Friday, April 29, 2016

Registering Women For The Draft

We should have known it would come to this. Women in the nation's all-volunteer armed forces are already involved in combat, but up to this point have never had to register for a potential future draft.

A current bill just approved by a 32-30 margin in the House Armed Services Committee may change that. And why not, since we are increasingly committed to equal treatment of all citizens regardless of gender (which in itself is a good thing).

But surprisingly, the main sponsor of this legislation, former marine Duncan Hunter of California, introduced it in the hopes that Congress would not approve it, since he would like to see fewer women involved in combat.

"A draft is there to put bodies on the front lines to take the hill," he said, according to an AP article in today's paper. "The draft is there to get more people to rip the enemies' throats out and kill them."

At least someone is being candid here.

The time has come when humanity needs to ask the more fundamental question of whether anyone, male or female, should ever be forced to take part in killing and maiming their fellow human beings.

Of all of God's creatures, we are the only ones who organize ourselves to destroy each other's lives and property in this kind of unimaginably barbaric way.

May God help us.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Do We Need A "Society For The Prevention Of Cruelty To Humans"?

Rockingham/Harrisonburg SPCA
"The structural and social environment, as well as opportunities for cognitive and physical activity, are important for all species of animals."
-Association of Shelter Veterinarians

Incoming humans at our local jail may be kept in a holding cell for up to 72 hours before being assigned to a regular pod, especially those arriving on a weekend.

In the holding area they are housed in an often cold and sometimes crowded environment, without being provided a blanket or mattress. No routine medical care screening is done at the time of their admission, nor any medical help offered for for those going through drug withdrawal or who are in need of their prescribed medications.

It was in one of these holding units that an inmate committed suicide at our jail on December 7, 2014.

All of which makes me wonder whether we shouldn't have standards for the confinement of human beings that are more in line with those set by the Association of Shelter Veterinarians?

Here are some excerpts from their 67-page book of Guidelines For  Standards of Care In Animal Shelters:

"The primary enclosure must be structurally sound and maintained in safe, working condition to properly confine animals, (and) prevent injury..."

"Primary enclosures must provide sufficient space to allow each animal, regardless of species, to make normal postural adjustments, e.g., to turn freely and to easily stand, sit, stretch, move their head, without touching the top of the enclosure, (and) lie in a comfortable position with limbs extended..."

"Temperature and humidity levels should be evaluated at the level of the animal’s body within its enclosure...  If animals appear too cold (i.e., shivering or huddling together for warmth) or too hot (i.e., excessive panting), necessary measures must be taken to ensure animal comfort and safety..."

"It is commonly accepted that animal shelters have a responsibility to provide for the health and welfare of all animals who enter their care. Unfortunately, compromised animal health and welfare have been documented in animal shelters... Animals often arrive at shelters already experiencing health challenges, and even healthy animals entering new, expertly designed facilities may have their welfare compromised, or risk becoming ill without a functional medical healthcare program."

"The structural and social environment, as well as opportunities for cognitive and physical activity, are important for all species of animals. An appropriate environment includes shelter and a comfortable resting area, in which animals are free from fear and distress and have the ability to express normal, species typical behaviors... The stress induced by even short-term confinement in an animal shelter can compromise health; and when confined long-term, animals frequently suffer due to chronic anxiety, social isolation, inadequate mental stimulation and lack of physical exercise."

Sunday, April 24, 2016

A Fun Visit To The National Museum Of Play

Rochester,  New York, Museum of Play
"Play is the child's work."

Spending time with grandchildren brings out the playful side of grandparents. Since Thursday we've enjoyed being young again with our daughter and three New York grand-ones while their father is presenting at a medical conference in Tokyo.

I marvel at how creative our four -year old twins and their 11-year-old big brother are in their frequent "let's pretend" times with each other, entertaining themselves, and often us, for hours on end. 

To add to our fun we visited the Strong National Museum of Play in Rochester yesterday, a paradise experience for the young and young at heart. Our first stop was the Butterfly House, with 800-900 beautiful butterflies to enjoy from all over the world (see the uniquely shaped building to the right in the photo above). Another highlight was the Museum's unique Toy Hall of Fame.

Each year the a toy or toys is added to this exhibit. Choices are based on playthings that have been widely recognized as fostering learning, creativity and discovery, and that have remained popular over time. The 2015 selections included the puppet, Super Soakers and the Twister. 

In the past the toy or toys of the year have included the bicycle, the kite, Crayola crayons, marbles and skateboards. The 2005 Hall of Fame winner was the cardboard box, an all-purpose, low cost option for active and creative play. 

The 2008 entry was even more basic, the lowly stick. Christopher Bensch, curator of collections at the museum, defended that choice with, “It’s very open-ended, all-natural, the perfect price (and) there aren’t any rules for its use. It can be a wild west horse, a medieval knight’s sword, a boat on a stream or a slingshot with a rubber band... No snowman is complete without a couple of stick arms, and every campfire needs a stick for toasting marshmallows.” 

How true. Without batteries or any form of gadgetry, its use is limited only by children’s imaginations, and I have seen it serving as a magic wand, a fishing rod or a rod in the hand of a Moses grandly parting the Red Sea. 

Oh to be young again.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

"Welcome To Fluvanna Correctional Center" (by an anonymous inmate)

Fluvanna Correctional Center for Women, Troy, Virginia
While I cannot verify  every detail in this inmate's account, I know her personally and know others who can vouch for her integrity. As always, I am willing to post any response from a facility like FCCW, but complaints like the ones listed below are distressingly similar to those I repeatedly hear from other prisons and jails across the Commonwealth, although I'm know there are many dedicated and caring staff members at these institutions as well.
This is a condensed version of something she sent me recently, posted with her permission.

Fluvanna Correctional Center for Women is saturated with compromising issues. Poorly trained staff and improper medical care top the list. 

American citizens should not be subject to being treated as little more than beasts. True, everyone here broke the law, yet the very name "Correctional Center" indicates that we are here to be rehabilitated back into society. From all I have witnessed here, this facility is accomplishing the opposite.

Day after day we see guards whose heads are swollen with power, and with a level of corruption demonstrated in the Stanford Prison Experiment. I have seen a guard walk directly up on an inmate, blowing a whistle in their ear. Many times I have heard a guard scream "Because I told you so!"

I have personally witnessed officers egging inmates on, wanting the inmate to combat them or another inmate. I have seen other staff behaving in this way as well. I have seen nurses play favorites in seeing inmates, who have even cursed at inmates, because they know that the inmate receives all the repercussions. Disrespectful behaviors such as these all show a lack of proper staff training.

Fluvanna does allow for inmates to put in a grievance regarding an officer, but everyone knows they will retaliate in some form of childish bullying. A common example is having an officer come shake your room down and write up some kind of charges. Doing time is hard enough without having this kind of harassment from officers. 

Fluvanna is supposed to be a medical facility, and many inmates are assigned here for that reason. But staff members are not properly trained to deal with emergencies. 

While in intake I witnessed a woman slip and fall, wearing what we call "suicide shoes". These are flip flops issued to us to wear fro showering. They become like ice skates in puddles of water. The guards acted like they had never experienced an injured person before. It took them some time to tell the other inmates to lock down. Meanwhile, the woman, in obvious severe pain, was being moved about and treated by guards as if it were no big deal. After being sent to the hospital it was determined she had broken her leg.

One inmate in my wing was bitten by a spider. This was not considered a medical emergency. Even when her finger was beginning to turn black,the nurse simply gave her Benedryl and told her to soak her finger in hot water. It wasn't until a week later, with the blackness spreading and the red blood poisoning line going up her hand that she finally did get proper medical care, after her being adamant about it and showing her finger to the sergeant.

Another medical failure I have witnessed is how easily they run out of people's medications. This is not something to be toyed with, since people may go through major withdrawal or start to act out. And someone with a kidneyinfection should not have to be told that they have run out of antibiotics.

In conclusion, Fluvanna's poorly trained staff, improper medical care and pattern of discrimination tend to promote patterns of negative behavior. The staff should be shining examples of productive members of society. Instead, they reinforce attitudes of negligence and disrespect.

It's a small wonder that offenders keep coming back.

Signed, An anonymous inmate at FCCW

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

How A Fixation On Psalm 23 May Hinder Us

How can "sheep" take on the mission and heart of the Shepherd? 
Like almost everyone else in the whole world, I love the Shepherd's Psalm. It well deserves its place as our most favorite passage in the entire Bible.

Even unbelievers are familiar with Psalm 23. Whenever I invite people to join me in reciting it, as I sometimes do at graveside services, for example, I'm amazed at how many are able to join in.

It is little wonder the passage has such broad appeal. It is one of the most personal of all scripture texts, full of references to "I" (4 times) "me" (6 times) and "my" (4 times). Yet it is all about what a gracious and benevolent shepherd God is, with seemingly no expectation of our offering anything in return.

It is about pure grace.

That's certainly a message we all need, given how impoverished and dependent we human beings are, and how we much need divine nurture and care, especially in times of loss, loneliness and distress.

But it's not intended to give us the whole picture of our covenant with God. The other side of the story, found in multitudes of other passages, is about how God calls us and equips us to learn shepherding and nurturing ourselves, and to graciously pass on that love and care to others in need.

It's that second calling that is so easily and so often overlooked. To a repentant Peter, Jesus's message is that if you really love me, you will shepherd my sheep, feed my lambs, lead others to places of nourishment and growth (e.g., to "feed" them).

In other words, we are called to be both aware of our spiritual poverty, to be receivers of grace, and to be a means by which we convey grace and help to others. God's shalom is always to be passed on.

Otherwise, we risk remaining spiritual infants, seeking only our own comfort, safety and blessing rather than living out the mandate of the apostle Paul, who urges all believers to "warn those who are complacent, comfort those who are anxious and afraid, take tender care of those who are weak, and to be patient with everyone." (I Thessalonians 5:14, paraphrased)

In other words, having been blessed by Psalm 23-style shepherding, we practice that same kind of shepherding toward others.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

The Miracle That Was Mary: 1924-2016

Mary Hepner Wert
Mary Hepner Wert, married to my wife's oldest brother Harold, was a marvel and a miracle. Child number eight of eleven children born to Samuel and Sally (Snyder) Hepner of Juniata County, Pennsylvania, Mary Fianna wasn't expected to survive to even middle age, much less to 92. But she managed to outlive her husband by three years and leave behind five children, fourteen grandchildren and seventeen great-grandchildren, all of whom sang her praises at the memorial service Alma Jean and I attended Thursday.

Mary was born with Sturge-Weber syndrome, a rare congenital/neurological and skin disorder often associated with the port-wine stain she wore without any sign of self-consciousness. She was never one to feel a bit sorry for herself, but lived with the kind of zest and a spirit of gratitude that was truly contagious. She epitomized hospitality, always ready to open her heart and extend her table to take people in, including some non-family members she and Harold kept in their home for months at a time.

Over thirty years ago, she began to have painful and frequent seizures which interfered significantly with her active life. Her doctors, who had done everything they knew to do medically, saw this as an inevitable progression of her condition and reminded her that she had already lived much longer and better than anyone ever expected. 

Mary wasn't satisfied with their conclusions, however, and asked her pastors at the Erisman Mennonite Church for a service of prayer and anointing of oil for healing. From that point on, and for the next fifteen years she was miraculously free of all seizure activity. At age 75, however, she did have one more, a serious grand mal everyone feared would take her life, or at the very least leave her permanently impaired. But she not only completely recovered, but went on to live another seventeen good years.

Denison Witmer, one of Mary's grandsons, a singer-songwriter who inherited her love of music, sang the following piece at her memorial service, something he had composed some years before:

Grandma Mary

Mary, you are the bird inside the hand
Of St. Francis, in the garden where he stands
Handwriting, a birth mark and a quilt
Mother to my mother and to me and to me

Mary, you are the mason jars in spring
The kitchen with the view across a hill
First memory is a Bible verse in song
The organ while my family sings along
We sing along

And on the calendar when I leave
A little note for you, so you see
When I'm gone, I never go too far
Your heart is my heart
Your blood, my blood
When I'm gone, I never get too far

Mother to my mother and to me

Friday, April 15, 2016

Announcing A Most Respectful Divorce

A friend of ours recently received the following from a relative in a distant state announcing her upcoming change of address and marital status (names have been changed).

Nothing was said about her partner's or their children's or grandchildren's feelings about this latest development, but here are the details:

I'm moving April 18!

My new address is:

"Jane Smith"
(phone number)

"John" and I are completing the process of a respectful divorce through mediation. He will continue to live in our original home. I look forward to my new life with gratitude for the past and enthusiasm for the future!

I appreciate your prayers and friendship.


"John", by the way, is 84 and she is 82, and the couple has been married for 62 years.


Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Secretary To The Commonwealth To Speak At Gemeinschaft's Annual Fundraiser April 22 (Note Change of Venue)

Levar Stoney
“We put ourselves up to be a first-class state, yet we have one of the highest rates of second-class citizens—one of the highest rates of disenfranchisement.” 
- Levar Stoney

The following is a condensed version of an article in the Winter, 2015, Gemeinschaft newsletter promoting its annual fundraising dinner to be held at the Harrisonburg Mennonite Church Friday, April 22, with a silent auction from 5 pm and the program and meal (prepared by Gemeinschaft chefs!) starting at 6 pm: 

A 2004 graduate of James Madison University, Levar Stoney is a living inspiration. After completing his undergraduate degree in political science, he attended the Virginia Commonwealth University Minority Political Leadership Institute, finishing in 2006. 

Currently serving as the Secretary of the Commonwealth of Virginia, since January of 2015, Stoney has made tremendous strides. Not only has he broken racial barriers by becoming the first African American to be Secretary of the Commonwealth, he is also presently the youngest affiliate of Governor McAuliffe’s cabinet. 

In line with the mission of Gemeinschaft Home, Levar Stoney’s attitude and motivation to reach above and beyond the “status quo,” to achieve something greater, offers encouragement to individuals who have experienced hardships and substantial setbacks, giving them a sense of hope and a desire to persevere. We extend our gratitude to Levar Stoney who has accepted our invitation to give the keynote address during our annual banquet next April. 

Board member Kay Knickrehm initially approached Stoney about speaking at the event, because of his heavy involvement with reforming policies that concern restoring citizen rights for ex-offenders. Stoney’s continuous work to help a population that is oftentimes overlooked and disregarded resonates loudly with the goals of Gemeinschaft Home. 

In October of 2015, Governor McAuliffe assigned Stoney to lead Virginia’s efforts to streamline the process of restoring voting rights for convicted felons who have completed their prison sentence. He also co-chairs the governor’s commission that will review the Commonwealth’s policy on parole. 

Read Lativia Taylor's entire piece at
Please RSVP, by April 15 if possible, to 540-434-1690  or to
If you can't attend, you can make a contribution online at

Sunday, April 10, 2016

"The Loss Of You Is A Wound To The World": Kendall Earl Yoder 1991-2016

Kendall, at his recent wedding
Yesterday we attended a memorial service for my nephew Bob and Almaria Yoder's son, who died in an automobile accident April 1. He would have been 25 on May 14, and leaves behind his parents, his five siblings and his beloved young wife, Catherine Poss Yoder.

After some troubled years as a teen, Kendall became a dedicated Jesus follower, described by one of his peers as having a "fierceness of spirit". He also became known as an unusually empathic and valued mentor to youth and others at the Blue Ridge Community Church just west of Lynchburg. Some 400-500 members of his congregation, family and circle of friends came to pay their respects yesterday in an unforgettably moving service.

"He had a Spirit-led ability to see your heart and put his finger right on your pain and to challenge your point of view without being offensive or judgmental," wrote his father in a tribute to his son, "With utter disregard for being in style or religiously proper, he lived out the belief that every individual has equal, priceless value."

One of the teens in his church youth group spoke for many when she said, "You made us each feel loved and special. The loss of you is a wound to the world."

Another of his friends quoted him as recently comparing the painful task of grieving to being like cleaning up a very cluttered room. It doesn't matter so much where you start, he said, you just begin picking up whatever pieces you can and start to recover a little bit of hope at a time, until finally you find some order in all the chaos and disarray.

Little did he realize how soon so many of us would be in dire need of that kind of wisdom in dealing with our own grief.

Here's a link to Kendall's obituary

Friday, April 8, 2016

"I Still Love My Spouse, I'm Just Not 'In Love' With Him/Her Anymore"

From Lasting Marriage--The Owners' Manual (2007, Herald Press)
As a marriage counselor I often hear people lament that while they still care for the person they're married to, they've somehow lost the 'in love' feeling that was once so strong and powerful. And they conclude that this means their relationship is no longer a real marriage. It's over.

Is that true, or might it be entering a new chapter that could lead to an even better "happily ever after"?

A lot depends on how we define terms like "love" and "in love".

In our English language we use the same word ("love") to describe our fondness for chocolate as we do for our devotion to God or to a valued family member. In the Greek language used in New Testament times, their were three distinct words for love, each of which is a part of a good marriage, as in the diagram above:

"Agape" is the divinely inspired ability to care for other people as we care for ourselves, the ability to unselfishly and unconditionally forgive and serve others. It forms the foundation for any enduring relationship.

"Philia" is the kind of warm kinship we naturally feel with close friends and family members, associated with the enjoyment of everyday kinds of living and working together.

"Eros" is the romantic desire we feel for another, the less rational and yet very powerful and natural attraction we feel when we are "in love". Eros is also the name of the mischievous Greek god of romance, known as Cupid in Roman mythology.

So if we were to say "I still have a strong God-given kind of unconditional and filial love for my spouse, but I no longer feel the same cupid-inspired desire for pleasurable intimacy with him or her", then we should ask, "OK, how can we get back more of what we once enjoyed?" And, "What's getting in the way of that very normal and natural enjoyment?"

Love isn't something we "fall out of" like Humpty Dumpty falling off a wall. Even the loss of Eros is likely happening because we haven't nurtured it the way we did when we were dating, and/or because too many other desires have gotten in the way.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Now 44, A Virginia Inmate Is Serving 260 Years For Robbing A Convenience Store At 18

"We look at the examiner's as well as Department of Corrections data on the original offense and how he has acted since he was incarcerated. After that the decision is basically done by the computer."
- Mr. William Muse, past chair of the Virginia Parole Board

When an inmate at one of our state prisons read the above quote in an op-ed piece I had written for the Daily News-Record in 2013, he wondered if that might help explain the content of some of the varied rejection notices he's gotten from the Parole Board over the past four years.

The Board is to cite every factor considered in each case, but the following are the varied reasons given in this person's rejection, after the Board supposedly "reviewed all available information":

- Serious nature and circumstances of the offense
- Crimes committed

- History of drug and/or alcohol use
- History of violence--indicates serious risk to the community
- Serious nature and circumstances of the offense
- Serious disregard for property rights
- Considering all of the offender's records, the Board concludes that the offender should serve more of the sentence prior to release on parole

- Serious disregard for property rights
- Risk to the community
- Serious nature and circumstances of the offense

- Serious nature and circumstances of the offense
- You need to show a longer time of stable adjustment
- Release at this time would diminish seriousness of the crime

Several things should be noted here:

1. All but one of the above items have to do with events that happened prior to incarceration, and are things neither he nor any other inmate can possibly do anything about.

2. If the two reasons given after the first hearing are the definitive ones, one wonders why more are added later, since there was no new information available after 2011 except for his behavior in prison and the extraordinary number of educational and work opportunities he had availed himself of, none of which are even mentioned.

3. There is no "history" of violence in this case, only the threat of violence involved when he brandished a knife and threatened a female sales clerk while robbing a convenience store of $31 and four packs of cigarettes at 18 while high on drugs. He had robbed the same store of $300 while sober several weeks prior and had not been caught, which added to his sentence.

4. As to the longer time needed for a "stable adjustment", this inmate, after an initial year of some defiance when first incarcerated, has demonstrated consistently exemplary behavior in prison for well over two decades.

5. It seems especially odd that "considering all of the evidence" includes no mention of this person having completed his GED and every educational course available in the system, plus having earned 39 credits by correspondence toward an associates degree (which he was unable to complete because of Pell grants no longer being available to prisoners) and is now a computer drafter who designs furniture produced at his facility.

In spite of all of his accomplishments, because of the crimes he committed when 18--for which he takes full responsibility--he has a 260 year sentence.

He writes:

"I've gotten good reviews from every prison guard, teacher, employer, counselor and supervisor I've had contact with over the past 22 years. I have worked very hard to transform the 18-year-old immature, irresponsible person with no future into the person I am now... I only wish that when I was 18 I had the clarity of vision I have now at 42...

"...It was always my hope that the Parole Board would see in my efforts that I was changed person and that my future was worth saving. I was wrong in my hope. The Parole Board continues to see only the crimes committed, to only see the person I was 24 years ago.

"Meanwhile, the very support base I've built over the years is slowly eroding beneath my feet. The first time I went up for parole I had multiple places where I could live, jobs I could work at.. and anything else I would need to live in society. Now there are no jobs lined up for me, and one place where I could live... I've had family and non-family supporters  die, retire, and move to another state, and with them went many opportunities. As the years go by, my chances of making it in society are only decreasing... I may have to spend the rest of my life in prison."

Note: In spite of hundreds of deserving inmates who are still parole eligible under the "old law" (before parole was abolished in Virginia in 1995) the annual parole grant rate remains at below 2%. Express your concerns to the governor's office at

Monday, April 4, 2016

Some Home Health Care

Sister Fannie Mae and Dad, around 1972
With my good wife’s encouragement, I spent the past weekend with my older sister Fannie Mae, now 84, providing some assisted living care following her having a stint installed in her heart at Augusta Health. It was a good time to reconnect with a valued family member, and for having some heart to heart conversations of the kind we seldom find time for.

The one registered nurse in our family, Fannie Mae has not only served in a variety of US healthcare settings, but as a professional midwife and director of maternity clinics in Belize and then in Paraguay, assisting in over 200 births over a two year period. “God was good to me,’ she said, “I never lost a mother or a baby in all those deliveries, with the exception of several stillbirths.” 

You have to be proud of a sister like that.

As an expression of her giant-size heart, she brought a mentally handicapped child home with her from Paraguay whom she later adopted. Nina, now an adult and living elsewhere, is unable to look after her adoptive mom.

In some of our talks this weekend she shared what it’s like for her to be aging as the only single person in our family. This led to long discussions about the nature of family, how we as siblings and members of our extended and church families need to take responsibility for each other as we become aged and infirm. We agreed that whether married or single, we need to make sure none of our loved ones is ever unloved, neglected or uncared for.

Spending sibling time with a special sister, helping with meals and with the physical therapy she has to do every morning and evening, and having this uninterrupted time for conversation, all deepened my appreciation of the faith, hope and love that help keep a family together.

I love my sister, one of only two remaining, with four others having already passed (two of them in the past four months).  Thankfully, both of my older brothers are still living. 

I am blessed beyond measure.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Relationally Speaking, Are You Wiser Than A Fifth Grader?

Meet hypothetical couple "Jen and Sam". 

In their frequent no-holds-barred verbal fights, each operates from the mistaken belief that their spouse is suffering from a pure case of ignorance. Thus each keeps trying to enlighten the other through heated lectures and debates.

But just providing more information is the solution, someone has said, only to the extent that ignorance is the problem.

The real ignorance Sam suffers from is his belief that if he can just get in 50 more persuasive words, he will finally get Jen to see the obvious truth--his truth, of course. And Jen is just as convinced that if Sam were to hear just two more paragraphs of her good common sense, he would finally see the light--her version of it.

All the while, each is hoping for a result that has never happened in their entire marriage--nor in the history of all heated arguments since the beginning of time--that at the end of an intense debate, one of the sparring partners will humbly admit that the other is actually right after all, and will sincerely thank the other for offering them such great wisdom and enlightenment.

All of this is wishful thinking, of course, since a lack of information is neither Jen’s nor Sam’s primary problem. Their main problem is that they are each far too defensive and that they fail to recognize that no two people, even married ones, will ever see everything alike (unless they are clones of each other, which would be terribly boring).

Another problem is the fear each feels of losing stature, respect or power in the relationship, resulting in their reacting from the lower “fight or flight” subcortex of their brain. That’s the part that, whenever we perceive something or someone as a threat, injects an extra dose of adrenaline in preparation for dealing with some major crisis.

But most disagreements are far from being about about real crises. They are just about normal differences and ordinary problems. These can easily develop into crises, though, if the wrong parts of our brains are activated. And when that happens, the reflective, problem-solving, higher brain, the neocortex, is half shut down. The result is anxious and desperate behaviors that turn simple mole hills into huge mountains, with everyone becoming bruised in the process.

Most of us have been there and done that. In all of our arguments, we tend to have two or more speakers and no listeners, which makes them an utter waste of time. No one gains, no one learns, and everyone loses.

What if we were to practice cutting back on the talking, taking turns really listening, and first taking time time to truly understand where the other is coming from and what he or she is needing--whether we agree with them or not? And what if we just observed a time-out whenever things things started escalating, rather than making things worse by going into all-out defensive, offensive, mode?

Most of the time, once we have calmed down and cooled off, we realize that we might actually learn something form the person with whom we disagree, that there might be more solutions out there than there are problems, and that mature, wise adults can find some creative win-win outcomes. 

We can also recognize that being right isn't nearly as important as being friends, and that offering an apology from time to time is a good thing.

Often the best response to a verbal fight is no response at all. Better to politely disengage from it and offer to talk later, after everyone’s had a chance to calm down.

Even a fifth grader should be able to see the wisdom in that.