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 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 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 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 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