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 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 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