Table of Understand – by guest blogger, Renee Rhodes

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The following commentary is the first post on this site by guest blogger Renee Rhodes – welcome, Renee! You can check out her bio here as well as get a link to her own blog, “Gold Spun Gray.” Enjoy!

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Guest Blogger, Renee Rhodes

Before my family established the Table of Understanding, I often found myself terrified to bring up controversial ideas or issues with my family. It wasn’t that I was ever afraid of getting in trouble, necessarily, but more that it would put me under emotional fire. For example, telling my mom that her stress is negatively affecting the rest of the family. Or, warning my father to be very careful of any complaints he might make about spending money while we celebrate his in-laws’ 50th anniversary. These aren’t always things a person wants to hear, especially from their 20 year old daughter.

So we introduced the Table of Understanding. Sounds so pretentious, doesn’t it? The four of us – my mother, father, brother, and I – would sit around the four edges of the dining room table and attempt to resolve the issue that brought us to the Table. The issues that we discussed ranged from trouble with friends, monetary agreements, or conflict among members of the family.

There are several rules of the Table of Understanding:

1. Do not speak before your turn. Do not interrupt the person who is speaking.

2. Do not criticize the views of anyone else at the Table.

3. If you feel a different approach should be taken in a situation, make an appeal and present your case.

4. If you feel hurt or offended, by all means, say something.

5. If you are not involved in the conversation, act as a mediator and make certain the above rules are followed.

The whole point of the Table of Understanding is – oh, imagine that – understanding. In attempting to understand the perspectives of others without conflict, we managed to resolve many problems and find the best ways to approach tough situations. The tradition was established about halfway through my high school career and it is quite versatile in its usefulness. It provides a way to confront without being too confrontational. It allows us to broach difficult subjects of drama at school or church without distraction. And it is also a great venue for seeking advice.

One of the biggest issues in any close-knit group of people is miscommunication. Without that level of understanding, friends, families, and relationships can fall apart. I’m not saying the Table is something every family should have, but I do suggest that everyone have a method for dealing with miscommunication. Not just in families either! In friend circles at school, small groups at church, and even in dating/marital relationships.

Misunderstandings occur wherever there is conversation. And conversation is everywhere. Especially in this day and age, conversation has leaked into social media and text messaging. The technological world is a world for misunderstandings. The human race cannot yet read minds, only the words before them. We cannot know what is meant, only what is said (and no, emoticons are not as helpful as society wants them to be). Misunderstandings abound when they are allowed.

However, acknowledging that misunderstandings will happen and having a plan in place for when they do can save everyone a world of grief.

Ever since we started meeting at the Table of Understanding, my family has been much more comfortable having difficult conversations. We hold each other accountable. We are open with each other about the things that trouble us. And we resolve issues quickly instead of letting old wounds fester. Though we are not immune, the damage miscommunication can cause has been minimized. We no longer have to stress about talking to one another because we have an easy way to resolve the issues that arise. We face the issues together instead of on our own.

There is an entire new year ahead of us that will inevitably bring many struggles. The best way to face them is to be ready for them.


Your Resolution Sucks

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Your resolution kind of sucks.



Over half of the population has made a resolution this year to lose weight/diet. Of those, according to the stats, most will maintain their Jenny Craig diet for about two weeks. By February 1st, nearly half of the resolvers will be sneaking a Twix between dropping their kids off at school and beating the morning traffic to work. By March 1st, they’re almost all knee-deep in a Fudge Suicide Delight at their favorite grease bucket.

It’s just science, and it’s depressing.

Why are we so bad at resolutions? Is it because of too little resolve? Is it too little discipline? Is it Facebook’s fault?

No, our resolutions just suck.

Check it out – the top three resolutions of the New Year made by the population are as follows:
1) lose weight
2) get organized
3) save more, spend less
Kinda lame when you think about it.

Can’t we be more creative? Or even… Selfless? If we are being totally honest, losing weight, getting organized, and pinching pennies sometimes has less to do with others than it does with us and what we would like to accomplish. Not always, but we as humans have a habit of looking in the mirror and wanting to like everything we see rather than appreciate who we are in the first place.

But what exactly is it that stops us from accomplishing our goals regardless? In short, the thing that often impedes us from achieving our resolutions has nothing to do with the resolution we set.

Our resolutions often suck because we fail to take care of what we do before the resolution.

We don’t continue dieting because we leave boxes of Valentines chocolates lying around, unopened. We don’t work out because we don’t pack work out clothes and don’t drive near the gym on the way from work. We don’t save money because we carry too many cards we can spend money with easily with no accountability. We don’t spend more time with people because we feel we have to work just an hour extra before we can hang out; after all, what’s another hour of _____ really going to matter?

It will matter because it will stop you from seeing through your resolve.

Effectively seeing through a resolution works like this:
A) What activates your feelings? Want candy? – What makes you crave it? Want to spend? – What were you doing before you felt like spending? Pinpoint the feeling before the temptation.
B) What do you believe about it? “One more candy won’t hurt.” Ah, there’s the belief. Once you’ve found what activates the temptation, now, ID what you tell yourself to sell yourself on the idea.
C) Change it. Force yourself to drive a different route, tell yourself something different, or do it differently a second time.

A-B-C. Ha. See what I did there? With the, ya know, letters…

This is the fundamentals of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy used by therapists across the world. Google “successful resolution” and you’ll probably see something like this. Yet, when it comes to resolutions, there’s something we need even more of – something much deeper – that I believe impedes us the most:


Resolve involves us gathering ourselves and standing against an enemy that we eagerly want to vanquish. Perhaps “resolutions” have become too soft. They have become glorified “goals.” Tsk tsk. Resolve is far more powerful than that. Resolve pushes us to fight against things that are really gnarly, like indifference, impatience, and apathy.

Now those are things that could use a resolution or two.

This month, the blog is going to focus on the theme of “RESOLVE.” The things that plague our life, love, and families could really use some resolutions with some serious resolve. Our weight, finances, and gym memberships could use a rest this year. Broken relationships, depressed lives, and confused and deeply troubles love could use the attention this year instead. So let me formally invite you to tackle a new resolution – to make a resolve – that overthrows the old, confused, broken cycles in our relationships and replaces them with healthy, communicative boundaries, love, and life.

And if you haven’t already, follow us this month by clicking the “follow” button nearby so you can keep up with the theme of “RESOLVE,” and what it means in our life, love, and family.

“Runaway” – by Guest Blogger, Gary Head

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Today, I am featuring guest blogger and super talented smart guy Gary Head. Gary has been working with youth and college students now for several years and is wickedly good at it. Gary and I have worked together on a number of projects, including a play that we will debuting early 2014. For now, he features the following story – a brilliant narrative on family and brokenness – I hope you enjoy!
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My dog Charlie ran away last night. When my dad got home, the back gate was slightly open, big enough for Charlie to get out and leave. I don’t know why he did it. I never understand when dogs run away. Yeah, I understand when the dog lives with a bad family or is neglected or abused, but my family has always treated our dogs well. We treated Charlie very well and we loved him. Of course, that’s when there was still a ‘we’ around at all.  There really isn’t a family anymore. Now its just my dad and Charlie. Well, I guess now its just my dad.
Normally whenever Charlie gets out he comes back fairly soon. He only likes to go play for a little bit, sniffing out the strange smells of the neighborhood and exploring the other yards. But he didn’t really want to leave his family who fed him and loved him and scratched him in all his favorite spots. So he always came back.
But maybe Charlie hasn’t been getting that anymore. After all, I left for college awhile back, and mom left dad and now they’re getting a divorce. Maybe Charlie felt all this and could sense what was going on. Maybe he knew that his whole life was crumbling around him and he couldn’t do a thing about it. Maybe he even blamed himself. Where is boy? Where is mom?  That dog loved my mom more than anyone or anything. He would follow her around all day just wanting to be with her. Maybe when she left he blamed himself. And now Charlie just stayed home alone, waiting for mom to come back, and boy and Dad too so the whole family could be together. But it never really happened. Occasionally he saw mom and every blue moon he saw the boy. Dad still lived at home, but he worked a lot and when he was home he always seemed real sad. 
Maybe Charlie was just really sad and lonely. He didn’t really want to leave the place that had always been his home, but when that crack in the gate was there he couldn’t help but be pulled toward the possibility. What if he found mom and boy and could bring us back home and make dad happy again? Maybe he saw the open gate and all he knew was that he just wanted to be home again and that this wasn’t it anymore. So he ran and ran and ran. 
Who knows, maybe Charlie found a new family tonight. Maybe he found a mom and a dad who love each other very much and a boy who wouldn’t go off to college until long after Charlie died so that he could have the attention he so desperately needed from us but we couldn’t give him anymore.
Or maybe he’s just out there running around by himself. Looking and looking for home but not really knowing what to look for, with only the smell of love and the memory of warm family to keep him going.


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“That guy on stage kinda reminds me of me.”

“I” am the first guy on the left

Oh wait. It was me. 

That’s a weird feeling – seeing someone playing you on stage. Or seeing someone playing your dad or your grandmother on stage. But if you think it was weird for me to see “me” on stage, just imagine what the person playing me must have felt. There they were, playing the role of a real guy who was actually in the audience and also happened to write the play you were in.


In truth, actor David Denton did a phenomenal job playing the part of me (or rather, in the script, “Tristan”). When we were in pre-production for my first ever play, Those Unforgettable Black Rims, David approached me about the role.

“So, uhm, I have a question,” he asked. “I know this role is kind of, well, you. So, uh… How do I play you?”

Valid question.

I thought for a moment. Finally I said, “I guess the best way to play me is not to play me. I play me pretty good; you play you pretty good. So why don’t you play me like you would play you, only as me.”

He cocked his head, puzzled. Valid response.

I shook my head, confused at myself as well. “How about you just play ‘Tristan’ and don’t worry about playing me?”

David smiled and nodded. And that was exactly what he did and he did it splendidly.


In April 2013, director Robyn R. Huizinga and the Children and Adults Theatrical Studio stood at the helm of the script I had pounded out over the past couple of years. Everything – from the cast to the set – blew my mind. The whole production team was incredible. The cast was awesome. The theatre was packed. I was mostly speechless. The success of the show has little to do with me and much to do with the people who took the script and produced great work out of it. I owe so much to the whole group; without them, the show would still just be a few black marks on a page, hidden away on my computer. Thank you all!

The show (affectionately referred to simply as “Black Rims”) is indeed about my family… loosely. And while the actors certainly played the part of my family on stage, another family emerged during production. It was a family of people, unrelated by blood, but bound together by this project. Now that was truly a gift.

The production team that helped make this possible – Cornelius Brown, Zach Kocurek, and Robyn Huizinga.

Accomplishments are great, but what makes them truly awesome are the team of people who supported you along the way, for it truly is a team effort. Imagine a runner who wins the Boston marathon but has no one at the finish line to cheer with her. It would be such a bummer! I’m blessed that the show was produced, but, months later, I look back thankful not just because it was produced, but also because I got to work with some absolutely genuine and talented people who worked and cheered and laughed and cried with me every step of the way. I wouldn’t trade that for anything! 🙂 Thank you all.

With that, I will officially announce that “Black Rims” is now published and available online for purchase HERE or on is eligible for PRIME and also comes in a Kindle version).


The book features the full show, pictures from the production, and a special introduction from me. If you’re interested in production rights, simply email me from my contact page. However, if you’re just interested in enjoying a read, I set it up in such a way that it could be read at leisure or it could be read aloud by a family together. Whichever way you engage the show, I pray you enjoy!

Also, I will link a couple videos from the original production here and here. Acting credits go to David Denton, Chanda Riney, Emily Darwin, Tim Robinson, and Reagan Kruse. Not shown are Kelly Robinson and Lisa Hernandez.

Since it is Christmas time, how about a little extra something? – if you go to the CreateSpace store and enter the promo code KWA4LYSL you’ll get 15% off your purchase. Enjoy!