitments and pursue life’s goals.

Thank you “Pilgrims” I again look forward to a day of fun, food and family.  Life is Good!


Written by:
Tara Ubelhor M.Ed., LPC

The Art of Promises

As I enter this holiday season, I remind myself of my challenge to eat right, to exercise and to do kind actions for others.  The season is full of activities conducive to being kind to others.  I have opportunities galore to fulfill that portion of my challenge.  However these months filled with gatherings of family, colleagues and friends, I am reminded of my early battle to stay true to the other goals that are just about me.

Even in the most difficult circumstances, I fend for myself.  I know how to work hard, how to be creative, how to set financial and societal goals.  I have built a strong network of family and friends who nurture me.  But, I still have one big dragon to slay; the eternal battle with myself. 

This dragon has no people who distract me from myself, no people whom I can blame for my lack of success, no people who make me feel noble because I am “doing it for someone more important than I am.”  This dragon is the part of me that doesn’t think that doing things for just myself is worthy of time or energy.  It’s the most difficult battle of all.

Like most, I accepted the challenge and set my goals.  I began the journey with small goals to build my success.  I have had some success incorporating some new strategies into my daily life.  Some have even become habits.  I now set my work clothes out each evening; I shop for dietary needs; I juice for the week.  Others, however, like finishing my evening tasks early so I can make time in the morning for a new yoga routine has failed.

I wonder why I sabotage my own effort?  Why do I stop just short of certain success?

Exercise is  an anathema to me.  I have rotated routines, joined gyms, bought various pieces of work out equipment, and filled my I-Pod with multiple workout mixes -- as have most of us.  This is not to say that over the years I have not had some success.  I have worn out two small trampolines and have a “gym-pac” mounted in my house I have used off and on for weight workouts for over 30 years.  But, as of yet the person who incorporates exercise on a daily basis for their entire life -- life style change -- has eluded me.  I still want to be that girl.  The one you see in the movies, or at your local whole foods store or yoga class.  The one who carries her bottle of “very cool” water and yoga mat as if it were an appendage?  You just know that woman eats, breathes, and lives a healthy lifestyle.  Her body shows it and I am enamored – think Jennifer Aniston.

I know these images are not reality.  Jennifer Aniston gets paid -- and paid well -- to make her body a temple.  But the fact remains, she has done it, continues to do it and shows the world what 40’s and fabulous is all about.  As I come to yet another birthday I have made a promise to myself to not accept from myself what I would not accept from others.  I will prioritize my goals and myself.  I will stop the self-sabotage and prove to myself once and for all I can achieve a lifetime goal for myself. 

I would like to say that my goals are not the utopian goals of all women nor should they be.  I am using my experience as an example of any goal we make to ourselves. We need to stop, recognize the gains we have made; the wondrous accomplishments of our life and utilize that strength to propel us to the next level in order to accomplish whatever our most important self-goal may be. 

So to you readers, I recommit myself and challenge you to do the same.  Take your defeats and throw them away.  Remind yourself of the parts of your goal you were successful at, eliminate the excuse that gets in the way and do for yourself what no one else can.  Love yourself to the fullest utilize your greatest strengths and achieve your greatest self.


Written by:
Tara Ubelhor M.Ed., LPC