Thursday, December 19, 2019

The Builder

Are you drawn to Steady Freddie? A modest, reliable family man? The guy who quietly repairs the widow’s porch, volunteers at the food bank and serves as a deacon in your church?

If so, chances are you never back-talked your teachers or took sick leave unless you were at death’s door. You’ve probably already created an Excel spreadsheet for the party you’re having next month.

You and Freddie are Builders, and you’ll make a great team. He’s probably an administrator in the military or possibly an accountant. You’re on the board of several charities, always looking for ways to give back to the community. Your children will be well-mannered; your home a safe haven of efficiency.

What could possibly go wrong?

According to Helen Fisher’s book Why Him? Why Her? the test group contained 28.6 percent Builders, however, there were fewer Builder men than Builder women, so competition for Freddie will be fierce.

Builders find routines comforting and these repetitive actions increase serotonin levels. Your even keel is the product of serotonin, however, an imbalance can lead to obsessive compulsive disorders including hoarding.

Every coin has two sides so look long and hard at your potential hero. Beware of morality that borders on legalism. Don’t let loyalty to his mother trump his responsibility to you.

In order to be his heroine, guard against becoming hypercritical--let him fold the towels the “wrong” way. Don’t hold his faults up as worse than your own and keep your eyes on the future. Wallowing in past regrets or pessimistic thoughts is a romance-killer. 

Thursday, November 14, 2019

The Explorer

You’ve met that guy – the daredevil who loves skydiving, whitewater rafting and talks of climbing Mt. Everest.

Maybe you’re a bundle of energy, always trying new things – from exotic foods to worldwide travels. Or perhaps you only dream of those things – circumstances forcing you to seek your adventure through voracious reading and trips to museums.

According to Helen Fisher in her book Why Him? Why Her? The Explorer personality made up 26 percent of her test group with a slightly higher number of males.  

Driven by dopamine, a brain chemical that controls reward, pleasure, movement and emotions, Explorers are novelty seekers and risk takers. They are energetic, creative, generous, optimistic, autonomous, liberal, daring and curious with a wide variety of interests.  

Depending on your personality type, that may sound exhilarating or terrifying.

If this describes the hero of your dreams, pause a moment to consider the downside. This is the man most likely to become bored and restless in a marriage. His impulsiveness may lead him to blowing the rent money on a get-rich-quick scheme.

We are fearfully and wonderfully made, a complex mixture of neurotransmitters, electrolytes and hormones, to name a few. Just as an imbalance in insulin can cause a diabetic coma, an imbalance of dopamine can cause several problems including, Parkinson’s disease, bipolar, schizophrenia, addiction and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

Warnings aside, is he a match? 

If he’s a pure Explorer – this is a case where opposites DON’T attract. A quiet homebody would bore him to death. On the other hand, if you’re an Explorer yourself, seeing every challenge in life as an adventure, this may be the perfect match for you. An important consideration would be the secondary personalities of you both.

Thursday, October 17, 2019

It’s Not All About Gender – Book Review

So as I’ve been studying relationships, learning about food groups and planets, I sometimes find myself in the wrong food group or planet. I’ll think, that describes my husband, not me. We’re still opposite/complements just not in all the stereotypical ways. 
Check out this hunky florist

To say that men are not artistic or do not express emotion denies the beautiful music, art and poetry created by males. And they weren’t all gay. To imply that these men are effeminate is ridiculous. I kept thinking to myself, it has to be more than gender differences, some of this boils down to personality.

Helen Fisher agrees with me. In her book Why Him? Why Her? she expounds on her personality theory. She believes personality doesn’t spring from the date of our birth or nine points in a circle, but rather from the chemical balance in our brains. This makes sense to me. We certainly know how hormones can affect us, turning sweet, gentle souls into raving maniacs for brief periods of time. It also explains why we may have dominant traits, but we can see traits from other personality types surface from time to time. Because we all have the four chemicals Fisher believes determine personality in varying levels.

Dopamine, serotonin, testosterone and estrogen. Just reading those four words, I could visualize the list of personality traits for each.

This is not a plug for transgender lifestyles. Because when I took her personality trait test I scored highest in the two generally associated with men, but let me assure you I have no desire to cross over. I like my heroes big, strong and MALE! And that doesn’t mean a man who scores highest in one or two of the personality types generally associated with women can’t be your dream hero – you’ve just lucked up, because rather than drag you by the hair to his cave, he will probably romance you all the days of your life.
Don't miss Clark waiting for

Since this book resonated so strongly with me, I’ve chosen to use it as the basis to discuss four personality types and their best matches. Keep in mind that personality is just one component of what makes you tick. Others would include gender, birth order and life experiences. All of these unite to make you a unique individual specifically designed for your special hero.

The one caveat I would offer regarding this book is her strong affinity for evolution and survival of the fittest. I simply substituted those assertions with our loving Creator God.

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Analyze Yourself! A book review

It’s hard to be something for someone else if we don’t even know who we are. So let’s start there.

Who are you?

If you’ve never taken a personality test, there are plenty available online. But are they accurate or just some crazy mumbo-jumbo? As I’ve said before there are several different types and I recently came across a book that explains many of them.

Analyze Yourself! The Ultimate Personality Guide by Jennifer Freed and Debra Birnbaum was very enlightening. For instance, I had never even heard of Ayurveda or enneagram, which made me a little nervous, but I found the concepts of both interesting without wandering too far down the mystical path.

It covers Western astrology – what’s your sign? As well as Chinese astrology which is only based on your birth year. As a warning, you may not want to investigate this system if you’re likely to be offended at learning you are a rat, snake, dog or dragon. In some of these systems I could readily recognize myself while others were totally off.

Overall, I found this book useful. Not only does it list the strengths and weaknesses, but it also explains how the characteristics of each personality will play out in romance, friendships, career, finances, fitness and personal style. I find this especially helpful when deciding on hobbies and careers for my characters. And it may help you the same way. 

Even if everything doesn’t fit you might find revealing tidbits, like I did in this paragraph: “Rabbits work best alone and for themselves…You will thrive in a position that offers a lot of privacy to do your work.” Hmm, think that describes a writer?

So take this information with a grain of salt. Have fun trying to figure out the personalities of random people you meet. But mostly use it to recognize traits within yourself, strengths and weaknesses, to either build on or be aware of as you search for the perfect hero to complement you. 

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Women Are Like Spaghetti

Think of the grid street design of a small town. The north- south streets run parallel and are numbered. The east- west avenues run perpendicular to the streets and are lettered. It kind of looks like a waffle, making it very easy to navigate.
Now picture the crisscross interstate exchange in a major city. Flyovers stacked on top of one another, sometimes three and four high.
You trust the signs even though it’s counter-intuitive. The exit seems to be taking you in the wrong direction as it loops down and in between the other roads making its final destination impossible to determine. These are often referred to as a ‘spaghetti junction’.
Where would you rather drive? In whichever pattern is familiar to you. This could be why there is so much miscommunication between couples. We’re driving in different systems.
As women we juggle a lot of responsibilities: jobs, family, church, social engagements, and the list goes on. We walk through a store and remember that last week, Sophie, whose birthday is in six months, mentioned how she just ADORES owls, so we pick up that owl-shaped frame, because it will perfectly fit that picture with her BFF that’s stuck on the mirror. And speaking of owls, Hayden wants to go hunting with his dad this fall, but you’re worried that he might get shot and be terrified of guns for the rest of his life. Then he’ll never join the Marines and his grandfather will be so disappointed. Yep, need to get an orange vest. Every person, place, thing, event – past, present or future – lands in the ginormous pile of spaghetti that is our brain. And that works for us! Thank God He created us with an all-encompassing, every-box-open-at-the-same-time mentality.
But imagine your waffle-designed hero trying to follow your spaghetti junction conversation. If you navigate freeway systems on a daily basis, it makes perfect sense to you, but think back to when you first arrived in the big city or, as in my case, your hometown morphed into a teeming metropolis. It was a little confusing, right? Okay, it was downright terrifying!

Spaghetti junctions are created for a reason – they’re an effective way to move massive amounts of traffic efficiently. But remember God also designed the street-grid mind of our hero. There is no better or worse – He created the differences and He doesn’t make mistakes.
Read more in Bill and Pam Farrel’s book Men Are Like Waffles Women Are Like Spaghetti 

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Men Are Like Waffles

Try writing as a man sometime, figuring out what goes on in those handsome heads.
In Love Inspired Suspense books, half the story is seen from the hero’s point of view. I love reading these stories, because I, like every other woman on earth, want to know what our men are thinking.

Here’s the problem, most romance authors are women. So how do we get into our hero’s head? I’m fortunate to have some men, very good sports, who will bluntly tell me – a man wouldn’t care about this detail. A man would never say that line.

Beyond torturing friends, I’ve also done a lot of reading. According to Bill Farrel, behind that gorgeous smile is a waffle. That explains a lot!

Basically his theory says that a man’s mind is divided up into compartments, like the squares on a waffle. And, here’s the really hard part to comprehend – men can only be in one, maybe two boxes at a time. 

One of the things I found interesting from this book is how men de-stress. They actually have squares in their waffle set aside for that. We think they’re avoiding or ignoring us when they play golf or watch football, when in reality they’re in their decompression chamber recuperating from the day.

Women, on the other hand, like to talk things out. I’m not sure about you, but this need is so strong for me that if there’s no one to talk to, I’ll talk to myself. Or at least journal my thoughts until I have all my problems laid out and thoroughly discussed. Then, finally, I can relax.
We accuse our men of not wanting to talk about anything, ever. However, I have it on good authority that this isn’t true. Rather, they like to mull over their problem first, cleaning up the thorny underbrush until they have a clear understanding of the situation. Then they will seek wise counsel. We can be that trusted resource if we converse in an orderly manner.  

So when we’re talking to our hero we need to identity the square we wish to visit and stay there until we’re ready to move on, carefully closing that box before announcing the new location. That means discussing our toddler’s playground clash without obsessing about the certainty of a criminal career. Apparently our tendency to link current events to future outcomes jumps about fifteen boxes in a man’s mind.
I know. I see the linear connection of point A to point B. I’m just saying, when his eyes glaze over, pull back and evaluate how to match the conversation to his boxes.

If we want him to be our hero, we need to be his. That means recognizing and respecting his perspective. Once we’re anchored in the same box we can benefit from his complementary mindset. As Jerry Maguire said, “Help me help you.”

Read more in Bill and Pam Farrel’s book Men Are Like Waffles Women Are Like Spaghetti 

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Building Suspense: The Ying and the Yang

Ah, the beautiful mystery of love. The qualities that first attract us are the very ones that later drive us crazy. Why doesn’t he listen? Why does she talk so much?
Because we are different – as varied as breakfast and dinner, separate planets. And aren’t those differences delicious? Think of your favorite romance – his muscle-bound arms sweep up her delicate frame and our hearts go pitter-patter as we swoon. 

If you like a little suspense with your romance, picture a young couple racing through the jungle with a maniacal killer on their trail. Faking an injury, she stumbles and falls, luring the villain in with her weakness while the hero disables him with superior strength.

Even a strong, law-enforcement type heroine needs the balance -- the difference -- that a hero brings to the plot. For example, in the ABC dramedy Castle, Rick, the male lead, is hardly your typical hero, but his vivid imagination provides the perfect foil to Kate Beckett's no nonsense logic. She keeps them safe and together they solve crimes.

 You may think your life is mundane, but it’s actually full of suspense. Decisions are made on a daily basis and almost none of them are easy. It certainly helps to have someone to share the responsibility and consequences.
Lunch with the girls is fine, but for the unknown future, the ups, downs, twists and turns of life, we want, no we need, the ying to our yang – our opposite, our complement, our everyday hero.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Opposites Attract; Complements Enhance

So after you take that personality test, you might want to take a long hard look at the personality traits you don’t possess – the type that is so not you – your polar opposite. Chances are that’s the personality of your hero because as we all know opposites attract.

You may think, ‘that’s crazy!’ No, that’s God’s plan – it’s not so much that opposites attract as that they complement one another. Isn’t that what we want in a hero -- someone who completes us?

As I’m developing a romance couple, I look at personality charts and endow them with characteristics guaranteed to create fireworks. For instance, a warm, carefree social worker would utterly frustrate a hard-nosed, regimented businessman.

But once they resolve their difference, they can actually complement one another. His practicality can relieve her fears and insecurities freeing her to pursue her interests while her compassion can temper his insensitivity allowing him to be a better leader.
Another example is the color wheel. Hues located on opposite sides of the wheel complement one another which is why we like orange and blue, well, if you’re a Florida Gator fan. The contrast makes each color appear brighter together than alone. When decorating a room we use a complementary color for accents that create energy and vibrancy.
Now we can use analogous colors, those that are next to one another on the color wheel, for a more calm and relaxing atmosphere. Cool shades of blue and green may be fine for a guest room, lulling visitors to sleep.

There’s something to be said for comfort and familiarity in a relationship. And that comes, even with opposites – a balance develops, a routine where we fill in the gaps in each other’s lives.

Do the differences in your relationship bring harmony or ignite fireworks?

Monday, April 15, 2019

To Thine Own Self Be True

So from the last blog you might have thought I was suggesting that you change for your man. No. I’m suggesting that you change for yourself. To become a better person – the person you were designed to be.

We are fearfully and wonderfully made – complex creatures with a unique mix of character traits. But like a photograph each trait has a negative. Tenacity can become bull-headed stubbornness. Self-confidence can become pride. Compassion can become enabling.

You’ve probably taken a personality test and found that you’re an animal, color or letter. But you’re seldom all owl or all green. Most people are a mix of at least two personality types.

I find these tests difficult because I’m thinking, well, in my personal life I’m this, but in my professional life I’m that… but still with every test I come out with a similar version of the same personality.

So according to Tim LaHaye I’m a ChlorPhleg, or using the DISC method I’m an SC. I’ve never taken the Myers-Briggs Animal Personality test, and I’m not sure I want to take a chance on being a Hippo or a Gorilla.
The point is, our personalities don’t change. And guess what? We won’t be able to change the personality of our hero – so we’d better know what it is and if we can live with it. 

But with knowledge we have the power to guard against negative traits while enhancing positive ones. The goal of change is to be true to our best self.

I love feedback – have you taken a personality test and do you think it was accurate?

Friday, March 15, 2019

Being His Heroine

If we want to find our hero in life we need to start practicing how to be the heroine of his. 

When I’m developing characters in a novel the heroine almost always carries some part of me or perhaps a truer statement is the me I want to be. The great thing about writing is I can make her do and say things I’m not bold or courageous enough to. The bad thing about writing is I have to find her flaws and create for her a journey of change. Sometimes those flaws hit a little close to home.

Although it may be painful, take some time to reflect on criticism you’ve received in the past. Discount the contradictory, cruel statements that come from only one person (and by the way, if you’re getting contradictory, cruel statements from a potential hero, here’s a clue—he’s not.)

In other words, if you often get comments like: that’s a good idea. You’re a problem solver. I never would have thought to do it that way. Then one person says: you’re stupid, that’ll never work, where do you get these dumb ideas – that’s a contradictory cruel statement.

But what are similar comments that you have heard time and time again? They may be hurtful. You may become defensive and declare them untrue, but as you take them as a whole, are you sensing a theme?

I’ll tell you mine:

“Hard hearted Hannah.”

“That’s a little harsh.”

“Ouch, you don’t pull punches.”

I see myself as plainspoken, but others see the truth. Obviously, I need to work on my compassion quotient.
Change begins within. If we want to change those around us, we generally need to start with ourselves. It’s certainly easy to spot the faults in others, but introspection is a little more difficult.

But it’s worth the effort. After all, once we find our hero, doesn’t he deserve one in return?

Friday, February 15, 2019

I'm No Expert

I’m no expert. I’m not a psychologist, counselor or therapist. But I do have common sense, life experience and friends. And, well, you know, women love to talk. We especially like to talk about men. What’s wrong with them, what we’d change, and what we wish we had known before we made a lifetime commitment.

Then we read a romance novel. The hero is gorgeous, exciting and oh, so perfect! He never leaves a pile of dirty clothes on the floor and his whispered endearments are music to our ears. And if we’re reading romantic suspense, the macho factor goes through the roof.

Here’s the thing: Romance novels are written by women. So of course, we make the heroes conform to ideals. Fortunately, we live in the real world. I say fortunately, because face it, the heroines in romances are pretty perfect, too.  Quite frankly, I can’t live up to that pressure on a daily basis.

In the real world our heroes are accountants, mechanics and utility workers. And if they’re faithful providers, engaged fathers and spiritual leaders shouldn’t that be enough? Does it really matter that they don’t fold the towels the same way we do? Isn’t it enough that they fold them?

So on this blog I’m going to share some of my thoughts about finding our hero, whether we’re looking across the kitchen table, searching for some heroic quality in our partner of twenty years or still waiting for him to arrive on the scene. I’d love your feedback, so what makes your hero appealing?