Friday, October 22, 2010

Organic , No Panic - Direct Deposit Method.

I call this compost set up "The Direct Deposit Method" .

I designed this as part of an educational exhibit for the 1990 San Francisco Garden Show.

Last week I babysat a friends bunny while they were away on holiday and I received so much joy from having
"Little Gray Elephant" that I am considering adding a bunny to my house hold.

The "Direct Deposit Method" of composting consists of having an elevated rabbit cage with a porous screen flooring.
The high nitrogen rabbit poop falls down into a compost bin directly below helping to activate the heat process.
Fallen leaves, grass clipping and veggie food waste that the rabbit does not eat , goes into the compost bin along with the
rabbit poop.
Easy peasy pie .... fast and easy..... and back into the garden it goes .

From random photos

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Artistic endeavors in pruning.

It’s just all too easy to dismiss or make fun of something that you may not understand.
Horticultural pruning seems to be one of those subjects.

If a heavily sculpted or renovated tree or shrub was seen in a middle class neighborhood one might say it was “butchered, devalued, defaced or just bad horticultural practices”.

But what happens when the same plant is severely pruned or cut back for renovation and it is at a world class horticultural institute ? Then it is not snickered at and upheld as good horticultural craftsmanship

This smacks of ignorance , or at the very least a lack of understanding.

Example :
Is this poor shearing or creative slight of hand ?
One see’s this type of shearing in many middle class neighborhoods.
This example happens to be at Filoli Gardens in Woodside CA
From random photos

How about this ?
This is a type of renovation pruning but some who may not have the experience to understand this type of pruning would mistake it as a hack job.
This is how you renovate a very old Taxus baccata .
From random photos

These are the same Taxus (yews) The light grey sheared tree in the front left and far rear centers are sheared olives at Filoli Gardens. When I worked at Filoli I was involved in a major renovation project of the Taxus hedge in the foreground. We cut it back to little stubs and within 3 months it was leafing out. It took a year for it to completely fill in.
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A residential middle class homeowner showing their artistic horticultural side is Tsck tsk’ed
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But this is acceptable . Silly isn’t it.
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Japanese cloud pruning is especially prevelent here in California.
If seen at Botanical garden it is upheald as art.
If it is done by a gardener in a commercial or residential setting it is devalued.

From random photos

From random photos

Would snarky remarks be made if you saw this residential garden ?
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How about this ? Surely the peanut gallery would find something to cackle about.
Now inform the ridiculers that this garden is going into a national trust for its artistic vision.
From random photos

From random photos

From random photos

Horticultural bullying is really not that attractive.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Overcoming the Shame that Keeps Us from Reaching Out

Tomorrow Kevin will be flying to Las Vegas on business. He's been there for training twice before, and on each of those trips he viewed pornography on TV two or three of the evenings during his ten-day stays. He is doing lots better now overall in his life, but he knows a trip like this will put him at high risk for relapse. In our therapy session this morning, I role played with him how he might open up to his wife Wendy all along the way about his mindset so that he has the most support right when he really needs it. After getting a feel for what had led to his downfall on his other two trips, I picked up my cell phone and pretended to be him:

“Hi sweetie. I just rented my car and I’m on my way to the hotel. You know how I’ve sometimes struggled when I’m on the road. I just wanted to let you in on how it’s going. I think I’m still going to be okay. I certainly don’t plan on doing anything. But I just wanted to check in because I found my attention being drawn by all the suggestive advertisements in the airport. Even on the flight down, I saw a magazine with a barely-covered model on the front. It gets my mind going and I’m tempted to obsess. These were just little pulls, but I want to stay in touch with you. Will you hold my hand so that if a riptide tugs at me it won’t drag me out to sea? That’s the last thing I need on this trip and in my life right now. I’m sure it’s the last thing you need, too.”

“It’s good to hear your voice sweetie,” Kevin smiled at me, not bothering to pick up his cell phone. “That is the last thing we need right now. We’ve been feeling so close lately. Do you really struggle even three hours after leaving the house? Are you really tempted to think sexual thoughts about other women when your wife is home taking care of your kids?”

“Oh, honey,” I grinned at Kevin, “I am so grateful for what a great mom you are. I’m so grateful you’re there holding down the fort when I have to be gone. That’s why I called. I need to get grounded again to what my life is really about. I wish I didn’t get so hooked by lustful thoughts, but I do. If you want me to just deal with these things on my own or by leaving messages on Dr. Chamberlain’s phone, I can do that. I don’t want to be a burden to you.”

“No,” Kevin said, “keep calling me. Here: why don’t you tell Charlotte a bedtime story while I go give Skyler a bath.”

“That,” Kevin said after I put down my phone, “is a call I’ve never made. It sounds great now, but I honestly don’t know if I could do that in the moment.”

Kevin was right. If disclosing temptation were a gymnastics move, its difficulty level would be 10.

“Of course you can’t do it in the moment,” I reassured him, “not in your usual state of mind at least. When you find yourself drawn by porn, you’re not the man you are now. In the heat of the moment, you’re in a sort of trance. You get hypnotized into the mindset of that 12 year old boy you were when you first found pornography on the internet that Summer when you were alone at home and your older siblings all had part-time jobs. You have all the needs for attention and touch and closeness and approval and affection that 12-year-old had. That’s what fuels the pull to porn. And then if you even look down that path of pursuing porn, you have all the shame of that 12-year-old. How likely is he to reach out for help the way we just role-played?”

“Back then I didn’t even want to let my parents know I needed help in Algebra. I don’t think it even occurred to me that I could get help from them about sex!”

“Right. And that’s the ego state you’re in when those feelings get triggered again. That 12-year-old still doesn’t know that lots of kids his age and even grown men have a difficult time managing sexuality. He doesn’t know you’re married to a woman you can talk to. He doesn’t realize that honesty is more important to her than a perfect performance. He thinks he can’t open up to people. He thinks he needs to conquer this on his own. The last thing he would do is talk about it! If you could talk to that boy right now, what would you tell him?”

Nodding his head, Kevin had a faraway look in his eyes. “I’d let him know that he doesn’t need to conquer this on his own. As hard as it is for him to imagine now, everyone will still love him despite this struggle.” Kevin kept gazing. Then he laughed: “One day a group of men will even clap when he admits to all of them that he’s a sex addict. The hardest person for him to learn to be honest with will be Wendy. She will mean the world to him, and he will absolutely dread letting her down. But, he will learn to do it. She will understand. Eventually, over time. And he will do much better in this struggle once he truly lets her in so that there are no more secrets between them.” Kevin nodded, a settled look on his face.

“What does that 12-year-old think of that?” I asked.

“I think he’s starting to get it. I guess we’ll see by the way he handles himself on this trip!”

“I guess we will,” I agreed.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Want Porn Out? Let Wife In!

Here’s how it went in the wild West: the Sheriff faced down the outlaw: “There ain’t room in this town for the both of us.” Always, by the end of the movie, only one of them would remain. Most often, of course, it was the good guy.

Most of our wives feel the same way about porn. “There ain’t room in your life for the both of us.”

Shuddering at the thought of losing our wives, too many of us take the wrong approach to this problem. We hide from our wives the fact that porn’s still in town. We try to avoid porn and are quite ashamed that we’re not doing a perfect job of that. So, tragically, we avoid our wives. We still live in the same house, eat at the same table, raise the same kids, and even sleep in the same bed. However, we avoid eye contact, avoid talking about how we’re feeling, avoid too much closeness. All out of fear that she’ll see deep into my soul and find me repulsive. The fear of losing her can keep me from really letting her in. How ironic.

There is another way. I see men do it all the time. They stay close to their wives. They open up and talk about what’s really going on, keeping her informed about emotional highs and lows. Here’s the hard part: this kind of closeness includes a very intimidating prospect. If we’re going to really commit to a life of openness and emotional intimacy, we have to disclose when we slip back to a porn-seeking mentality. It’s a very tough thing to do, but it’s a sure way stay in recovery. Keep communicating with your wife about exactly what’s going on, and the sexy, seductive voice of porn gets hoarse and starts to crack. Let her in on the struggle, especially in its early stages, and the sprouting seeds of relapse wither in the searing sunlight of your honesty and her awareness.

“Honey, I’m on my way back to the office after grabbing some lunch in town. I just walked out of Barnes & Noble. I thought I’d just browse for a few minutes, but I saw a suggestive image on a book cover and then decided to head over to the magazine section. I got that tunnel vision, searching for something to look at. My chest felt tight. I grabbed one of the racier magazines and started thumbing through it. Five minutes later I was standing there with an erection reading an article. I tore myself away at that point, but I feel ashamed that I let it go that far. I don’t want to continue down this path. I knew that if I didn’t call you I’d probably go looking for stuff online this afternoon. So, as embarrassing as this is, I wanted to let you know how it’s going.”

At this point it’s tempting for a woman to say, “Why do you go into Barnes & Noble in the first place if you’ve had problems there before?” Or perhaps even, “Are you ever going to be over this problem?” But she wants to keep her finger on the pulse of how he’s really doing. She wants to be a resource so that he can keep reaching out. If he’s been addicted, this is the kind of struggle he’s had to deal with on his own. That hasn’t gone very well for him. They both want him to be able to keep coming to her and opening up. So she says instead, “Thanks for telling me. Let’s stay in touch.”

Ahhh. Staying in touch. That’s it. His connection with her, if he refuses to break it when he struggles, is the very thing that will keep loosening the grip of this other, self-destructive attachment.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Join the Anti-Porn Revolution!

I’m so touched by the work of a group started by Zilfa the Freethinker. I happened on to their Facebook page and found it so inspiring I just had to share it.

Their mission: “To reduce the influence of pornography on our society in our own little way by: 1) aiding and encouraging the sober porn junkie in his quest to gain full control over his addiction; 2) enlightening everyone of the adverse effects that pornography has had on our society and of the dangers associated with being under the control of porn or even watching it at all.”

Count me in. I’ve always wanted to be part of a revolution.

Fans of the page include some who are hooked on porn. Olanrewaju Lanrezo Ali commented, “Yea dis a good ideal. I wish i culd stop dis act. It like u killin urself in pain. Wel am tryin.”

Reading Olanrewaju’s words makes me want to keep getting up and going to work every day to help people escape the jaws of this monster.

Those who’ve found freedom have also joined Zilfa’s revolution. Olla Ollu Atoyebi puts it succinctly: “Porn almost ruined my mentality bt thnkgod.”

Thank God indeed for Olla’s liberation. And thank God for people like Abonyi Emeka Samuel, who are thinking about our future: “Pls save our youths oh!! The addiction to porn is prevalent now, especially among the future leaders. I think we should join our hands 2gether n save our future. It is worth fighting for!!”

I’ll share just one more quote, a message from Hontonyon Horleryimicar Hayodeji: “We shall overcome it 2geda,wt d help of God, determinatn and a passionate hatred towards such things.”

Thank you Hontonyon for your hope and determination! And thank you Zilfa for calling us to arms. I’m going to do my best to hold my end of the front line. It’s great to know all in this battle together!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Connection Is What We Really Need

Carol said that she wanted to go to bed the other night, but just didn't quite feel settled yet. She'd eaten a nice dinner and felt full that way. Yet she didn't feel satisfied somehow. She felt a lingering emotional charge. "The day left me itching emotionally. Incomplete. Like there was something more I needed." Often, the something more she goes to is online sexual chatrooms. They cover over that yucky feeling for a while, but then leave her feeling worse afterward. Carol has been working to stay with her unsettled feelings and reach out to her husband, Rob, instead.

So Carol walked into the kitchen where Rob was eating a bowl of cereal. "I feel like I've been jarred around today. I need a place or a way to retreat and have some soothing and some peace." Rob laughed, "You need peace? Good luck finding it in this three ring circus!" She was glad he was in a good mood, and she knew he meant well, but she also felt that her call out to him hadn't registered at all. She had reached as a bid for his attention and help in finding comfort, but he hadn't realized that she had a serious need that she was trying to bring to him.

It would have been very easy for Carol to retreat and give up. But persistent needs require persistent self-advocating. "I know that things aren't likely to change around here. We're not going to be hiring a maid or shipping off any of our kids to boarding school." Rob laughed again. "But can I come to you when I've had a rough day and just have you spend some one-on-one time with me? I'd love it if I could just put my head on your shoulder and have you run your fingers through my hair."

Rob put down his spoon and stood up and put his arms around Carol. Then he started talking with French accent. "Shh," Carol said. "Can we just go over and sit on the couch quietly? You know I love your sense of humor, but right now my heart needs some real quiet soothing." Rob sighed and smiled and took her by the hand and did just that.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

How You'll Know It's Safe to Swim with a Killer Whale

This blog is all about encouraging couples to work together to overcome pornography problems. However, some individuals who are struggling need to do a lot of work on their own before a spouse can safely work together to help them. For a spouse to work with such individuals too closely in the beginning can do more harm than good.

Henry had repeatedly told Cheryl that he would not have a pornography problem if she was more responsive to his needs. He exerted unrelenting pressure on her to engage in sex acts that made her uncomfortable. He told her that he'd find her sexier if she'd undergo breast augmentation surgery.

Cheryl was diligent in her diet and exercise routine, in part because she remembered Henry telling friends before they were married that he'd get divorced in a heartbeat if his wife ever got fat. She tried to keep their home immaculate but Henry always seemed to find a reason to complain. She hated how much pressure Henry put on the kids to achieve and perform.

Whenever Henry and Cheryl worked together, it was always Cheryl who bore the load. They taught a children's Sunday School class together. Henry had initially been offended that they were even asked to teach it, feeling like that kind of work was below his capabilities. In the classroom he had good rapport with the kids as long as they behaved, but Cheryl often felt like he would interrupt the lesson she had planned and "steal the show," spontaneously taking the lesson in a direction that often had little to do with the topic they'd been asked to teach that week.

Cheryl had not been a doormat when she married Henry. However, years of his anger and complaining and blaming had made her doubt herself. She sometimes wondered if the things that were wrong with their relationship really were all her fault. Henry seemed so confident most of the time, and so convinced when he wasn't that the problem was all Cheryl.

I knew that if Cheryl were to work closely with Henry on his addiction, she would end up bearing the brunt of it just as she did with their Sunday School class. I encouraged each of them to do some work on their own first. Henry needed to change some lifelong patterns of self-justification and entitlement. He needed a lot of practice taking responsibility for his behavior and future rather than looking to Cheryl to meet all his emotional needs. Cheryl needed to work in a group with other women to develop more emotional independence and the capacity to stand up to the pressure and control Henry could exert.

Many men in Henry's position, who are used to blaming their wives for what's not right in their lives and looking to her for soothing and solutions, bail when they discover that in the early stages recovery for them is going to be primarily an inside job. To Henry's credit, he didn't bail. He read Why Is It Always About You and learned about Narcissism. He read Jeff Young's book, Reinventing Your Life, and learned about the entitlement lifetrap. He worked in therapy to reverse those patterns. He read Terrance Real's book, Why Can't I Get Through to You and really took in Real's message: Your wife is probably right. It's you who need to change to heal the relationship. We watched as Henry worked his tail off in individual and group therapy. It took a while, but when they were finally ready to work together as a couple, Henry and Cheryl's marraige counseling sessions and the work they tried to do as a couple really made a difference.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

He Needs Honesty as Much as She Does

Once Phil started telling Carrie about his slips right after they'd happen, it changed the addiction for him. It robbed the addiction of its potency. Shame is such an intense emotion. Keeping our behavior a secret seems to just supercharge the whole struggle emotionally. Opening up to Carrie seemed to release some of that energy, the way a ground wire discharges electrical energy into the ground, neutralizing what otherwise might have been a dangerous charge.

Another thing happened for Phil over time as he got in the habit of being real with Carrie about his struggles. He finally felt like he had support in the midst of his worst moments. I told him early on, "You're a decent guy. You're one of the good guys. You deserve to have the support of the most important person in your life. There's no reason a guy like you should have to face such a gnarly struggle on your own."

It was a surprise for Carrie to see just how bad these periods were for Phil once he started conveying his true struggle to her. Since he'd never shared with her what was really in his heart and soul when things were bad with his addiction, Carrie had become convinced that he enjoyed it more than she now realized he did. She thought acting out sexually was a light-hearted thing he engaged in, something that he wanted to keep from her so that he wouldn't have to give it up. Seeing his angst and turmoil firsthand convinced her otherwise. He was less the bad guy in her eyes.

I'll mention one final benefit for Phil. Porn keeps us hooked, in part, because it's been paired repeatedly with the pleasure of sexual fantasy and masturbation. The frontal cortex of the brain, which processes our values and priorities and goals, is trying to keep us away from porn. However, that's not the part of the brain that is in charge in the heat of tempting moments. Rather, one the most primitive parts of the brain, a part we have in common with the reptiles, takes over at the controls at such moments. That reflexive part of the brain responds not to reasoning, but to conditioning. If what immediately follows a behavior is pleasure, that part of our brain wants to go back to it again and again. If what immediately follows a behavior is aversive, it will go to great lengths to prevent that outcome in the future. Just like we don't scold a puppy for wetting on the carpet three months ago because it would never connect the discomfort with the behavior, telling my wife three months after I had a problem with porn doesn't make smut less attractive to me tomorrow. However, if I disclose to her right away, the primal core of my brain starts making the link. After that, the bloom is off the rose of acting out sexually. If I know that I'll open up and do it right away, then the idea that no one has to know about this just doesn't hold water any more, even in the tunnel vision kind of focus we go into when we're craving.

What are the benefits for you of working together with your spouse? How has it been different than struggling on your own and trying to keep your ups and downs a secret?