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How to Activate Curiosity in Your Child (Mike Ferry)

Curiosity helps kids learn and grow, but innate curiosity generally isn’t encouraged and supported as it should be. Mental conditioning coach and educator, Mike Ferry, offers some excellent ideas for strengthening, activating, and even recovering, much-needed curiosity.

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How to Activate Curiosity in Your Child (Mike Ferry)Whether we are adults or kids, curiosity is a path to happiness. When we allow our imaginations to roam freely and our minds to absorb whatever interests us, we feel happier and less stressed. Our children enter the world as happy little sponges, guided by light-hearted, curious natures. Kids love to learn and make sense of the world. When you think about it, the amount of knowledge children acquire by being curious is truly amazing.

Unfortunately, our innate curiosity tends to be trampled as we grow up. Parents get tired of answering their kids’ endless questions. Children learn that Mom and Dad are frustrated by their inquisitiveness. The questions gradually slow to a trickle before the faucet is turned off. Also, as children enter school, they realize that producing the “right answer” is more important than exploring and making their own connections. Sadly, school plays a huge role in squashing a child’s natural desire to learn. This ironic outcome helps to create an adult population that is less happy and more stressed than it would be if curiosity remained a priority throughout one’s educational career.

Teaching Kids Happiness and Innovation, Mike FerryAs a “mental conditioning” coach, I work with parents and teens to form habits for success in school and life. Curiosity is one of the qualities that I help my clients strengthen. When kids are curious, they learn more in the classroom. This tends to lead to higher academic achievement, which opens doors down the road. In addition, curiosity makes kids more creative. The more we learn, the more creative we become. Creative kids will be more attractive to potential employers, and they’ll shape a brighter future for all of us.

Want to help your kids strengthen (or recover) their curiosity? Here are some curiosity-boosting ideas that I share with my coaching clients:

– Be a patient parent. I know how difficult this can be. As a middle school history teacher, I am absolutely spent at the end of the day. By the time I come home to my own five children, most of my patience has evaporated. Despite my physical and mental exhaustion, I try to remind myself that my kids won’t be little forever. This is precious time, and it will be gone before I know it. After a walk around the neighborhood and some quiet time, my stress usually fades. Being in the moment makes it easier to answer questions and have meaningful discussions with my children. For more ideas on how to calm your brain and be a more mindful parent, check out my podcast episode, “Stop The Chatter.”

– Emphasize learning over grades. As parents, we recognize the importance of doing well in school. We want our kids to have the best possible educational and career paths in the future, and we know that report card grades determine what opportunities will be open to our children. This can lead parents to focus exclusively on the final result rather than valuing the learning process. When the report grade is all that matters, curiosity vanishes. On the other hand, parents can show that curiosity is important by taking an interest in what their children are learning at school. Is your daughter covering hurricanes or World War I in the classroom? Together, go to the Internet or the library to learn more. Turn the chore of school into an opportunity to make yourself smarter and more creative.

– Learn something new every day. Once you’ve communicated that learning is more important than grades alone, make continuous learning a part of your family’s routine. Do you know the countries of Europe? Could you identify all of them on a map? If not, start learning them here. Does your son love baseball? Maybe you could do some research on the history of the game. What games and sports are popular around the world? Find one that is unknown in your neck of the woods and have your kids teach it to their friends. When we get our kids (and ourselves) hooked on constant learning, we train our brains to look at everything with a curious eye.

I hope that these thoughts are helpful in your journey as a parent. Do you have other insights on how to boost curiosity at home? If so, I’d love to learn them! Feel free to contact me via my website, Facebook, or Twitter. ###

Mike Ferry is a mental conditioning coach, longtime middle school history teacher, father of five, and the author of Teaching Happiness And Innovation. His efforts to promote happiness and creativity have been featured in the Washington Post, Huffington Post, Christian Science Monitor, and radio shows and podcasts around the world.

 

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October 15, 2017 Posted by | Affirmation and Recognition, Communication, Educators, family, Human Interest, Inspirational, Parents, Self-esteem, Success Strategies | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Changing Pain Management into Joy Management (Michelle Cohen)

Michelle Cohen suggests that a simple redirection of our thoughts and energy from “What’s WRONG?” to “What’s RIGHT?” can create dramatic improvement in our lifestyles and in our families. She offers three areas of focus in this article entitled, “Changing Pain Management into Joy Management.”

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Changing Pain Management into Joy Management, Michelle CohenHow much time do most people spend in the day looking at what is going wrong? Can you imagine what life would be like if we all spent more of it contemplating what is going RIGHT?

Scientifically, it is proven that what we focus on grows. So if we are focusing on our pain, problems or issues, it stands to reason that they are not necessarily going to go away. If we instead spend most of our time noticing everything that is going well, there is a greater opportunity to live a positive, forward-moving, happy existence. Imagine modeling that possibility to those around you – especially children.

In general, kids are really good at staying in the “What’s RIGHT?” category. They seem to begin in joy management, but then learn that pain management is the more-used quality, so they copy it. Giving yourself and them a different outlook on life – spending the day looking at and for the joy instead of at and for the pain – is a life well-managed.

Balance what is wrong with what is right

This doesn’t mean don’t pay attention to a message either from your body or your life that something isn’t going well. But it does mean spend an equal if not bigger amount of time paying attention to the messages of health, prosperity, happiness, and contentment happening around you as well.

When something goes right, how long do you dwell on that victory? Is it one high five or a toast and then on to the next problem at hand? What if you or whomever you are celebrating took time to check into your body and notice how great it feels because something went well? And just sit in that victory for awhile. This signals your body and the universe that you want more of that. Now you are focusing on results you want and taking the time for gratitude and, more importantly, to just relish and enjoy the win!

Actually There Is Something Under The Bed, Michelle CohenGet the right measurement

When little kids falls down and come running to me in pain, I always ask “But how is your elbow?” This tends to stop them in their tracks. They stop crying for a moment, actually check their elbow, realize it is fine and let me know that. So, when we go back to the skinned knee or stubbed toe, it is now more properly indicating how much pain the child is actually in as opposed to the fear, shock and initial ‘ow’ the fall generated.

Equally significant, they just got shown that the rest of their body is in complete wellness so that he or she can be reassured. They now know that for the most part, they are continuing in their joyous little bodies and for a teensy part there needs to be repair. That’s a VERY different general percentage than how most of us tend to assess damage.

Add a Joy Job

Imagine if our real jobs in the day were assessing, growing and managing our joy. Everyone has pockets of it in them, but we don’t tend to it, water it or give it sunshine on a daily basis. Most seem to let it show up when it shows up and don’t necessarily assume it is theirs for the picking at any moment.

There is something really powerful about waking up in the morning and starting the day with, “How can I manage all of the joy in my life?” Try it and surprise yourself with what kind of day it brings forth for you and those you love. ###

 

Author Michelle Cohen and her projects have been featured on CNN, Good Morning America, MTV, NPR’s “All Things Considered”, and in People Magazine, Entertainment Weekly, and the Washington Post. Michelle has given thousands of private intuitive guidance sessions, exponentially changing the way her clients perceive themselves in positive and permanent ways. [website].

 

July 22, 2017 Posted by | Affirmation and Recognition, Anxiety and Depression, courage, family, Healthy living, Human Interest, Inspirational, Parents, Resilience, Self-esteem, Stress | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Silo: A Mother’s Intuition (John Starley Allen)

Author John Starley Allen shares a gripping and true story about how his mother’s intuition and the obedience of her sons to her words of caution most likely saved their lives. This story reflects the need for trust between parents and their children.

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The following is a true story about an incident from my childhood. After the story, I offer a few words of commentary.

 

The Silo: A Mother's Intuition, John Starley Allen“Hey, John, let’s run out to the silo,” my older brother, Sam, called out as he ran past me.

“Wait up!” I ran as fast as I could to catch up to Sam.

My brother and I lived on a big farm in the country with our mother and grandfather. We loved the fresh air, the open space, and the green fields that turned gold in the fall. But most of all, we loved the silo. To me, it looked like a giant soup can without the label.

As we got closer to the silo, I could see its rusty patches, dents, and cracks. I once asked Sam about them. He explained, “You know how Grandpa’s face is kind of wrinkled and how he has brown spots on his hands? It’s because he’s old. Well, that’s how it is with the silo. I bet it was shiny and smooth when it was new.”

For two boys with active imaginations, the silo represented all sorts of things. Some days it was an ancient castle. Sometimes we pretended it was a tall skyscraper or a pirate ship. I especially enjoyed standing in the center of it and yelling as loud as I could, then hearing my echo bounce off the curved walls.

When we reached the silo, Sam said, “Let’s play spaceship.” For the next twenty minutes, we pretended to soar through space and discover new planets.

We took turns climbing to the top of the steel ladder rungs welded inside and outside the silo, pretending that we were on the spaceship’s observation deck. Just as I had spotted a new planet, Mother’s voice brought both would-be space explorers back to earth.

“John! Sam! Time for supper.”

During supper, Grandpa asked us what we had been up to.

“We were playing spaceship in the silo,” Sam said.

“You boys sure enjoy that old silo, don’t you?”

“You bet,” I said. “Grandpa, can I ask you a question? Back in the old days, what was the silo used for?”

“Well, it was kind of like a big closet to store things in,” Grandpa said. “When this farm was in full swing, we needed somewhere to store all the feed for the cattle.”

My eyes grew big. “You mean you filled the whole silo with just feed? You must have had a lot of cattle!”

“We did. I remember when my papa had the silo built. I was just about your age. It was new and shiny, and one of the tallest things I’d ever seen.”

After supper, I cleared the table, and Sam helped Mother wash the dishes. When the dishes were done, Sam asked if we could go out and play.

“No,” Mother said. “I want to talk to you both. Let’s go into the front room.”

From the look on Mother’s face, we knew that she had something serious on her mind. We followed her into the front room and sat down.

“I know how much you enjoy playing in the silo,” she began, “but today I had a strong feeling. Right before I called you in for dinner, I felt that you shouldn’t play in it anymore.”

“But Mom, that’s our favorite place to play!” Sam cried.

“Yeah, Mom!” John frowned.

“I know you like playing there. But I can’t deny what I felt. I had a strong impression—call it intuition–that you shouldn’t play there anymore.”

“So that’s how you feel about the silo?” Sam asked.

“That’s right. I can’t give you any other reason except that I strongly feel you shouldn’t play there anymore.”

Later that night, when we were both in bed, I asked Sam, “Do you really believe what Mom said about the silo?”

“Yeah, I do.”

“How come?”

“I’ve never told anyone this, but do you know Bobby Morrison?”

“The tall kid with red hair?”

“That’s the one. Well, last year he and I planned how to cheat on a history test. I’m not going to tell you what the plan was, because I don’t want you trying a dumb stunt like that.”

“If it’s so dumb, why did you do it?”

“Well, I’m getting to that part. When the test started, I remembered what mom had once told me. She said, ‘You know it’s wrong to cheat.’ After that, I just couldn’t go through with it.”

“So what’s the big deal?” I asked.

“The big deal is that Bobby Morrison got caught cheating…and he got into a lot of trouble.”

I thought about what Sam had said for a moment, then asked “So you’re not even going to sneak over to the silo?”

“No.”

“Well,” I said reluctantly, “I guess I won’t either.”

The next few days were hard for us. We had to think of new games to play that didn’t involve the silo. One afternoon Sam said, “Let’s put a puzzle together.”

“Aw, who wants to do that?” I groaned.

“Do you have any better ideas?”

Since I didn’t, we set up a table on the back porch and started working on a puzzle. But I had a hard time concentrating—my eyes kept wandering in the direction of the silo. The good old silo. “Too bad we can’t play there anymore,” I thought miserably.

“Hey, stop daydreaming,” Sam said.

Before I could reply, Mother came out with a pitcher of cool lemonade.

As the three of us drank from frosty glasses, we heard a low rumble. The ground trembled, and the puzzle pieces on the table started doing a crazy dance.

“Look!” I pointed at the silo.

It wobbled and leaned to one side. The rumble grew louder while another sound filled the air—the sound of metal scraping, grinding, and ripping. A great cloud of dust rose up as the silo crashed to the ground.

Grandpa came running out of the house. “What in the world?” Then he saw the silo. “Oh! Oh, my!”

That night, I lay in bed unable to sleep. I kept thinking about my mom and the silo. And I realized my mom was a person I could trust.

Building trust is a huge part of being a parent. If you can earn your children’s trust, many other things will fall into place.

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A Splash of Kindness, John Starley AllenIn my mom’s case, she had a feeling—an intuition— that she trusted concerning the silo. And because she trusted her impression, she passed it along to my brother and myself. The fact that we abided her counsel—albeit not without some grumbling—shows that because of past experiences, we already trusted her.

She was not one who issued frivolous commands or who let her current temperament—frustrated or sanguine–dictate the kind of punishment she meted out. Her punishments were measured, consistent, and always “fit the crime.”

(On a side note, I have a friend who recalls his father regularly administering belt whippings. The father would come home after work, tired and frustrated, hear from him wife about some infraction—major or minor—committed by my friend, and a belt whipping would ensue. Even at a young age, my friend instinctively knew that something wasn’t right about regular whippings. It was more about his dad relieving frustrations than about teaching his son how to live a better life. And the sad result of this was that my friend lost any kind of trust in his dad.)

When I witnessed the silo overturn and crumble, that forever “sealed the deal” on the issue of trusting my mom.

So later on, when she would tell me of the dangers of drugs, or the pitfalls of hanging out with the wrong kind of friends, I believed her. I distinctly remember going to a particular party as a teenager.

As I was heading out the door, I think she must have had one of her impressions and realized the kind of party I was going to attend. She said to me very simply, “Don’t do anything you know I wouldn’t approve of.”

Her words rang through my head for the rest of the night. And so when I was offered a joint of marijuana, a can of beer, or a swig of vodka someone had appropriated from his father’s liquor supply, I declined. I wasn’t the life of the party, but I felt at peace knowing that I hadn’t let my mom down.

Through the years I knew that if my mom offered advice, it was heartfelt, well-thought out, and something that merited my attention.

My mom wasn’t the kind of person who constantly offered advice on any and every subject. But when she did, you knew that she honestly felt it was important for her to express her viewpoint.

And whenever she did, in my mind I would see the image of the buckling, crumbling silo… ###

 

In addition to A Splash of Kindness: The Ripple Effect of Compassion, Courage and Character, John Starley Allen is also the author of a holiday novel, Christmas Gifts, Christmas Voices, as well as a singer and songwriter. [website]

July 16, 2017 Posted by | Affirmation and Recognition, courage, family, Healthy living, Human Interest, Inspirational, Integrity, Parents, Resilience, Self-esteem | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Life Lessons Learned in a Texas Oil Field (Dr. James Sutton)

Thoughts of Fathers Day (2017) still bring back memories of how my dad once helped me manage a frightening and emotionally extreme situation. Although he was not a professional educator, my father still stands as one of the best teachers I ever had. –JDS

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Life Lessons Learned in a Texas Oilfield, Dr. James SuttonMy first driving lesson came close to killing me and my father.

In late junior high and early high school, I had a summer job of working with my father in the oilfields south of San Antonio. On a slow day, we piled into Dad’s company vehicle (a Dodge) for my very first driving lesson.

Collision Course

I lost control of the clutch, and we lurched into a collision course with a battery of oil storage tanks. As I panicked, my right leg stiffened; my foot jammed the accelerator to the floor.

It was all over; there wasn’t a shred of doubt in my mind about it.

But Dad didn’t panic. He quickly cut the ignition and turned the wheel just enough to avoid hitting the tanks. We plowed safely into the soft, sandy bank of a water pit.

He was not upset; I WAS. I vowed I would never, never, ever again occupy the driver’s seat. I was done … finished!

Life Lessons Learned in a South Texas Oil Field“Jimmy, what’s this car doing right at this moment?’ he asked patiently, certainly sensing my panic.

“Well, uh, well … nothing, Dad. The car’s not doing anything right now.”

“That’s right. And it’s NOT going to do anything. Unless you make something happen, this car simply will sit here until it’s a pile of rust.”

Lessons Learned

We continued the lesson. I learned to drive that day, but I also learned two things that would follow me for life. I learned that Fred Sutton, although not a professional educator, was an excellent teacher. I also learned that knowledge, confidence in one’s skills, and meaningful relationships (certainly including spiritual relationships) are powerful antidotes for whatever the world might throw at any of us.

I’ve often thought how easy it would be for a parent to scream out or yell at a son or daughter caught up in such a situation, especially when that parent is also frightened. Who could blame them; most of us have “been there.” It would be a pretty natural response.

I believe Dad intuitively knew that lecturing me about my driving mistakes would have served no real purpose. True to that thought, he never said another word about it to me. If he figured I had learned that lesson well enough with no need for additional reminders, he was correct.

Over the years, I have tried to follow his example, but not perfectly, by any means. Put another way, here’s what I believe it means:

It’s easy to be part of the problem, but it’s so much better to be part of the solution.

Dad passed away in 1998 after a gallant struggle with cancer. Since then, there have been many times when I wished I could climb back into that old Dodge for just one more lesson from a great teacher.

 

A nationally recognized (and now mostly retired) child and adolescent psychologist, author and speaker, Dr. James Sutton is the founder and host of The Changing Behavior Network.

 

June 26, 2017 Posted by | Affirmation and Recognition, Anxiety and Depression, Compassion, courage, Educators, family, Healthy living, Human Interest, Inspirational, Parents, Self-esteem, Stress | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Promise, a Dream, and a Mom’s Love (Michael Byron Smith)

Michael Byron Smith shares how his single-parent mom kept her family together through difficult times, how he managed to keep a promise and fulfill a dream, and why mentoring is so important today. We present, “A Promise, a Dream, and a Mom’s Love.”

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A Promise, a Dream, and a Mom's Love, Michael Byron Smith)How a child is raised has an undeniable impact on his or her success and happiness. Everyone would agree with that, but many ignore it anyway.

Occasionally, children raised in a stressful or unloving atmosphere achieve while others, raised in the same atmosphere, or even in a seemingly ideal situation, do not. However, I think most experts agree, with little doubt, that having two savvy and involved parents is a huge advantage in the mental health of a child. Children without that advantage can succeed, but they will struggle more than necessary. I lived this scenario and I’ve seen others in my family both fail and succeed, but the successes have been far fewer.

Big Job for a Ten-Year-Old

As I turned ten years of age, I was in a situation that required me to babysit my five younger siblings. My father was absent and my mother had to work to support us. She was only 27 years-old with six children to feed. My youngest brother was not even a year old. Thinking back on this is a frightening picture; back then, it was normal to me!

It wasn’t every day that I had to do this, just on occasions when nothing else would work out for my mother. My memories of these days are not totally clear. What I do know is that my father abandoned us. Where he was in the world at that time I do not know. Where and how he spent his earnings, other than on alcohol, is a mystery. But more mysterious to me is how a person could abandon his young children.

Some may think my mother should have never left us alone, but she was without alternatives. I don’t know how she got through the pressures of being a single mom with a tenth-grade education. All I do know is she did not abandon us and worked to exhaustion to raise and support her children.

Not surprisingly, a ten-year-old placed in charge of his brothers and sisters doesn’t get much respect. My eight-year-old brother would challenge me and aggravate everyone else. My five and three-year-old sisters were typical little girls getting into stuff and fighting. My two youngest brothers were a two-year-old toddler and a baby under a year old. Basically, I was there to keep them from injuring themselves or each other; I’d call Mom if someone got hurt badly.

Why am I writing this, exposing my family’s dirty laundry? It is obviously not to brag, nor am I asking anyone to feel sorry for us, but to share a story of hope. Hope, however, needs action – mostly our own action to meet our challenges head-on. It is up to each individual, but many kids don’t know what to do, or how to do it.

I don’t know where we lived when I was ten because we moved quite often, and I didn’t have many childhood friends. Because of this, I was much more comfortable around women than men. Being a shy, skinny, and often new kid, I was like shark-bait to the local bullies common in poorer neighborhoods. My self-defense plan was invisibility, staying indoors or peeking around corners before proceeding. It wasn’t even close to an ideal upbringing.

Tough Beginnings Mean Extra Work

Needless to say, this was not the best start for any young person. The difficulties my siblings and I experienced pale in comparison to the challenges too many young people suffer. But preventable struggles, like struggles caused by my father’s parental neglect, should never happen.

How did we all do coming out of this situation? Beyond the challenges all kids face as they mature, we all had extra demons to defeat, some struggling with those demons more than others. We’ve had teen mothers, a lack of a high school education, truancy, poverty and some minor drug and alcohol use, with following generations dealing with some of the same problems. Of the six of us, three extended families are doing well, while three families are still struggling to one degree or another.

Fortunately, I did not have any of the problems described above, but I did have others. The most challenging to me was a serious lack of confidence in myself. I believe my five siblings also suffered from this and other psychological issues. I broke out of this cycle of despair more successfully than my siblings because of two things: 1) a promise I made to myself and, 2) a dream.

The Power Of Dadhood, Michael Byron SmithThe promise was to never be poor! Not to be rich, but not to be poor – an error I will discuss later. My dream was to be a pilot, a dream of many young boys. But in my case, it was more of a passion. I knew that I would have to do it on my own because I didn’t know how to ask for help. Mentoring was not something of which I was aware, and being shy didn’t help. Certainly, someone would have mentored me had we stayed in one place long enough. (I apologize immensely to those I have forgotten who did give me help and advice, especially my many teachers.)

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Being a mentor is a wonderful way to help anyone who could use advice or guidance! My book, The Power of Dadhood, is, in fact, a mentoring book intended to teach fathers to how to mentor their children. It may be obvious, by now, why I wrote this book.

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My dream of being a pilot seemed so distant, like a star in another galaxy, but I kept my focus. This dream supported my goal of never being poor. It is amazing what one can do when they have a dream as a goal backed up by a promise. I also had two distant people that I looked up to: Jack Buck, the announcer for the St. Louis Cardinals, and Jimmy Stewart, my favorite actor and a US Air Force pilot himself. I admired their values and personalities. Never was there a bad word said of either, not by anyone I would respect. It was to my benefit to invent my own mentors because everyone needs role models and teachers.

A Dream, a Promise, and a Mom's Love, Michael Byron SmithI succeeded in my keeping my promise and achieving my dream. I have never been poor since the moment I graduated from college. I also became a US Air Force pilot and loved every part of that experience.

But it wasn’t easy! The required steps to make my dreams come true were demanding, but not really the issue. The toughest hurdles in this journey were the exaggerated and fabricated hurdles I put upon myself, thinking I was not worthy! The hurdle of self-worth will also cause one to underestimate their potential. I should have had a goal to be rich; instead, I just hoped to not be poor. I’m doing very well but what if……?

In Closing

My message here is two-fold. The first message is that anyone with a dream can overcome obstacles. That is a common theme of encouragement, but your self-imposed obstructions are the first and most important to overcome. There is no need of having a fifty-pound dead weight on your back when you’re climbing Mt. Everest. This or any other test in life has its very own challenges to conquer and that extra, unnecessary weight could cause you to fail.

The second message is the desperate need today for parents and other mentors to help young people grow. Having proper mentoring and a decent childhood atmosphere will help a child avoid unnecessary burdens. A much easier and effective way to be successful, of course, is to not have those extra burdens in the first place. Children raised in a good, nourishing home will have a head start because their lives have been streamlined, not encumbered with self-imposed friction and speed bumps. If the number one factor in a successful life is self-reliance, a very close second would be the way one is raised and mentored.

I challenge parents and all adults to be aware of the needs of the young people around them. Your help and guidance will save them from being an adversary and/or an obstacle to themselves. It just takes a kind word or a bit of attention. ###

Michael Byron Smith is the author of The Power of Dadhood [website]. He also hosts the “Helping Fathers to be Dads” blog.

 

May 16, 2017 Posted by | adversity, Affirmation and Recognition, Anxiety and Depression, courage, family, Healthy living, Human Interest, Inspirational, Parents, Resilience, Self-esteem, Stress | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Grandma and the Train Ride (Dr. James Sutton)

Time spent with grandparents is the stuff of both memories and character. The Changing Behavior Network host, Dr. James Sutton, shares one such experience.
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For a number of years I was the only grandchild on my mother’s side of the family. For that reason, my grandmother and I shared a very special relationship. Hey, when you’re the only grandchild, you get lots of attention.

One of my favorite memories about my grandmother goes back to the time when I had spent most of the summer with her and my aunt’s family in Minnesota. I was about nine at the time. After summer vacation, Grandma and I made the return trip to Tulsa, Oklahoma, by train. Those were the days when only the well-to-do could even think of traveling by air.

We were well-prepared. Dressed in our Sunday best, and armed with a couple of sacks of books, games, and plenty of snack food, Grandma and I boarded the train and settled into our seats for the two-day trip. I can still remember watching the scenery go by, occasionally drifting in and out of sleep to the steady rhythm of the clickity-clack of steel wheels on steel rails.

For those riding through the night in coach (instead of the much more expensive Pullman sleeper cars), the porter would make his way down the aisle renting pillows. We only needed one for me. Grandma, an experienced rail traveler, always carried a big, down pillow with her.

In the morning the train made a stop (in St. Louis, as I recall), so Grandma treated me to a hearty breakfast in the station’s cafeteria. When we re-boarded the train, we discovered that the porter had taken up all the pillows, including Grandma’s!

Grandma insisted that, since her pillow was so much better than the others (it really was), he would sort through the piles and piles of pillows until he found the fine pillow that belonged to her. He finally brought her a pillow, but it wasn’t THE pillow (something he heard about all the way to Tulsa).

Very few folks today can recall traveling by rail through the night. Thinking back, however, I suppose what stands out the most in that experience of traveling by train with my grandmother was that it was a special adventure of just the two of us.

GRAND-Stories, Ernie WendellThrough the years, Grandma ad I did a lot of things together. She even taught me how to embroider a little and to bake sugar cookies. (We decided once to triple the recipe, and had more cookies than we could find jars, can, and boxes to put them it; but that’s another story.)

I was home on leave from the US Navy when my grandmother passed away in 1968. It was a few days before my scheduled departure for a two-year hitch in Japan (including two assignments with marines in Vietnam). She was very sick, but she knew I was there, that I was still home. To this day, I believe she picked her time to go.

I’ve heard of these things happening. ###

Dr. James Sutton is a former educator, a semi-retired psychologist, and the founder and host of The Changing Behavior Network. This story is from the book, GRAND-Stories: 101+ Bridges of Love Joining Grandparents and Grandkids, edited by Ernie Wendell.

April 26, 2017 Posted by | family, Healthy living, Human Interest, Inspirational, Parents, Self-esteem, Uncategorized | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

What Kids and Teens are Capable Of! (Greg Warburton)

Greg Warburton, counselor and author, believes strongly that kids and teens have great capacity to be self-reliant if given the opportunity. He shares here what he has observed, learned and encouraged.
Every Tuesday, Greg posts, through his website blog (link), an inspiring story about a self-reliant youth and their contribution to others. He also invites your questions and input on how we can best “set the life stage” for self-reliance building in all youth.
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Ask yourself this question, as you consider if you are open to having your beliefs challenged:

What do I truly believe kids and teens are capable of in the arena of self-reliant action and contribution from the earliest ages?

In my most recent book, Ask More, Tell Less: A Practical Guide for Helping Children Achieve Self-Reliance, I explain how I hold an unshakable belief in the capabilities and wisdom of young people, knowing that they can indeed manifest their “I-am-a-one-of-a-kind-human-masterpiece” status!

A FIRST STEP

As a counselor, I strive to see that my work stays rooted in dignity, respect, and compassion. In turn, I’m frequently privileged to watch the process of self-directed change begin to take place in my office. As an example, consider the day when a 12-year-old said this to me:

I was sitting in church the other day and started thinking, if I don’t start acting different I’m going to have a miserable life.

That was a first step on a remarkable journey of self-empowerment for that child. I wish for you, also, a part in a inspiring and fulfilling adventure like this one.

Raising self-reliant children is more important than ever. Change and confusion are constants; there’s no doubt this modern world is increasingly difficult to navigate. Unfortunately, our culture provides little in the way of a tangible, practical, and comprehensive road map for the child traveler. Honestly, that was my mission with this book … to provide a kind of road map.

Rebecca

I had not been counseling long when I met a small, freckle-faced, nine-year-old girl named Rebecca. She did something during our first meeting that I will never forget, and I want to share her story as a way to introduce the power of these ideas.

To begin the conversation about the trouble at home, I said:

Rebecca, your mother is calling the trouble “crying and tantrums.” Is that what you call it or do you have a different name?

“I call it ‘having the fits,’” Rebecca said. From then on, we used Rebecca’s words to describe the trouble.

To gauge her willingness, I asked Rebecca:

Do you think having the fits has taken over your life, or do you think you can still fight against the fits?

Ask More Tell Less, Greg WarburtonIn the next moment, only about ten minutes into our first meeting, Rebecca jumped out of her chair, stood up straight and announced:

I’ll just get rid of the fits and grow up!

Just as quickly as Rebecca had made up her mind, I began to get in her way with my doubt. I thought how my professors didn’t teach me about the possibility of change occurring quickly … and certainly not instantly!

I wondered how this nine-year-old girl had figured out what to do about her very troubling behavior within the first few minutes of our first meeting. I began asking her, in a variety of ways, if she was sure that this is all it would take for her life to be better. Within a few minutes, I could see that she was certain.

Fortunately for Rebecca, I had the good sense to stop asking her more questions and just be quiet.

Interactions like this launched my What Kids and Teens are Capable Of! blog-post series. Content also will be related to taking some pressure off parents, teachers and counselors by providing a box full of practical tools as they engage in the adventure of “creating” self-reliant youth that can contribute to the world all along the getting-on-with-growing-UP pathway.

It is my hope you will find this resource helpful and inspiring, and that you will tell others about it. ###

Greg Warburton is an experienced mental health professional who believes that children and parents grow as they become more self-reliant. For more information about his work, his book and the blog mentioned in this article, go to his website, selfreliantkids.com.

 

April 16, 2017 Posted by | Affirmation and Recognition, Counselors, Difficult Child, Discipline, family, Healthy living, Human Interest, Parents, Resilience, Self-esteem | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Foster Kid’s Dilemma: Wo Gets the Life Raft? (Shenandoah Chefalo)

What happens when youngsters have to make “grown-up” decisions regarding their own welfare? Former foster youth and author, Shenandoah Chefalo, shares this eye-opening, candid account of such an experience and what she learned from it.

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Shenandoah Chefalo, A Foster Kid's Dilemma: Who Gets the Life Raft?Writing for my blog is sometimes problematic for me. I try to be as transparent as possible and talk about the things that are truly affecting my life in the moment. I want it to be honest, of course, but sometimes that means discussing emotions and feelings that are difficult or painful to put into words.

An Unexpected Answer

Recently, I was at an event and a woman asked a question that I hear often: “How did you overcome the abandonment of your mother?” My answer is burdensome and often shocking for audiences. The truth is, I never felt abandoned by my mother. Instead, I felt that I had abandoned her.

I had spent much of my childhood taking care of my mother, worrying about her, and making sure she was okay. When I was 13, she disappeared for a few days, then a few weeks. It wasn’t shocking to me; it was my “normal.”

When she still hadn’t reappeared, and my grandmother was going to be evicted from her housing, I knew I had to call social services. It was a difficult call for me to make; one that I would wish, time and time again, that I hadn’t made. Making that call always felt like I was watching a life raft for one float by, and I selfishly took it for myself.

When people hear this story, I can see a bit of shock come across their faces. It is difficult to put into words the loyalty I felt for my mother, and the betrayal I carry in my heart. As an adult, I cognitively understand my decision, and most do, also, but the betrayal I feel I caused hasn’t lessened.

Garbage Bag Suitcase, Shenandoah ChefaloA Matter of Loyalty

After the most recent presidential election results started coming in, I was struck with the notion of loyalty and how the weight of that emotion can be viewed, oftentimes confused for betrayal. As defined, loyalty is a strong feeling of support or allegiance to someone or something. It is a feeling or attitude of devoted attachment and affection. As a society, it is a trait we hold in high regard. In fact, any sign of disloyalty is often met with cries of one not being patriotic, a traitor, a crybaby, or various four-letter expletives.

And, that is why, after not seeing my birth mother for over 27 years, I still have feelings of disloyalty toward her and feel as I am the one who betrayed her. Abandonment was never my trigger or emotion. It is also why I have difficulty discussing those feelings; any sign of estrangement or retreat creates feelings (and brings accusations) that I was wrong in my decision to save myself.

Complicated

These emotions are complicated when children enter foster care; old families, new families, changing families … the feelings and questions come to the surface:

How can you be loyal to everyone? Can you ever?

Whom do you betray?

How do you protect yourself?

Is it ever OK to be disloyal? If so, who decides who gets the life raft?

Sometimes you just need to pick up the phone.

Shenandoah Chefalo is an advocate and a former foster youth. She is the author of the memoir, Garbage Bag Suitcase, and co-founder of Good Harbor Institute, an organization focused on ensuring sustainable, implemented trauma care within organizations and individuals. You can learn more about her and her work at www.garbagebagsuitcase.com or www.goodharborinst.com

 

April 10, 2017 Posted by | adversity, Anxiety and Depression, Compassion, courage, Difficult Child, Educators, family, Healthy living, Human Interest, Inspirational, Parents, Resilience, Self-esteem, Stress | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Five String Recovery, Part 1 (Phillip Wadlow)

A 16-year-old musician wins a national bluegrass championship while secretly battling addiction. Here’s his two-part story about his recovery, his music, and his message to young people.

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Five String Recovery, Phil Wadlow, The Changing Behavior Network

If you take a Missouri boy who grew up with bluegrass music and encourage his natural talent for playing it well, you’ll have the ingredients for an awesome career very few can achieve.

Young Phillip Wadlow was that Missouri boy. Everything was falling into place for him, until drugs and alcohol threatened to destroy him and all he held dear. This is his story and his music, in two parts. This interview was recorded in May of 1990, as Phil was completing his first year of recovery and sobriety. It’s a story Phil wants young people to hear, for he hopes they can learn from the wrong turns he took.Five String Recovery, Phillip Wadlow

In this part, Part One, Phil shares how he began using marijuana at a very young age, and how so quickly its use became chronic. But Phil also shares about the music he grew up with and how, at 16, he won a national bluegrass championship. He plays the song that took first place, “Cattle in the Cane.” The joy of being recognized for his music, however, was tainted by the fact he was, by then, completely dependent upon his drug of choice.

Dr. Sutton, the host in this interview, picks up his guitar and accompanies Phil on most of the songs in both parts on the interview. The banjo solo at the opening is an original composition of Phil’s, “Dusty Roads.” (22:12)

To listen, left-click this link. To access the file, right-click and “Save Target as …” to save to your audio device), CLICK HERE.

 

March 28, 2017 Posted by | adversity, Affirmation and Recognition, Anxiety and Depression, Counselors, Difficult Child, family, Healthy living, Human Interest, Inspirational, Parents, Resilience, Self-esteem, Stress | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

From Metronomes to People: How We Influence One Another (Terry Lancaster)

Author Terry Lancaster discusses the great power in how we influence and are influenced by those closest to us.

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“You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.”

 

Terry Lancaster, From Metronomes to People: How We Influence One AnotherI first heard that quote from motivational speaker and renown business philosopher, the late Jim Rohn, and took it as a warning to choose my friends wisely.

There’s probably nothing that has more impact on our health, happiness and prosperity than the people we choose to surround ourselves with.

Those you associate with affect how you think, how you act, and who you become. We’ll accept that as a given, but here’s the part that doesn’t get as much attention:

You affect the people you associate with as much as they affect you.

Metronomes and Hockey Players

I ran across this great video of 32 metronomes ticking off 32 random rhythms until they gradually synch into the same frequency. It’s amazing to watch. Especially notice the one lone hold-out that struggles mightily to march to the beat of a different drummer right up to the very end, when it finally surrenders and synchs with the other 31.

People synchronize as surely as metronomes.

I’m the captain of recreational league hockey team prophetically called “BEER.” We named it that specifically so that, when people asked who we played for, we could say “I play for BEER.”

As soon as our games were over, we’d head to the bar for post-game strategy sessions that usually lasted until the wee hours of the morning. Waitresses at the local watering holes would have heated arguments over who got to serve us because we stayed a long time, drank heavily … and tipped well. A good night bringing beverages to the BEER team could pay their car note.

That was then.

Healthy “Synching”

These days, the post game celebrations for the BEER team mostly involve water, lemonade and chef’s salads. That’s because, generally, we’ve mostly shifted in the same healthier direction. Like a houseful of women of childbearing age, we’ve synched our cycles.

Several guys I play hockey with have taken up running, working out and getting into better all-around shape. We didn’t have a team meeting to do it. And we didn’t change the name of the team because, in all honesty, it’d be hard to fit “LEMONADE AND CHEF’s SALAD” on the front of the jerseys.

No one said “Hey, let’s be like Terry.” It just happened. We all tuned in to the same frequency.

It happened at home too. I started attempting to live a healthier life by eating better and exercising more. And, like magic, my wife and daughters began losing weight, exercising and taking better care of themselves. Nothing makes me happier than ordering dinner in a restaurant and hearing all 5 of us give our drink orders: “Water. Water. Water. Water. Water.”

Confirmation Bias

Psychologists have a thing called “Confirmation Bias” that basically proves that we see more of what we expect to see, and more of what we pay attention to. The computer geniuses at Facebook have gone to great lengths to program algorithyms that replicate the way we experience real life. The more we “like” something, the more we interact with someone or some particular kind of post, the more stuff like that we’ll see.

Receivers and Transmitters

BETTER! Self Help for the Rest of Us, Terry LancasterI’ve connected online with people who are committed to improving their lives. One guy I know just wrote a self help book, another has lost over 200 pounds and is up at 3 every morning running 8-10 miles. Another buddy of mine has lost over a hundred pounds and founded an online group devoted to improving lives that has exploded to over 500 members in the last few months.

Facebook, much like life itself, is a self-perpetuating feedback loop. The thing is, each of us is a receiver; we take in signals every day from the people around us, from what we watch on TV, and from those we interact with on Facebook. Those signals shape our thoughts, our thoughts shape our actions, our actions shape our worlds.

And that’s how we become the average of the 5 people we hang out with the most.

But we’re also transmitters. Our thoughts, our actions and our realities affect everyone we connect with. Ghandi said, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” Leo Tolstoy said “Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.” Michael Jackson said “If you want to make the world a better place, just look at yourself and make that change.”

It all starts with the person in the mirror, doesn’t it?

No amount of complaining, whining and tilting at windmills will ever change the world. It’s too big. But YOU can be better. You can change yourself.

And changing yourself changes the world.###

 

Terry Lancaster helps people create BETTER! lives and build BETTER! businesses one step at a time starting right here, starting right now using the science behind habit formation, focus and flow. In addition to being a best-selling author, he is a contributing writer for Forbes, a TedX speaker and is involved in the GOOD MEN Project. Here’s his website [link].

 

March 11, 2017 Posted by | Affirmation and Recognition, family, Healthy living, Human Interest, Resilience, Self-esteem | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Confidence or Determination: Which is More Valuable? (Michael Byron Smith)

How do we identify and instill confidence and determination in our children? Author Michael Byron Smith offers insights into positive change. We present, “Confidence or Determination: Which is More Valuable?”

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Confidence or Determination: Which is More Valuable?, Michael Byron SmithIf ever there were two heavyweight fighters in the world of self-development, they would be called CONFIDENCE and DETERMINATION. Looking at these two characteristics as a parent, which would you emphasize for your child?

Certainly, anyone who has both of these characteristics will likely become whatever they choose to be. However, a child may have confidence but not determination, or vice versa. And if only one exists, which would be best to have?

Having confidence will make life and its challenges appear easier to attack, allowing one to charge ahead with little reticence. On the other hand, having determination will give one a voice shouting encouragement in their ear: “Keep going–keep going”!

Of course, we want our children to have both characteristics and to use them wisely. If they have one of these attributes, we concentrate on the other. But getting back to the question, if they are weak in both, which would you choose to emphasize–confidence or determination? Before we choose, let’s consider the traps that exist in both confidence and determination.

The Challenge of Confidence

Confidence can trick you. It can prevent one from preparing properly, or from trying hard enough. Too much confidence can defy your true abilities and displaying it can put off others a bit. Confidence is best worn on the inside showing through, not draped callously upon your personality.

I discuss confidence in my book, The Power of Dadhood:

Self-confidence can be nurtured by introducing your child to challenging experiences, such as hiking the Grand Canyon, cleaning a fish, or joining a drama club. Kids become self-confident when they get over the fear of the unknown, when they overcome an inhibition, and when they accept that they don’t have to be good at everything, because no one has ever been good at everything.

The challenge must not exceed their capacity, or their confidence could diminish. Nor should you mislead them into falsely thinking they’ve achieved a significant success when it was too easily attained. Success does build confidence, but success built on sand will not contribute to your child’s confidence in the long run. Confidence gained by easy victories can be shattered by reality.

It may not be wise to convince your children that they are great artists or athletes if they will be judged more honestly in school or by friends. A more realistic view will not set them up for a fall, a fall from which recovery could be difficult. But, of course, praise any real talent and encourage any talent that shows promise.

Confidence works both from within (how you feel about yourself), and from without (how others see you).

Determination: ‘Intend’ is a stronger word than ‘Can’

Determination is a great characteristic to possess. It can, however, be brutal on your overall happiness. Your determination can make you go off in directions for all the wrong reasons. For example, it’s not good to be determined to get even with someone. Nor is it good to go after a prize or be vindictive just because you want to prove a point. Determinism must have properly chosen goals. While misplaced confidence has the most failures, misplaced determination has the most stress.

The Power of Dadhood, Michael Byron SmithOnce again, from The Power of Dadhood:

Knowing you ‘can’ makes your intentions that much easier, without all the gut-wrenching anxiety. However, many people can, or think they can, but never do. People with a can-do attitude have their wheels greased, but they have no engine if they have no intent. If we Dads and our children have both the engine (intention) and the grease (confidence), we have what we need to move forward. Not only can we get somewhere, but we can get there with little friction.

‘Determination’ is the backbone of persistence. ‘Determination’ can help you to focus and to overcome a lack of confidence.

Which is it?

So, if your child needed both confidence and determination, which would you choose to emphasize? In my experience, if you’re not confident, then at least be determined and confidence will come. If you’re not determined, your confidence is like pajamas—comfortable as you lay around. What saved me was my determination! I was not confident about becoming successful, but I was determined to be so. I was, at the very least, determined to improve my situation in life, that being the only thing about which I was confident.

Although you can nurture a child to have confidence, you can’t let them wallow in it. Again, that’s when having determination can help. Push them when you have to be on task. It’s how the military gets many of their recruits through basic training. That’s how the voice in your ear does its job, telling you to “keep going”! Mantras are voices at work, expressing through repetition what you want to achieve. When a goal is met with your determination, an increase in confidence will follow. You can ask any graduate of basic military training, any mountain climber, or any Olympic athlete.

There is no wrong answer to my question because we will always want to encourage our kids to have determination, and nurture them to have confidence. Vince Lombardi once said, “Confidence is contagious. So is lack of confidence.” Confidence can be with you one day and gone the next, but with determination, one will bridge those gaps. Never stop encouraging or nurturing either characteristic. That’s what makes a mother a mom, and a father a dad!

And someday, you may hear these precious words: “Because of you Dad, I didn’t give up!

Michael Byron Smith is the author of The Power of Dadhood [website] He also hosts the “Helping Fathers to be Dads” blog.

 

February 19, 2017 Posted by | adversity, Affirmation and Recognition, Counselors, courage, Discipline, Educators, family, Healthy living, Human Interest, Inspirational, Parents, Resilience, Self-esteem | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Homeless Clown: The Gift of Receiving (Dr. James Sutton)

The Changing Behavior Network, Radio-style InterviewThis short program doesn’t feature the typical interview with an author. Instead, Dr. James Sutton, the founder and host of The Changing Behavior Network, turns on the microphone and simply shares his thoughts on giving, receiving, and the importance of youngsters to have a positive and active purpose, especially when idleness can stir up a LOT of trouble. Presented here is “A Homeless Clown: The Gift of Receiving.”

A Valuable Lesson

A Homeless Clown: The Gift of Receiving, The Changing Behavior NetworkListen in as Jim shares a lesson he learned when he was seven or eight, and how, almost five decades later, he experienced that same lesson, a lesson in receiving, being used very effectively. Isn’t there always a place for learning to receive well?

A homeless clown? Yes; it’s sad, but true. But in this case, the clown played an important part in teaching a group of at-risk boys how to receive a less-than-attractive gift.

Dr. James Sutton

Improving a Youngster's Self-Esteem, Dr. James SuttonDr. Sutton is a “mostly retired” child and adolescent psychologist that started off as a Special Education teacher. He has worked with children and adolescents in the school and clinical settings, and has lectured extensively in the US and Canada regarding ways to effectively reach, teach, manage and treat youngsters with emotional and behavioral disabilities.

Dr. Sutton has authored more than a dozen books, including the e-book we are featuring here, Improving a Youngster’s Self-Esteem (revised). (12:23)

Learn More About THIS BOOK

 

TO LISTEN, left-click the link. To access the file right-click and “Save Link as …” to save to your audio device), CLICK HERE FOR LINK

 

January 1, 2017 Posted by | adversity, Anxiety and Depression, Compassion, Counselors, Healthy living, Human Interest, Inspirational, Integrity, Resilience, Self-esteem | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Tablecloth: A Story for the Christmas Season

BTLifesMoments
Jim Gentil, my friend in Austin, Texas, published this story about nine years ago in his online newsletter, The Power of Positive Living. It captures the essence of the Christmas season. It was originally written by Howard C. Schade under the title of “The Ivory and Gold Tablecloth.” May this story bless your soul, as it has mine. –JDS

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At Christmas time, men and women everywhere gather in their churches to wonder anew at the greatest miracle the world has ever known. But the story I like best to recall was not a huge miracle — not exactly.

It happened to a pastor who was very young. His church was very old. Once, long ago, it had flourished. Famous men had preached from its pulpit and prayed before its altar. Rich and poor alike had worshipped there and built it beautifully. Now, the good days had passed from the section of town where it stood.

But the pastor and his young wife believed in their run-down-church. They felt that, with hard work and lots of faith they could get it in shape. Together they went to work.

The Storm

stormBut, late in December, a severe story whipped through the river valley; the worst blow fell on the church. A huge chunk of rain-soaked plaster fell out of the inside wall just behind the altar. Sorrowfully the pastor and his wife swept away the mess, but they could not hide the ragged hole.

The pastor looked at it and had to remind himself quickly, “Thy will be done!” But his wife wept, “Christmas is only two days away!”

That afternoon the dispirited couple attended an auction held for the benefit of a youth group. The auctioneer opened a box and shook out of its folds a gloriously beautiful, very ornately sewn, gold and ivory lace tablecloth.

It was a magnificent item, nearly 15 feet long. But it, too, dated from a long vanished era. Who had any use for such a thing today. There were a few half-hearted bids, then the pastor was seized with what he thought was a great idea.

He bid it in for $6.50.

He carried the glorious gold and ivory lace cloth back to the church and very carefully put it up on the wall behind the altar. It completely hid the hole! And the extraordinary beauty of its shimmering handwork cast a fine, holiday glow over the chancel.

It was a great triumph. Happily, he went back to preparing his Christmas sermon.

The Woman in the Cold

busstopJust before noon on the day of Christmas Eve, as the pastor was opening the church, he noticed a woman standing in the cold at the bus stop.

“The bus won’t be here for 40 minutes!” he called, inviting her into the church to get warm.

She told him she had come from the city that morning to be interviewed for a job as governess to the children of one of the wealthy families in town, but she had been turned down. As a Jewish war refugee, her English was imperfect.

The woman sat down in a pew and chafed her hands and rested. After a while, she dropped her head and prayed.

She then looked up and saw the great gold and ivory cloth. She rose suddenly and walked up the steps of the chancel.

She looked a the beautiful tablecloth with with remembering eyes.

“It is Mine!”

The pastor smiled and started to tell her about the storm damage, but she didn’t seem to listen. She took up a fold of the cloth and lovingly rubbed it between her fingers as tears welled in her kind eyes.

But they were happy tears of recognition.

“It is mine!” she said. “It is my banquet cloth!” She lifted up a corner and showed the surprised pastor that there were initials monogrammed on it.

“My husband had the cloth made especially for me in Brussels! There could not be another like it.”

For the next few minutes the woman and the pastor talked excitedly together. She explained that she was Viennese, and that, in being Jews, she and her husband wanted to flee from the Nazis. They were advised to go separately. Her husband put her on a train for Switzerland. They planned that he would join her as soon as he could arrange to ship their household goods across the border.

But she never saw him again. Later, she heard he had died in a concentration camp.

“I have always felt it was my fault to leave without him,” she said. “Perhaps these years of wandering have been my punishment.”

The pastor tried to comfort her and urged her to take the beautiful cloth with her. But she refused saying, “No, no, the cloth has found its way to you. You need it. It has purpose here; I want you to have it. I am happy knowing you have it.”

She gazed lovingly up at the magnificent gold and ivory lace cloth, then quietly went away.

The Repairman

As the church began to fill on Christmas Eve, it was clear that the magnificent cloth was going to be a great success. It has been skillfully designed to look its best by candlelight.

The glorious gold and ivory lace cloth actually glowed in the candlelight. It cast lovely fine designs on the walls and ceilings of the church. Everyone looked around in wonderment, and a tranquil ambiance was cast over all.

After the service, the pastor stood at the doorway. Many people told him the church looked more beautiful than ever before.

chimesFrom the generous donations that were given, a few days later the pastor had the local jeweler, who was also the clock-and-watch repairman, come to repair the church chimes.

The repairman’s gentle middle-aged face drew into a look of great astonishment! As if in a trance, he walked right up to the beautiful cloth and looked upon it intently.

“It is strange,” he said in his soft accent. “Many years ago, my wife, God rest her, and I owned such a cloth. My wife put it on the table (and here he gave a big smile) for holidays and when the Rabbi came to dinner.”

Reunited

The pastor suddenly became very excited. He told the jeweler about the woman who had been in the church to get warm, saw the cloth, and recognized it to be hers.

The startled jeweler clutched the pastor’s arm. “Can it be?” he said, through desperate tears.

Together the two got in touch with the family who had interviewed the woman for the governess position and got her address. Then they both drove to the city.

The jeweler knocked on the heavy, weathered door. As it opened, there stood his beloved wife. The many years of separation were immediately washed away by their blissful tears. They held each other in loving embraces, never to be parted again.

Purpose in the Storm

True love seems to find a way. To all who hear or read this story, the joyful purpose of the storm was to knock a hole in the wall of the church.

So, Dear Ones, the next time something knocks a hole in your dreams or your goals, just remember to have enough faith and enough belief in those dreams and goals to lovingly and creatively hang your own brilliant lace cloth over the temporary mar.

Then watch the miracles come. ###

December 24, 2016 Posted by | adversity, Affirmation and Recognition, Anxiety and Depression, Compassion, Human Interest, Inspirational, Integrity, Resilience, Self-esteem, Special Occasions | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

15 Tips to Organize and Enjoy the Holidays, Part Two (Alison Kero)

15 Tips to Organize and Enjoy the Holidays, Alison KeroThe holiday season can be a special time of togetherness for families, especially when the kids are out of school and are home for the holidays. But it can also be a frustrating and less-than-perfect time, especially when the kids are out of school and are home for the holidays. Organization specialist, Alison Kero, offers us some great tips to help make this holiday season the best ever at YOUR house. We present, “15 Tips to Organize and Enjoy the Holidays.” (This is Part Two, as we conclude this two-part post.)

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Alison Kero, ACK Organizing(Continued from Part One)

#9 Expect the Unexpected: Chaos happens despite our best intentions or how organized you are. Expect that you’ll burn something, forget something or a kid will throw up at the worst possible time because then, when it actually happens, you won’t be thrown off. To help you stay organized, add in extra time for unexpected delays, especially when traveling, and even consider throwing a frozen lasagne in your freezer as a “just in case” to help you remain calm in the midst of unexpected chaos and you might even enjoy the holidays more knowing you have a backup just in case.

#10 Ask for Help: Even Santa has helpers. Hire or ask people to help you with such task as: a professional cleaning service to do the cleaning, a catering company to do the cooking, asking customer service or the online store to wrap gifts for you, use decorative bags to place your gifts in (no talent necessary), ask friends and family to help you decorate, ask friends and family to help you take down the decorations, and lastly, if you need additional emotional support, schedule a session with a therapist so you can manage the holidays more easily. Outsource or delegate what you don’t like doing or don’t have time to do and no, it doesn’t make you less of a person to ask for help; it makes you a smart person who recognizes you need and deserve support.

# 11 Keep It Simple: Intelligent people love to solve complicated riddles. It makes them thrive. The problem is when they get in their own way and start over-complicating simple matters, thinking everything must be solved in a complex manner. Not every problem is complex and sometimes a simple answer is the best and easiest solution. Simple doesn’t equal stupid, rather simple actually allows you to then focus on complex matters while allowing the simple things to flow easily to and from your life. Simple will keep you sane and organized this holiday season. So, if the lights don’t work, consider buying new ones rather than spending hours hunting down one old-fashioned light bulb to get the whole strand working again.

#12 You Don’t Have to Keep It All: This is in reference to any clutter you might accumulate during the holidays. Whether it’s spiritual clutter because once again you say “yes” when you really mean “no!”, or emotional clutter that you accumulate when someone criticizes your efforts, or the physical clutter you have by keeping every gift anyone has ever given you out of sheer guilt. Let it go. Let it ALL go. Do your best this holiday season by continuing to let anything go that won’t allow you to be happy, healthy or productive in your life.

#13 Plan Ahead: If you already know that you are looking at a busy schedule, actually using your scheduler will help you see where you have time to run errands, shop, bake or just relax and enjoy yourself. If you plan everything you need to do and everything you want to do ahead of time, you’re much more likely to achieve an enjoyable holiday feeling relaxed and organized.

#14 Don’t Get Stuck In the Past: We all have great memories of holidays in the past with certain decorations or traditions being carried out year after year. However, sometimes traditions no longer work within a new environment and decorations get old, break or no longer work. While we all want to recreate what we felt was a great memory, it’s also just as great to create new memories or collect new decorations. It doesn’t mean you aren’t respecting the past, it’s just that you are also allowing for new experiences to come in and create wonderful new memories for you and your family. You’ll enjoy yourself more if you’re willing to let go when you realize it’s time to move forward.

#15 Breathe: Sounds simple, but it will save your sanity. No matter what holiday you celebrate, there will be a point where you feel overwhelmed, annoyed, frustrated and/or ready to throw in the towel. Breathe when that happens. Take deep breaths in and out. In fact, before doing any task associated with the holiday, take 3 deep breaths and see how much more focused and relaxed you are. You might even find it’s a great way to start your day and continue using this method long after the holidays have ended.

Please enjoy a happy, healthy and safe holiday season! ###

 

Speakers Group Member, The Changing Behavior NetworkAlison Kero truly enjoys teaching her easy and effective decluttering system to her clients through her company, ACK Organizing. To reach Alison, go to http://www.ackorganizing.com.

 

December 18, 2016 Posted by | adversity, Anxiety and Depression, Compassion, family, Human Interest, Inspirational, Integrity, Resilience, Special Occasions | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Grandpa’s Good Advice (Dr. Stephen Robbins Yarnall)

The Changing Behavior NetworkNational Grandparents Day is the first Sunday in September following Labor Day. This story by the late Dr. Stephen R. Yarnall honors grandparents everywhere. The story appeared in the book, GRAND-Stories: 101 Bridges of Love Joining Grandparents and Grandkids. This book was compiled by Ernie Wendell and was published by Friendly Oaks Publications in 2000. We are pleased to feature “Grandpa’s Good Advice.”

………………………….

Stephen R. Yarnall, Grandpas Good AdviceHis name was Colonel Charles Burton Robbins. To me, he was Bompy, my maternal grandfather. I still have memories of a week with him at his summer cabin in the Iowa woods. I was 6.

Bompy was a quiet, good-humored, kindly, gray-haired grandfather whose casual ways belied his considerable wisdom and experience. His collection of weapons from the Spanish-American War and World War I was an awesome sight. It made a lasting impression on a young boy.

That summer visit was really special because we were alone, just the two of us at his backwoods cabin. The experience took on even greater proportion when, after a bit of begging on my part, Bompy let me ride his horse around the cabin area.

“Just Let Go of the Reins …”

He told me to be careful, not to go too far, and not to get lost. But he also gave me some advice in case I did get lost. “Just let go of the reins and the horse will bring you home,” he said.

Grandpa's Good Advice, Stephen Robbins YarnallOff I went down the cool and inviting trail. I came to a large, open meadow. After riding around in the meadow, enjoying every minute of my new freedom, I decided it was time to head for home.

But, as fate would have it, I couldn’t find the trail. On the fringe of panic, I searched the border of the meadow. I was covered all the way around; trees, trees, and more trees.

Lost

There was no opening anywhere.

I then remembered Bomby’s advice: “Just let go of the reins and the horse will bring you home.” Well, I did … and he did!

the Way Home

I have never forgotten that good, loving advice. On numerous occasions I have had reason to use it again and again. Indeed, there are those times when one should let go of the reins and be shown the way home. ###

 

GRAND-Stories, Ernie WendellDr. Stephen R. Yarnall passed away in 2011. He was a practicing cardiologist in Edmonds, Washington for 50 years. He also was an accomplished speaker and an active member of the National Speakers Association. CLICK HERE for more information about the book, GRAND-Stories: 101+ Bridges of Love Joining Grandparents and Grandkids.

 

 

September 17, 2016 Posted by | courage, family, Human Interest, Inspirational, Resilience, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Handling Criticism (Zig Ziglar)

I was fortunate enough on several occasions to spend a bit of time with the late Zig Ziglar. If anyone ever had a corner on the market for humility and common sense, plus the gift for bringing out those qualities in others, it was Zig. This piece, written earlier and entitled “Handling Criticism“, was included in the Ziglar company eNewsletter dated June 16, 2015. –JDS

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Zig Ziglar, Americas MotivatorThe late comedian, Groucho Marx, said that “Whatever it is, I’m against it.” My dictionary says that criticism is “the art of judging with propriety of the beauties and faults of a performance; remark on beauties and faults; critical observation, verbal or written.”

“… With the Canal”

Col. George Washington Goethels, the man who completed the Panama Canal, handled criticism effectively. During the construction he had numerous problems with the geography, climate and mosquitoes. Like all mammoth projects, he had his critics back home who constantly harped on what he was doing and predicted that he would never complete the project. However, he stuck to the task and said nothing.

One day an associate asked him, “Aren’t you going to answer the critics?”

“Yes,” Goethels responded.

“How?” he was asked.

“With the Canal,” Goethels replied.

Though that approach didn’t bring instant satisfaction, the canal itself brought long term vindication.

The Meaning of Criticism

Aristotle said criticism was meant as a standard of judging will. Addison said it was ridiculous for any man to criticize the works of another if he has not distinguished himself by his own performance. It has also been said that no one so thoroughly appreciates the value of constructive criticism as the one who is giving it.

The world is hard on critics but on occasion they have real value. Ask yourself this question: “What interest does this person (critic) have in me?” A parent, teacher, employer or coach has a vested interest in your performance.

Unfortunately, many of them do not know how to effectively build a person up while giving suggestions that can make a difference. The key is to criticize the performance and not the performer.

“You’re NOT Most Boys”

My mother once criticized my performance by saying, “For most boys this would be all right. But you’re not most boys – you’re my son and my son can do better than that.” She had “criticized the performance,” because it needed improvement, but she had praised the performer because he needed the praise. So follow this procedure and I’ll SEE YOU AT THE TOP!###

Zig Ziglar is known as America’s Motivator. He authored 33 books and produced numerous training programs. He will be remembered as a man who lived out his faith daily. [website]

July 14, 2016 Posted by | adversity, courage, family, Healthy living, Human Interest, Inspirational, Integrity, Self-esteem, Stress | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Be Patient with Me …” (Dr. James Sutton)

Dr. James Sutton“Be Patient with Me …” Growing tomatoes in south Texas can be a challenge. You have to get most of your harvest in the spring, as the blistering sun will cut them down in July.

“This one’s finished,” I said to myself, as I prepared to yank a plant up by the roots and throw it into the compost pile.

It was then my fingers, not my eyes, discovered it: a perfectly formed, fist-sized tomato. Fastened near the bottom of the plant, it was green and growing, resting against the picket fence where it had been shielded from my view.

Be Patient with Me“Be patient with me; I can still contribute,” the plant seemed to be saying to me. I left it.

In that moment I was struck with the notion that people sometimes are like that heat-battered tomato plant. It could be the student who is painfully shy in the classroom. It could be the hard-working immigrant who struggles to learn a strange, new language. Or it could be the kind soul who must live out her days in a nursing home. Circumstances differ, yet the message remains the same:

Be patient with me;
I can STILL contribute.

Only the Master Gardener has all the answers.

“… For man looketh on the outward appearance,
but the Lord looketh on the heart.”
I Samuel 16:7b (KJV)

 

The Changing Behavior Book, Dr. James SuttonDr. James D. Sutton is a (mostly) retired child and adolescent psychologist. His most recent book is The Changing Behavior Book, and he is the founder and host of The Changing Behavior Network. [website]

 

 

June 10, 2016 Posted by | adversity, Compassion, courage, Educators, family, Healthy living, Human Interest, Inspirational, Parents, Resilience | , , , , | 1 Comment

Ten Ways to Boost Creativity (Mike Ferry)

Mike Ferry, Teaching Happiness and Innovation, Ten Ways to Boost CreativityCreativity is a path to happiness. The more time we spend being creative, the happier we’re likely to become. In addition, creativity is an essential aspect of innovation, which will propel us to a brighter future. As kids many of us are naturally creative. Unfortunately, our creativity tends to be eliminated as we enter school. So, here are ten ways to boost creativity.

The really good news is that we can reclaim our creativity. In addition, we can help our kids preserve and develop their creative capacity.

Teaching Happiness and Innovation, Mike FerryHere are ten (hopefully fun) activities designed to engage your skills of creativity. Using each group of words, compose a short story, skit, poem, song, movie, dance, etc. Let your mind roam free. If this becomes hilarious and a bit chaotic, so be it! Maybe you could try this exercise the next time you need an icebreaker in the office, the classroom, or anywhere else. Plus, you might learn a thing or two by looking up the meanings of any people, places, or things you don’t know about. The more we learn, the more creative we can be!

 

Submarine
Giraffe
Tampa
Violin
Superman

 

James Bond
Walla Walla, Washington
Skunk
Hula hoop
Nutella

 

Onion rings
Portland
Candles
Chinchilla
Millard Fillmore

 

Tuba
Vatican City
Thin Mints
Al Capone
Poker

 

Golf cart
Beard
Mars
Guinea pig
Ronald Reagan

 

Oak tree
Porsche
Suitcase
Lebron James
Aardvark

 

Pufferfish
Sphinx
Popcorn
Babe Ruth
Glockenspiel

 

Walrus
U2
Sled
Kabbadi
Napoleon

 

Molars
Ottawa
Silk Road
Flip flop
Olaf

 

Louis Armstrong
Iguana
Starbucks
Columbus Zoo
Hello Kitty pencil

This is a recent blog post of mine that has been getting some attention on Twitter. I’ve tried a few of these with my students, and the process has been lots of fun. ###

Mike Ferry is the author of Teaching Happiness and Innovation. A middle school history teacher in Richmond, VA, Mike is raising four (mostly happy) children with his wife, Jenny. For more information about teaching happiness to children, visit www.happinessandinnovation.com. Twitter @MikeFerry7

 

May 12, 2016 Posted by | Educators, family, Healthy living, Human Interest, Humor, Parents, Resilience, Self-esteem | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Kindness Cookies (Dr. James Sutton)

James Sutton,Dr. James SuttonMy wife and I love to eat out at a certain hamburger place that lets you “dress” your own hamburger. How can you complain when everything but the meat and bun are put there by you?

I was busy making the rounds between the lettuce, pickles and mayo when I saw a youngster, about six years old or so, having fits with the ketchup dispenser. He had more ketchup on him, the counter and the floor than he had in the little paper container. I told him that, since I had one free hand, I would pump the ketchup out for him if he would hold his container under the spigot.

Mission accomplished, as I returned to fixing my burger. But as the boy turned to walk away, he looked back at me and smiled.

“Thank you!” he said softly.
I’ve got to tell you, his thanks trumped the heck out of a little ketchup in the cup. I almost felt guilty that I hadn’t done even more for the lad. In fact, this little 30-second scenario caused me to remember something my grandmother taught me when I was about the same age as the ketchup boy.

Winters in Texas
One of my greatest thrills as a youngster came in the winter when my grandmother would stay with us in south Texas. Her husband, my mother’s father, died when I was an infant. Consequently, loneliness and the tough Oklahoma winters convinced Grandma to go south by train to stay with us through the coldest months.

I always cherished our time together, albeit those opportunities slackened a bit as my sister and cousins came along. On one occasion, however, it was just Grandma and me. We had the whole house to ourselves and a grand plan on what to do with the opportunity: We were going to make a batch of cookies.

A Cookie Problem
Now, Grandma’s sugar cookies were legendary. With a bit of pleading, I convinced her to quadruple the recipe. As cookies came out of the oven, I soon realized there were not enough jars in the house to hold them all.

True to her sensible ways, Grandma solved the cookie problem. She had me put the excess cookies into sandwich bags while she cleaned the kitchen and grabbed her sweater. We then called on neighbors up and down the block, sharing our bounty with them. It was an exercise in kind giving and appreciative receiving that has remained with me all these years.

Never Out of Style
In reading this, I’m sure there are those that would say this sort of kindness has gone out of style, that it would no longer work. Who would dare take those cookies from a semi-stranger at their door today? And, even if they took them, would they actually eat them? Who’s to say?

Still, if she were with us today, I believe my grandmother, by example, would be teaching her grandkids, great-grandkids and great-great grandkids that any kindness, however small, still counts.
Perhaps that even includes a couple of squirts of ketchup. ###

 

A nationally recognized child and adolescent psychologist, author and speaker, Dr. James Sutton is in demand for his expertise on emotionally and behaviorally troubled youngsters, and his skill for sharing it. Dr. Sutton is the founder and host of The Changing Behavior Network, a popular internet blog and radio-style podcast dedicated to supporting young people and their families. www.thechangingbehaviornetwork.com

April 23, 2016 Posted by | Affirmation and Recognition, Healthy living, Human Interest, Humor, Inspirational, Parents | , , , , | 1 Comment

Instilling Positivity in Children and Teens (Peggy Caruso)

Peggy Caruso, instilling positivity in children and teensUnderstanding the subconscious mind will help us to focus on the importance of instilling positivity in children and teens. Your conscious mind is your reasoning mind; therefore, once you accept something to be true at the conscious level, it then goes into the subconscious mind and that is what produces your results. Your subconscious mind produces your actions. So, if you want to change the results you are getting then you must begin to alter your thought process.

Understanding Developmental Periods

You can alter behavioral patterns in children as well as adults. In doing so you must understand the developmental periods of a child’s life.

From birth to seven is the imprint period; in which everything is absorbed from the environment. Parents and relatives have the most impact on the child during this particular time.

From seven to fourteen is the modeling period and this is a very crucial stage. They break away from the parent and model the behavior of other children, movie stars, singers, etc. Many parents will ask me how it is possible to raise two children the same way and have them turn out so differently. That’s because they go in different directions and are influenced by others.

From fourteen to twenty-one is the socialization period. This is where they become individualized. So it doesn’t matter what influences they have encountered because you can always alter behavior. Understanding these periods helps us identify where the obstacles surfaced.

Altering Behavioral Patterns

One way to alter behavioral patterns is to implement techniques of Neurolinguistic Programming. It involves the systematic study of human performance. It is a multi-dimensional process that involves strategic thinking and an understanding of the mental and cognitive processes behind behavior. NLP is:

Neuro: Derived through and from our senses and central nervous system
Linguistic: Our mental processes are given meaning, coded, organized, and then transformed through language
Programming: How people interact as a system in which experience and communication are composed of sequences of patterns

Peggy Caruso, Revolutionize Your Child's Life, Neurolinguistic Programming, positive affirmations, implement success principles, Attitude of GratitudePositivity and Gratitude

Your subconscious mind doesn’t reason; therefore, you must be very careful as to what you plant. We are made up of energy, so it’s important to get our children in a positive energy flow so they are able to attract positivity.

There are many ways to get that energy flowing in the morning. I talk frequently about the importance of gratitude. Most people tend to focus on the negatives of life. Positive and negative can’t occupy the mind at the same time, and, since negative is the dominant emotion, one must work very hard to replace it with positive.

Another key tool is to teach them the importance of positive affirmations. Get them in the habit of saying positive statements such as…”I can…” or “I will…” Repetition is key, so, as they get in the habit of saying them, the greater positive influence they will have.

Get your children excited about their goals and have them create a vision board. It’s another powerful exercise of the mind that will keep them in a focused and positive environment.

Implementing Success Principles

Finally, implement success principles within your child. I’ve written many articles about the importance of this. It is a redirection of negativity and instilling entrepreneurial skills in children aids in them becoming successful adults. Teaching them the 4 C’s will make a difference when they become adults. They are:

Communication: Sharing thoughts, ideas and solutions
Collaboration: Working together to reach a goal
Critical Thinking: Looking at problems in a new way
Creativity: Trying a new approach

So develop an Attitude of Gratitude and get that positivity flowing! ###

 

Peggy Caruso can be reached at pcaruso@lifecoaching.comcastbiz.net for more information. www.lifecoachingandbeyond.com

 

April 14, 2016 Posted by | Affirmation and Recognition, Counselors, Educators, Healthy living, Human Interest, Humor, Inspirational, Parents, Resilience, Self-esteem | , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Make Memories: Work and Play with Your Family (Christy Monson)

CMonsonphoto

(Here’s an excellent article by Christy on the “togetherness” of extended family members. The parents of these now elderly cousins gave their children a priceless gift. Enjoy. –JDS)

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This past summer, my husband and I hosted a reunion of his childhood cousins. As kids, these wonderful people loved being together. Some of their families lived in Idaho and some in central California. The parents made a special effort to spend time with extended family, even though they didn’t live close. Every summer the cousins worked together on one farm or another, weeding, feeding livestock and irrigating.

Eventually everyone grew up and went their separate ways. They became doctors, international business men, teachers, and engineers in many walks of life. They saw each other at weddings and funerals, if their busy schedules permitted.

As they reached retirement age, they felt the need to reconnect. At the reunion this summer, they spent three wonderful days reminiscing and getting reacquainted with each other.

Family Talk BookSome of the memories they shared were of a crabby uncle, but most of the stories were told about work and play with hard-driving parents, struggling to eke out a living. No one focused on the barn being full of hay or the price of the potatoes each year. They remembered the time they spent together, filling the irrigation ditches, chasing an errant calf or eating pancakes until they were about to burst.

They talked about the ball games they won, the horses they rode, and the pranks they played on each other. Their reminiscence was about the pleasure they experienced in interacting with each other as kids—their communication and relationships.

Focus on the journey, not the destination. Joy is found not in finishing an activity, but in doing it.

Greg Anderson

 

The parents of these cousins are not with us anymore, but here are some of the principles we can take away from their child-rearing practices:

1. Spend time with your kids

2. Work and play together

3. Give them a sense of family

4. Enjoy your extended family

 

Most of us don’t have to fill the irrigation ditches or milk the cows anymore. Life has changed. But we can still build relationships with our children through work and play.

A happy family is but an earlier heaven.

George Bernard Shaw

 

As adults what do you remember of your youth? What memories mean the most to you? ###

Christy Monson has an M.S. in Counseling Psychology and Marriage & Family Therapy from University of Nevada at Las Vegas, and established a successful counseling practice in Las Vegas, Nevada. Check out her informative website [link].

 

 

 

January 28, 2016 Posted by | Affirmation and Recognition, family, Healthy living, Human Interest, Inspirational, Parents, Resilience, Special Occasions | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Harder You Work, the Bigger the Snowman (Michael Byron Smith)

Here’s a great piece from my friend Michael Byron Smith on what the winter brings us as families and kids of all ages.–JDS

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There is no school equal to a decent home and no teacher equal to a virtuous parent.

Mahatma Gandhi

It starts around October. People, almost exclusively adults, start complaining about the onset of winter. I understand their point of view. Their focus centers on being cold, dealing with icy roads and often dreary weather. I don’t like those things either, but not enough to worry or complain about them.

Few of us have to be in the cold air longer than it takes to walk from our toasty car to our toasty home or office, at least not often. Slippery roads are a nuisance, but where I live in the Midwest, there may be only 10-15 days all winter when the roads are seriously snowy or icy for part of a day. In more northern states, they really know how to deal with their more frequent snowy days and they do it efficiently. There isn’t much you can do about dreary days, but I’ve seen dreary days in every season. With those realities said, I believe any adult that doesn’t like winter has the right to complain about it or move to a warmer climate. But it is also my opinion that children who are raised in areas that have seasons are advantaged in experiences and learning.

Cardinal in WInterNow I admit that winter comes in last in my list of favorite seasons. Spring, fall, summer, then winter is how I rank the seasons. But I LOVE seasons! In winter, I thoroughly enjoy watching the snow fall while I sit by a fire. And there is certainly beauty in winter if simply a red cardinal resting on a branch with a snowy background.

One of my favorite sensations ever was at my farmhouse in the country, waking in the morning after a heavy snowfall had blanketed the earth the night before. The wind was completely still in the bright morning sunshine. I walked outside and it was the most profound silence I have ever experienced. It was as if the snow had muffled every possible sound, except the squeaky sound of my boots sinking in the snow. The scene was truly a Norman Rockwell painting.

I accept winter and look for those experiences that only winter can provide. This brings me back to children. You rarely hear them complain about winter. They pray for snow and run around outside so much they don’t get cold. When they come in, a little hot chocolate will put the exclamation point on a fun and memorable kid experience. I have many memories of playing outside with friends, coming in with my hands so numb that the cold water from the tap felt warm, and I loved it!

You can join in the fun with them. Have a snowball fight or take them on a hike in the woods. The exercise and cooler weather make it comfortable and invigorating with views no longer obstructed with leaves. And you can sneak in a few life lessons occasionally using tricky little metaphors that may stick with them longer than a boring lecture.

Teachable Moments in Winter
Build a snowman with your children. Maybe you can have a competition for the best snowman. The teachable moment may be, ‘the more you work on your snowman the bigger and better he will be–just like anything else you will ever do’. But working hard isn’t the entire answer to success. You have to work smart also. It’s impossible to make a good snowman with very dry snow, even if you work very hard at it. With a little patience, a warmer sunny day will melt the snow wet enough to be able to build your snowman. The teachable moment: Patience and smarts will often save you a lot of time and effort with better results.

Go sledding with your children. Find a nice long hill and feel the thrill of zooming down. If they want to ride down again, they will have to trudge up the hill. The first ride down is free, after that they will have to work to experience it again. Going down is easy. Going up is work! The teachable moment: Nothing worthwhile is really free. There is always effort required by someone. The only ones who sled down for free are those that don’t have the strength and need the help of others to get back on top. Which of those would you rather be?

Not only are there life lessons to teach, but there are science lessons that will be remembered when they are in school. Take your children ice skating. Skating is best when there is very little friction, allowing them to glide effortlessly. But when they need to stop, they want some of that friction back so they dig into the ice. Friction is like fire. It can save your life or ruin it. How people use it makes all the difference!

Some history lessons can be best expressed in the winter. The strength of our forefathers and ancestors can be demonstrated, when there were no furnaces to warm them up with a push of a button; or when their home was a teepee or mud hut. No snowplows helped them out. Grocery stores were rarely nearby and food had to be grown or hunted. Traveling for just thirty miles would take half a day or more and the only heat was from the horse if you were lucky enough to have one. Not until one thinks about how tough conditions were for others in the past will they understand and appreciate the fortune they have today.

But maybe the most important of all these moments, whether you stop to teach or not, is to be actively engaged with your children, having fun, creating everlasting memories, and making connections to them that will serve both you and them forever. I already mentioned a couple of winter activities, but there are others you can enjoy with your kids including baking things together, movie nights, reading books, crafts, snowball fights, going to sporting events, and so much more.

Take advantage of every opportunity
I wish everyone a great winter season! Make the best of every day no matter the season, and never miss a chance for a teachable moment for your children. And for you older folks out there who hate winter, just think about how fast time passes for us! It’ll be spring before you know it; the recent contrast of winter causing it to be even more appreciated. I can almost see the tulips and crocuses popping through the ground already. Another teachable moment! ###

Article and photographs by Michael Byron Smith, author of The Power of Dadhood [website]
“Helping Fathers to be Dads” blog

 

January 21, 2016 Posted by | family, Healthy living, Human Interest, Inspirational, Integrity, Parents, Special Occasions | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

National Popcorn Day

popcornMy friend in Austin, Jim Gentil, sent this along. Popcorn, a family favorite, has been a favored treat for kids, adults … even pets. I thought this story was quite interesting and uplifting. (As a kid, I remember my dad making popcorn in a large pot on the gas stove. Anyone remember having the job of vigorously shaking that pot as the corn popped, so it wouldn’t burn? Dad’s popcorn was always the best. He made great waffles, too, but that’s another story.)–JDS

National Popcorn Day is celebrated annually today, January 19th.

This time-honored treat can be sweet or savory, caramelized, buttered or plain, molded into a candied ball or tossed with nuts and chocolate. However it is enjoyed, enjoy it on National Popcorn Day, January 19th.

Popcorn started becoming popular in the United States in the middle 1800s. It wasn’t until Charles Cretors, a candy-store owner, developed a machine for popping corn with steam that the tasty treat became more abundantly poppable. By 1900 he had horse-drawn popcorn wagons going through the streets of Chicago.

About the same time, Louise Ruckheim added peanuts and molasses to popcorn to bring Cracker Jack to the world.

The national anthem of baseball was born in 1908 when Jack Norworth and Albert Von Tilzer wrote “Take Me out to the Ballgame”. From that point onward, popcorn, specifically Cracker Jack, became forever married to the game.

Today, Americans consume 13 billion quarts of popcorn a year, more than any other country in the world. A majority of popcorn produced in the world is grown in the United States. Nebraska leads the corn belt in popcorn production. ###

January 19, 2016 Posted by | family, Healthy living, Human Interest, Inspirational, Parents, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment