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“My husband Roland is a truly kind person, but he has a deep appreciation for structure and doing things the “right” way. Since the pandemic hit, Roland has become judgmental, overly critical, and even somewhat sloppy. His art gallery has reopened, and sales are picking up, but Roland isn’t getting back to his usual self. I’ve tried to support him by bringing cookies and his favorite lunches to the gallery but nothing seems to work. Help!”...

“I’m the mom of two small children and having them home so much lately has given me an opportunity to observe more closely the ways they act with other family members. Are children’s elemental personalities already fixed in place when they are 4 years old and 7 years old?”...

“Family is very, very important to me, but I am having trouble with two cousins who appear to have an overwhelming need to control my life. They strongly suggest that I do things the way they do, according to what they think is right. I have friends that seem to act this way toward me, too. When I haven’t done what they suggest, it has caused family rifts and the breakup of friendships. The pushy people in my life also don’t seem to feel the need to apologize for their actions, so it’s often up to me to make the first move, which doesn’t feel right. What can I do?”...

“For the first time in almost 35 years of marriage, my husband and I are having trouble. If I look back at when things changed, it was probably five years ago when my brother died and I had hip replacement surgery. Instead of the fun-loving, happy homemaker I had been, I became a warrior determined to come back better than ever. Initially, Brad was very supportive and encouraging, but not anymore. Once I recovered, I found that I actually liked being more assertive, even if it meant I was often angry or frustrated. But apparently Brad doesn’t like it. He’s been uncharacteristically opinionated and cruel, is working longer hours, and generally seems to be pulling away.”...

“I hope you can help me understand my younger brother. Growing up, Gavin ran instead of walked, jumped around when excited, and always seemed busy. When we were little, I wanted to stay inside and color or read, but that bored him. In high school, he was on the pep squad and in theater. Just watching him made me tired and irritable. It still does. We’re in our early twenties now and have both moved back home temporarily to take care of our aging parents during the pandemic. I find myself wanting to be around him less and less, which is pretty hard in a small house with so much shut down these days.”...

“Our daughter divorced last year and when the pandemic started, she moved back home with her two-year-old son. Since they’ve been with us, Weston has really changed. I thought this would be a great time for our family with Stacy managing her IT team from here and Weston’s promotion. But my previously optimistic, go with the flow husband has become a gloomy cynic who ignores Stacy, picks on Jimmy, and eats potato chips like there’s no tomorrow.”...

I wish you all a happy Fourth of July in whatever way you do (or don’t) acknowledge the day! Here in the USA, July 4th is when we celebrate the signing of our Declaration of Independence in 1776, an act that formalized our move from a colony of Great Britain to an independent nation fashioned as a democracy. And while we have lasted over 200 years, these days it seems more appropriate than ever to honor and celebrate our bold creation....

“My sister started a business a few years ago helping people de-clutter their homes. As a stay at home mom with older children and time on my hands, I started helping out by answering phones and filing. At first it was fun working together, but recently it seems that nothing I do is good enough for Shelley. It’s really put pressure on our relationship. We’re about to re-open after the pandemic and I’m wondering if I should just quit. But her business has really grown and she needs the help. Plus, she’s my sister; I can’t just walk away. What should I do?”...

Four years and six days ago, a security guard killed 49 people and wounded 53 others during a mass shooting inside the Pulse nightclub. The brutality of the event shocked us all and left lingering questions regarding who would do such a thing, and why. At that time, I posted an attempt to answer those questions from a Five Elements perspective by highlighting the beauty/beast aspect of each elemental personality. Given all that is going on in the US and other parts of the world these days, it seems like this information might once again be helpful....

“My widowed mother passed away earlier this year. My older brother, Paul, was named executor. He is very responsible and orderly and has approached this task like it’s the most important thing in the world. But I think I have something to offer the process. Paul has a woman who wants to buy Mom’s house, but I think the price is too low and we should wait until the pandemic is over. I have tried discussing this, but he refuses to budge. How can I approach Paul and this situation without inflaming it?”...

Over the past week I’ve received several calls and emails asking which of Five Elemental personality types would be most inclined to protest, peacefully or not. Looting and destroying property is a different matter, but it might surprise you that each of the elemental personalities might participate in those activities as well, depending on how balanced they are and their secondary elemental personality. What might make each of the elemental personalities engage in protest, or worse, property destruction and looting?...

I regularly hear from people asking how best to determine their elemental personality. Four years ago, I wrote a blog about just that and thought it might be a good time to share it again....

“A dear friend of the family passed away almost three months ago. She was like an elderly aunt to me and my older sister Ruthie, and it has been hard for me to lose her. I’ve reached out to Ruthie to talk about it, but she apparently doesn’t want to. In hindsight, I can see that Ruthie never really wanted to talk about her feelings. We had a difficult relationship growing up and as we grew, I learned to hide it when I had strong opinions about something or really wanted to do something Ruthie didn’t. Now, I want to talk about Fran, but Ruthie will have none of it.”...

“I know these are difficult times for all of us, but I’m having trouble with my husband. We both work outside of the home so used to spend time together just on weekends. Now we’re together almost 24/7. Lately my kind, intelligent, hardworking guy has turned into a fussy, opinionated jerk who rants continuously about everything. I’m actually enjoying the quiet time at home to catch up on reading, but he’s like a caged animal. How do we get along?”...

“Sami has been my best friend for over a decade. She said she never wanted to be tied down, but that changed last year when she met Hans. Sami really fell for him, and he seemed to feel the same about her. After about six months of what looked to me like crazy, happy, almost all the time togetherness – including sheltering together at Sami’s during this pandemic – Hans left Sami last week for a meditation instructor. Sami’s totally depressed and not herself. What can I do to help her get Hans back?”...

“I have 14-year-old twins who are as different as night and day. With sheltering in place, the four of us are spending almost every waking moment together in our small house. It’s not going well. Tammy thinks Ted is a downer and Ted thinks Tammy lacks substance. My husband thinks they’re both spoiled brats that I clearly failed to raise well as a stay-at-home mom. Do you have any advice for a mom trying desperately to hold her family together during a pandemic?”...

Lately, many of you have inquired if the Five Elements can help manage the fear we’re all feeling regarding the global coronavirus pandemic. All of this is very understandable and yet I do think there are ways we can approach our lives now that will help mitigate some of this fear. And of course, I think the Five Elements can help....

“My daughter Kim is a high school senior this year and with the pandemic, she clearly isn’t going to have the same experiences that her older sister did when she graduated from high school three years ago. There will be virtual events, but we all know that just isn’t going to be the same. Missing so many of the events she has waited for is very hard for Kim. How can I help her process the loss and anger she is feeling?"...

“Having everyone at home all of the time is driving me crazy. I’m impatient, cranky, and overwhelmed. I’d love some help, but my husband’s job is more intense than mine, so I haven’t asked him. This means homeschooling our 10-year-old falls to me. I wish we could all go to our separate rooms and get work done, but Sammy wants to help me with all the meals, but she just makes it harder to get things done the right way. My normal perfection is out the window! What can I do to get better?”...

“During these Covid-19 times, as a working wife and mother of 2 children, I do think I’ve handled things pretty well on most fronts. My husband and I are getting along fine and we take turns managing the home-schooling efforts. I still manage the shopping and meals, but I like to cook. What I don’t seem to be doing well is the work from home piece; I can’t seem to get into a rhythm and wrap my mind around my job. I feel completely uninspired working on the couch at home. Plus, I miss laughing and kidding around with my co-workers.”...

There is no doubt that the concerns associated with COVID-19 have thrust most of us into a state of prolonged stress. When added to whatever stress we were experiencing in our individual lives prior to the pandemic, we are likely experiencing significant imbalance in our energies. But we have choices in how we address this stress, and the Five Elements model offers us informed options....

I’ve had several questions this week regarding challenges people are facing while isolating and/or practicing social distancing given the rapid spread of the coronavirus around the globe. Many of the places we usually socialize, like workplaces, schools, or restaurants, are also temporarily closed. That leaves us working at home, often surrounded by the children who aren’t going to the closed schools. How do we manage to stay productive, upbeat, and sane?...

“I’ve been dating an artist for three months and we’re really good together in many ways. We have great discussions and he takes my opinions seriously, which is a refreshing change. I like Craig a lot, but there is something about him that’s really hard to take. If he says he’ll call on Monday, he might not call until Wednesday. If he’s supposed to pick me up at 6:00 pm, sometimes he doesn’t show up until 7:00 pm.”...

“I’m writing about my son, Kirk. Last fall Kirk signed up for a drafting class with a teacher I’ll call Mr. Lane. Kirk loved the artistic aspects of the class and appreciated the structure Mr. Lane brought. All was well until Mr. Lane received our district’s Teacher of the Year award. According to Kirk, after that Mr. Lane began demanding greater accuracy and precision from this beginning drafting class. He also started bragging about the award and other accomplishments he’d had that the students would probably never obtain. Kirk is having a really hard time with this and wants to quit the class.”...

“I’m writing about my partner Lizzie. We’ve run a small auction business for several years and have done really well. I run our office, but Lizzie runs the auctions. Our auction house burned down several months ago and while I took it philosophically Lizzie was devastated. I’ve done everything I can think of to get her to see things the way I do, but nothing I’ve said or done has perked her up. Not even breaking ground for our new building. How can I help her get enthusiastic again?”...

“For three years I’ve served as the president of our condo association. We have a congenial board and I keep our meetings pleasant, but efficient. That all changed four months ago when “Laura” joined the board. We clashed almost immediately, but I couldn’t tell you exactly why. The best I can say is that for every suggestion I make, she has an alternative version. She is difficult to work with (honestly, I’m angry with her most of the time), but apparently, she isn’t going anywhere, so what can I do?”...

“I’ve been dating Skip ever since we met at a friend’s party about six months ago and it’s been a blast! He’s funny, outgoing, and really exciting to be with. The problem is that I’m also funny and outgoing, so there are many times when we seem to be competing for the spotlight. We aren’t seeing other people anymore, but do we have a chance of staying together?”...

“My sister Cate used to be a pretty trusting, optimistic person. I love my sister but have noticed over the years that she seems more likely to assume the worst in a given situation, rather than the best. She doesn’t trust anyone or anything anymore (except her six cats) and appears really frightened about what’s going on in the world these days. Is there any way I can help her return to some version of her trusting, optimistic self?”...

“A supervisor at my brother’s company is retiring in the spring and Jim has been asked to apply for his job. My concern is that Jim is someone who has always loved starting things or making them better, and spends a lot of time in his current position doing just that. In a more supervisory position, I’m concerned that “hands-on” will be seen as interfering or controlling in a job where he’s just supposed to support ongoing operations. How do I talk him out of this change?”...

“Almost five years ago, my good friend Lanny and I started a business helping local restaurants get leftover food to homeless people. Lanny did most of the planning and was definitely the energy behind making it happen. I did the analysis and created the process necessary to get the food where it needed to go. Two years ago, my son became seriously ill. I had to leave our business, but Lanny kept it going. Several months ago, there was an article in our newspaper about the business with a quote from one of the people we had helped together thanking Lanny for all she’d done to make such a difference. She was quoted as thanking him, but she never mentioned me. I don’t understand why she didn’t acknowledge all I’d done to help start and run the business.”...

“My husband and I have been married 15 years and worked in academia for much of that time. Several years ago, Simon pursued his dream of going to med school and I kept working to support both of us. After completing his degree, he opened a successful practice. I no longer want to deal with the politics of academia, and do something more artistic. I expected Simon to be as encouraging regarding my potential change as I was of his, but he’s not. He suggests that I probably won’t be successful, that there are more talented people around, and that I should consider becoming his receptionist”...

“Max and I have been close friends since childhood. Growing up, Max was a quiet, go with the flow kind of guy and I was a quiet, go with the flow kind of girl. But during college, Max really started to change. I wondered what was going on, but he never mentioned any problems at school, so I never asked. These days, his easy-going nature is completely gone and he’s become very precise and rigid. What happened to my old Max?”...

“I love New Year’s resolutions! Committing to what I want to accomplish next year makes me happy. Unfortunately, my husband hates the idea. I’m dreading January because I know it will just be one more fight about resolutions. I could make them alone, but we’ve been together a long time and so much of what happens in my life involves him. How do I get him excited about New Year’s resolutions?”...

As we say goodbye to 2019, once again I’d like to offer you The Five Elements New Year Blessing. As I have mentioned in this blog many times, while our personalities will reflect a specific elemental flavor, we do have all five of the elemental personalities in our makeup. That means that the gifts of each element are ours to access as we need them. May we honor these gifts equally in ourselves and others during 2020....

“The Winter Solstice is approaching and that means the start of winter. The dark and cold always make me very unhappy, but my sister loves December. How can we be so different when we’re just one year apart? Could this have something to do with our elemental personalities?!”...

“It’s been a tough year for me in many ways and the whole idea of creating the holidays my family has come to expect overwhelms me. But the minute I decide to cut back on decorating and buying gifts, I feel guilty. And when I mentioned not baking Christmas cookies this year, my kids were shocked and now I’m worried they’ll be too disappointed if I don’t bake. I’m taking care of my own mother and working full time, and I just don't have the energy or joy in me to do the whole holiday thing.”...

“I’m writing because I’m concerned about my younger sister, Tina. She’s a junior in high school and is a quiet, disciplined, studious student. The problem is that our mother isn’t a normal mother – she’s an outgoing, fun-loving, partying lady! What concerns me is that Mom thinks Tina is letting life pass her by, so is encouraging her to attend parties where alcohol is served, go out with wild guys, all in the name of having fun. How can I help Tina not make a terrible mistake?’...

To paraphrase A Tale of Two Cities, the holiday season is the best of times, and the worst. The holidays celebrated from November through January, replete with tradition and meaning, guarantee that ceremony and fun will end up co-mingling with pushed buttons and dashed expectations. To help keep your relationships harmonious during the holiday season, I offer a brief summary of what will matter most to the people in your life, and what won’t. There are also a few suggestions here regarding ways to keep the season happy for everyone....

“I’m moving into a house on a lake that absolutely needs redecorating and I’ve always found that I have a strong relationship to the colors around me. The colors of my walls seem to either energize or deplete me and I’m wondering if this might have something to do with the Five Elements. When decorating a space, are there certain colors that are best to use based on one’s primary elemental personality?”...

“I’m wondering if the individual elements that make up my own elemental personality create “relationships” among themselves that nurture or control. I’m a determined (and some might say forceful) person. I also wanted things to be fair, so I often defended my mom against my dad when she couldn’t defend herself. I’m a serious gardener and manage a bakery, which I think means I have Earth as a primary elemental personality. But I don’t feel very Earthy around people. I never did growing up, but I want to now. Could something in my personality be affecting this?”...

“I’m writing because my husband and I have run out of ways to help motivate our son James. He has lots of ideas, but rarely puts anything into action. It’s like he gets stuck at the starting point and can’t get going. We had him tested and while the results came back in the normal range, we still need to make lists for him regarding what needs to get done each day. Fortunately, he’s an only child so we do have the time to focus on him. What will it take to help James accomplish things and succeed?”...

“After a long illness, my father passed away this summer and our small family held a simple, private funeral for him. My fiance, Shelley, attended with me and all was well. Recently, my father’s brother has decided to stage an extensive memorial service for my father in January. My uncle is very conservative and Mom has asked that Shelley not attend. Apparently, my parents never mentioned to Dad’s family that I’m gay. How should I handle this?”...

“My brother Joe is in his early forties and works as a cook, which is just his “day job.” His passion is music and playing guitar. About a year ago, Joe met a woman who runs a nursing home. Carol is close to his age, kind and caring, but also very exacting in how she approaches things. Since Joe moved in with Carol, he has changed in very positive ways. He’s less scattered, more organized, and even thinking about going back to college. I’m wondering if there is anything we can do to help Joe in his relationship with Carol. She is so good for him.”...

“I am writing about my father; we’ll call him Greg. He’s is a great father, just not very warm and fuzzy. He’s been in business, specifically marketing, for most of his career, and changed jobs two years ago to head up a national marketing and sales force. He’s had three administrative assistants during those two years. The third quit last week and now he’s complaining that he can’t find good help. Is there anything I can say to him that will help him find and keep a good administrative assistant?”...

“Abby, my close friend and business partner, has been acting very strange lately. Our business is stalling right now because Abby hasn’t been very organized or powerful lately. She’s been low-key, distant, and sort of stuck in the past. When I ask her what’s going on, she denies that anything is wrong. As her business partner, I feel it is my responsibility to let Abby know we need her to snap out of it. What can I do to help Abby get back in the saddle?”...

“I have been an elementary school principal for decades and love my work. Last year, I started at a new school and one of the teachers there was a real challenge to manage. She agrees to attend meetings, then doesn’t show up. Or if she does show, she’s kidding around so much we can’t get down to business. The students all love her and think she’s fun, but they don’t have to manage her. I do like her and want to do right by her, but I’m having a hard time keeping her in line.”...

“For 48 years, my parents had a happy marriage. They raised three happy children, loved their grandchildren, but always took time for themselves, too. Sadly, my father passed away a year ago and not unexpectedly, my mother has taken it really hard. Since then, she hasn’t been able to find joy in life and seems to have pulled away completely. In many ways it feels like we lost both of them when Dad died.”...

“My best friend in the world moved away six months ago for an exciting opportunity as a corporate planner with a large firm. Maisy loves the job, but I really miss her. I’ve been telling her how much I miss her and she always asks when we’re going to get together. I have three young children, and Maisy doesn't have much vacation time yet, so we haven't been together since she moved. Last night I told her again how much I miss her and she exploded, asking me why I keep telling her that if I’m not going to do anything about it.”...

“I’m writing because I had the great misfortune to fall in love with a wonderfully funny and outgoing guy. It’s been a whirlwind of activity, which is so not me. All of my well-ordered ways seem to have gone out the window since Tad’s been in my life. And while part of me finds this exciting, another part is afraid that I’m losing who I am.”...

“I’m having a problem with my sister, Anita. We are both working our way up the corporate ladder, and months ago set up to go to a business seminar together in a nearby city. We planned to drive there and back with each other and make a whole day of it. Last week she called and told me that while she will drive to the event with me, she’s going to go straight from it to a “girls only” party at a friend’s nearby cabin. I can certainly drive home alone, but it feels like she’s dumping me and part of our time together for something else.”...