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Introduction to Memoirs of a Challenge:

When we walk the journey of life, the way is not always blue skies with green meadows. Many times, we are challenged beyond our capable minds, which compromise the true reflection of our hearts. 
 
Memoirs of a Challenge was created to reflect on life challenges from all areas of circumstance as a means to connect or reconnect with ourselves or the people we live with and love in our world. It is a cup of comfort for devoted readers.
 
The goals of this blog:
  • to create a space where people feel validated
  • to share universal emotions that may hinder our true selves
  • to understand we are not alone in any challenge we face
  • to find support upon connecting with others who relate to the content 
Do you want to know when weekly blogs are posted? Find us at our Memoirs of a Challenge on Facebook.com and become a fan. You will automatically be updated with new posts!
 
Memoirs of a Challenge Wish List:
To find someone who can offer their services to update our blog section, and make it more user friendly and appealing to those who visit regularly.

May 30, 2012 -KEEPING IT REAL

In this electronic, high-paced society, I worry about the lack of “good stock” that is taken while in steady relationships. Why? Folks! If you are listening to your friends, your family, your aquaintances, it’s plain as day. There is a disconnect within the connect. 


Things about relationships are too quick, too short, too little on the priority scale. So much is being missed and too many of us are wondering “how we got here” or  “why things didn’t work out between us” or sadly, “how we went from 0 to 100 without really knowing each other first”. Sound familiar? Many of us find ourselves in this rut way too often, and then we blame our schedules, or the kids, or our jobs, or society, or worse, the other person. Then we feel hurt, betrayed, unsupported, neglected, and all the other negatives we can tack onto this long list. And then what? How do we get back to the “good days” when simple things meant the world to us? When the spark was a strong fire that could light the world? Many of us think this is a mystery. It is easier to blame or worse, give up. 


The following list is a compilation I have gathered from my own experiences and much research on this subject of “keeping things real”. I have been in this type situation before with friends, family, and of course, my own husband. I do not claim to be an expert of this sort, but as I grow in my marriage and my friendships, I can acknowledge that certain things take priority over others. And the first and foremost important acknowledgment is that I am not a robot. I am a living, breathing, feeling being. That means I need to be creative in the way I handle my business. I need to be flexible. I need to constantly seek out what works, because I do not come with one set of directions for myself and every other person in my life. I cannot be turned on and off with one switch. And most of all, something I swear my husband wishes from time to time, I do not come with a remote! So here is the list. Hope it helps!


Do not forget the age old arts of speech. Fun and convenient forms of texting and email have seemingly taken over communication, but they are also a major way to fade out voice, body language, facial expression, and all those things that make us human. Nothing evokes emotion quite like the voice! The voice is so much warmer or excitable than the sound of clicking keys. When a computer stands in the way, all is lost aside the obnoxious words in caps. Really? 


Do not misunderestimate the power of expression without words. Have eye contact. Give a smile. Hold hands while walking side by side. Wink. Hug. Pat each other on the back. Shake hands. Turn off the television when someone is talking. Turn down the music. We were given these bodies to use for connecting. None of this can be done with a machine or while I am here and you are there somewhere. 


Remember the art of listening. If you are multi-tasking or tuning out while your friend or loved one is pouring out their heart to you, then know the difference between loving and just living. If you stop and really listen to what the other person is saying, they will feel more drawn to you. You will learn something new or acknowledge an old inclination about them. There will be less frustration or tension. Surprisingly, you may even get somewhere with that person because you are actually paying attention to what they need! Though our culture is constantly supporting the “me” over the “you”, too much of one thing can damage everything, if you know what I mean. 


How about the art of being face to face? We should be meeting frequently, and both parties should be reciprocating and taking turns with arrangements. Schedule a regular date night. Meet for lunch or for coffee. There is an aura of positive energy being passed from one person to another when they are together. We feel more supported. More validated. More valued. Enough said!!


Seek and find the mutual activities to share. To bond is to do something both parties enjoy. Go to a baseball game. Work on your scrapbooks together. Get that workout in. Cook a meal. Enjoy that book club or wine club. Nothing says I love you more than those common interests and goals. If we do this, then we get Es for efforts! Oh! And this time around, the Cs are acceptable, because we get CLOSER:)


Make relationships top priority. Your marriage. Your kids. Your family. Your friends. When it comes down to the nitty gritty, THEY are what keeps you going. Teamwork. Appreciation. Loyalty. Quality time. These are the things that matter. It isn’t about the kids being smarter and better at piano or sports. It isn’t about our personal interests taking over our schedules. It’s about making a difference. Competing for the better marraige, or family, or friend. That’s what makes the world go round. That’s what makes us feel the most human indeed. 


     


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May 23, 2012 -SUMMER RAVE PART II: SPONTANEITY

Spontaneity. It can make us reluctant. We can worry about it. Many of us can’t stand it! A thing that messes our plans and routines? Who has time for that? And yet we know that being open to change can help us be better people. Spontaneity can many times be the very thing that’s been missing in our lives - the thing that reconnects us with feelings of freedom, motivation, and inspiration. 

While routines keep us organized, expectant, and productive, they can many times cause us stress and moodiness, and also make us too predictable. And who wants that? Spontaneity is the perfect advocate for keeping things light. And when we are accepting change, or when we just roll with it, we slowly begin to be better at coping with the unknown. And...isn’t life just that? The Unknown?? 

Many of us have a true fear of letting go. Maybe our impulses will make us late or cause us to miss out on something important. What if peoples’ view of us changes? What if you begin carrying a name of crazy or irrational? I guess if your spontaneity endeavors consist of bungee jumping and exploring solo through the Amazon, then perhaps you may earn that title respectively. But if your spontaneity means making efforts to be closer to family and friends, or long lost things that mean something to you, there is a great energy within that could possibly spill out to those around you and have positive, major effects. 

If you think about it, going beyond conditioning is like breaking chains that bind you. It can help soothe the way we act, or speak, or even think in many situations. Sometimes, spontaneity can lead us to look at a certain situation differently - one we never thought about before - one that alleviates our thoughts about it. Living in a moment or a for a moment can cause us to lose contact with what we feel comfortable as normal, but it can also bring about growth and awareness. It can be a source of release, which can then bring us closer to our true selves - the free-spirited children within. And that child-like aura can bring us joy, sweetness, and a deeper love for ourselves and those around us. Who doesn’t want that?

So! Summer Rave Part II is to try to practice being a little spontaneous every day.  Go ahead and drop everything to hit the beach for an hour of relaxation. Try some mental spontaneity too. Think differently about something. Try a new hobby. Break out something old. Anything! Anything outside your current norm. A little bit every day will get easier. You will feel more excited about the days to come. You will look at the world in a different and better light. Life will mean more. People will mean more. There will be freshness. Satisfaction. And many of your fears will slip away. That way, the summer, the seasons will pop with opportunity to find that buried happiness within - the thing you know is there, but you won’t find until you become a little more spontaneous. 

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May 07, 2012 -SUMMER RAVE

It is no secret that healthy diets mean better skin, better spirits, and better overall health. And certain foods do not have to taste bad either. In fact, the following foods I want to share with you not only taste great, they are jammed packed with benefits that will keep you coming back for more. 


With a regular intake about 1/2 to 1 cup daily, these foods will improve your days and energize your ways by tenfold. 


Strawberries Raw 


Just 8/day provides 20% of daily folate. Lowers blood sugar levels. Rich in antioxidants. Anti-inflammatory properties. Rich in vitamin C - a body repairer.


Summer Squash (zucchini) Raw or steam-cooked for about 5 minutes


Vitamin C rich to repair tissues, vitamin B6 for strengthening immune system, brain function and formation of red-blood cells. Good source of potassium to regulate fluids, lower blood pressure, and maintain kidney health. Rich in carotenoids - the nutrients that lower triglycerides and bad cholesterol.



Tomatoes Raw


Rich in fiber, Lycopene to protect cells, Vitamin A, vitamin C, and potassium. Zeaxanthin  to protect eyes. 


Arugula - Raw or sauteed in olive oil for 5 minutes. 


One of the best greens to eat and actually my favorite greens choice! Rich in vitamin A, C, and K - helps bond calcium to bone. Very high in iron. Protection against cancer. Lowest oxalate in green veggies - the very thing that keeps your bones from absorbing calcium! And just an fyi - spinach is high in oxalate, so as you eat it, you may be losing calcium.


Carrots - Raw or steamed for 5 minutes.


Fights cancer, improves vision, nourishes skin, cleaner teeth and mouth. Anti-aging components fights cell damage and slows aging process. High in carotenoids!


Summer is the perfect time to increase your intake of these foods. Why not make the effort and feel better starting with today? 


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April 12, 2012 -FIVE STEPS TO STAYING HAPPY

Unhappiness. Is it a trend? Is it a twist? I have even wondered if it is a disease! But it seems that too many of us grow to be unsatisfied, restless, and maybe even envious of others. We turn that perfect friend down because he or she has everything we wish we had. Or we withdraw from the world because somehow we don’t fit the standards of looking perfect and having everything together. We simply want more money, or need the perfect partner, or have to be better than what we see everyday in ourselves and others. We cannot lie to ourselves either. In its very rare form, unhappiness is directly rooted/routed from unsatisfaction/unfulfillment. 


Some people seem to be happy all the time, but if they have a brain and a heart; two legs and feet; and talk like the rest of us, well, don’t let them fool you. They have their moments (probably many moments) of unfulfillment. Those very real moments when they ask themselves, “Why can’t that be me?” No matter who we are talking about here, all of us can get caught up, and then we can get lost. 


But we don’t have to! I am not saying we won’t get caught up. It’s human! But I am saying we don’t have to lose ourselves. In my experience, I have come to trust a few  remedies that make the difference between happiness and unhappiness. 


First - Relationships. You need solid and healthy ones with family members, but you also need the same when it comes to friends. One friend, two friend, red friend, blue friend - all different; all supportive; all genuine - no matter how many or how little! The major fulfilling aspect of these relationships would be that you feel open with them and that they reciprocate. “Life is the messy bits,” and if you share and your friends don’t, that is not a relationship that will keep you smiling. Oh! And if you are always the one putting yourself out there, coordinating get togethers and doing the work, you’ll be frowning faster than you think! True friendships/True relationships work together - naturally.


Second - Declutter your life. Both in the home and out of the home. Keep living quarters simple, fresh, airy, and comfortable. Make it a place where people want to be and maintain that momentum. Who cares if your countertops are still laminate? Fill your kitchen with good food and good company and that is what guests will remember. Schedule less and be spontaneous more with family and friends. Obligation to this and that can easily fill up all the days of your life. And what you’ll end up remembering is all the times you couldn’t take the opportunity to just be. And if you don’t clue in on this, your children certainly will.


Third - Balance. Goes hand in hand with decluttering. Some people are just SO busy! Action means productivity, contribution, and retribution - all major routes to being happier, but it can be overextended. The other extreme is sloth, which leads to feelings of uselessness and eventual depression. Find the middle, and keep the steering wheel level. 


Fourth - Like Yourself. There are too many reasons to NOT like yourself. Everything tells you that you’re not good enough, and maybe in some ways you aren’t. BUT! For every thing that brings you down, you must find something about yourself that lifts you up. 


Fifth - Stay clean. Clean of guilt, of thoughts, of actions, of obsessions, of vices that harbor serious consequences in body, mind, and soul. Strive for strength, self-control, self-restraint, good manners, healthy thoughts, and all things bright and beautiful. If you do this one thing, happiness is just around the bend because you never have to look back and regret. 


It seems to me that reality shows, trendy literature, fashion, and state of minds are constantly trying to shift the meaning of true happiness. But happiness is happiness. It’s a state of well-being. It’s pleasant, positive, and content. Nothing can change that but you. 

 


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April 03, 2012 -LONELINESS

Loneliness. We all have it to a certain degree. Some of us get depressed about it. We sink with it, and we can’t find a way out of it. Others deal with it or accept it and move with it. It. It. It! Loneliness.


Some of us find it when we have little friends; while others have it as they are surrounded by a glittering circle of beaming friends. 


Some of us find it when we are alone without a significant other; while others find it even in their perfect marriage.


Some of us find it because we are the same, darn person we were ten years ago; while others find it because they are making changes no matter if they are for the better or the worst. 


Some of us find it when our pockets are empty; while others have it when their pockets are full.


IT is hard, unpleasant, and something that affects the deepest pieces that we are made of. Solitude. Isolation. Nothingness. It is one of the scariest things there is. 


It is important to remember that loneliness is a fundamental part of being human. We all search for meaning - something other than a universe which daunts and challenges and strips us of all our potential beauty. That is why when we are lonely, we stretch oursleves outward, trying to be comforted, loved, and validated by others. And yet, society, culture, relationships, social networks, none of it can fulfill certain wells of our loneliness. 


But just recently, someone said something magnanimous to me. I will share it with you this week. He said, “That which we cannot fill, not by ourselves or by others, can only be filled by God.” 


When he said it, IT hit me like a brick. And then suddenly, internally I felt like I was being stoned by all the things that brought me loneliness. I’ve thought about this deeply, and I have come to a reservation about it...


I am human - half of a whole. No medicine, no therapy, no act of humanity will completely take away all my loneliness. But it is in my lonelinesses that will spur me into finding meaning, in a spiritual sense. It is in those dark hours that I find out who I really am, and how willing I am to be a good piece of the whole picture. 


And so IT - loneliness - it is a prayer, a presence, a calling to be greater than who I think I am.





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March 20, 2012 -RESURRECTION 101

And so the beauty of spring jumps out at us. Delicate buds and soft colors; vibrant grass sheaths and butterflies; chirping birds and buzzing bees. The air is warmer. Things are greener. Even the sky’s blueness becomes more vibrant against the freshness. New birth. New chances. New life. 

During the spirit of spring, many occasions sprout like the stems from the ground - a sign of promise or a beginning. In my own world, it is Lent. For many of my faith, Lent is a time to give something up; something to repent; something to commemorate. For me, it is always a time to add something I have neglected due to my busy life. But no matter what one does during this season, one is preparing; remembering; appreciating. 


My Lenten decision was/is a tough one for me. For some time now, the thought occurred to me that my life was going almost too good. I have been blessed beyond measure in a world where darkness lurks, just looking for an opening to manifest. And yet, I realized that my praying and thanking was becoming mute. It was almost mechanical. Sadly, quick and to the point. “My thanking” was, in my opinion, almost a shallow thing - something I just did out of habit to feel better as a person. 


I needed more for myself. When you live a life of beauty, of showering gifts, of fruitfulness, it is so easy to forget the sadness and struggle of others. That is when I made the Lenten decision to venture into others’ worlds - those of lesser fortunes.

Since then, I have read too much, seen too much, and I hurt for the world - for its past and present and its future. I have immersed myself anywhere from the realities of child trafficking to horrific animal abuses to olden experiences such as the holocaust - something that should never leave any of us. Vivid images keep replaying in my head, and like my Lord, I feel like I am carrying a cross these forty days. Many things are so significantly life changing to me, I feel that I will continue carrying this cross for the rest of my days. There is a part of me that almost wishes I never made this decision for myself. The details, the pain - it is truly life changing. I have felt anywhere from sickness in my stomach to outrage to pure fear of what could happen to my own family. No one is immune to any of the horrors in our world - a sad yet helpful reality to every one of us. 


In Elie Wiesel’s narrative Night, he states, “ And now, scarcely ten years after Buchenwald, I realize that the world forgets quickly.” I think this is true - a human flaw in all of us when we get caught up in our selfish, wonderful worlds. Most of us have even forgotten what we felt on 9/11 so long ago. When we sit down to eat, we hardly think of the families who have already skipped three meals and will be sleeping in a car or in a dark corner, hiding from the world. When we see our paycuts and our lack of incentives, we forget that so many more have been sold into awful means just to be exploited. And when we miss the beauty of the sky; the pastel flowers on the trees, we do not think someone else faces fire, beatings, and mutilation. 


And so, this spring. These days. This moment. I urge each and every one of you who read this. Do not waste time being inconsiderate or depthless. Breathe in the beauties of your life. Drink in the wonders of it. See spring for what it truly is - a resurrection for the lost soul; the shallow heart; the calloused mindframe. Be a light. To yourself and to as many as you can.     


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January 18, 2012 -UNSTOPPABLE

Some of you may know I hurt my back a few weeks ago. My back was always sensitive since birthing my last child, but I kept it under control by staying active. After three years of taking Advil here and there, it took me to water my Christmas tree to completely throw my back out. And it hurt almost as bad as labor without meds.

 

I learned I had severe SI joint inflammation and here I am five weeks later. Still hurting, not able to do what I like or what I want. So I go through physical therapy and do my exercises to strengthen those loose, little buggers. I put on a few pounds and cautiously care about every move I make.

 

I feel inhibited. Restless. And I cannot escape the pain!

 

Knowing I have no time for this in my busy life, I realize there is nothing I can do to avoid it. It’s there and I don’t see it going away anytime soon. Just like other struggles in life, they wake up with us and they go to sleep with us. And sometimes these struggles intrude in our dreams! But let us not forget that it could always be worse and that we should be thankful for struggles (small or large) that teach us important lessons. 

 

These last five weeks have literally put a halt on my favorite thing - writing. I can’t sit or stand for too long. I shift constantly. And God help me if I ignore my body and work for longer than one hour on a manuscript. I will suffer for it in the end! But I do.

 

I have waves of anger and sadness; bargaining and throwing in the towel. And then I persist, knowing this impossible obstacle will not break me.

 

And so, this week I give all of us who struggle a gift - A gift of thoughts to ponder by some very inspirational people. If you have a cross to bear, a mountain to climb, and yes one more cliche, a star to catch, then believe you can. Refocus your energy. Change your thoughts so you can change your world, and hurdles will move aside.

 

 

The attitude and the mind is where it all starts. - John Smith, Olympic Champion

 

Ability is what you're capable of doing. Motivation determines what you do. Attitude determines how well you do it. - Lou Holtz

 

Life is 10 percent what you make it and 90 percent how you take it. - Irving Berlin

 

You've got to think about big things while you're doing small things, so that all the small things go in the right direction. - Alvin Toffler

 

Smooth seas do not make skillful sailors. - African Proverb

 

In order to discover new lands, one must be willing to lose sight of the shore for a very long time. - Anonymous

 

We all face a series of great opportunities brilliantly disguised as impossible situations. - Unknown

 

Life's challenges are not supposed to paralyze you, they're supposed to help you discover who you are. - Bernice Johnson Reagon

 

Nobody who ever gave their best effort regretted it. - George Halas

 

Have a beautiful week!!!

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January 11, 2012 -HYPOCRITE

It was a Thursday afternoon. The sweeping air was chilly against my cheeks as my family walked through the park toward the ice skating rink. We all dressed in our log cabin sweaters and knitted hats, thankful there would be hot cocoa at the concession stand.

 

We stood on line for tickets when I first noticed her. She was right behind us surrounded by four, bubbly children all talking at once. With her four and my three excited little ones, our part of the line was noisy. Both sets of parents were busy shushing and reminding each child to control themselves. 

 

Every now and again, our eyes met. She and me. Me and my husband. My husband and her. Me and her husband. And so forth. We said nothing, but all of us were thinking something. Frequent glances happened on and off for the next two hours while the two families skated.

 

Then it happened.  

 

I sat on one of the benches watching my happy children, who were finally getting the hang of skating. Hers were doing the same, all progressing similarly. I admitted to myself that she had the worst of hairdos. I wanted so desperately to push the obnoxious, black strands back to see more of her face. And then I noticed the severe bags under her eyes, and thought she needed some make up. Like a tidal pool criticism came quickly, one right after the next. She was too thin in those baggy clothes. And why would she choose such a movie star hairstyle? It didn’t fit the rest of her humdrum, homely appearance. It didn’t look good at all, and it stuck out like a sore thumb.

 

Yes I know. This was not one of my stronger moments. I let my silent ramble take over knowing none of it was productive. But like I shushed my children just hours before, I was shushed. 

 

One of her children barreled off the ice, smacking right into her. His impact was so strong, she fell back a bit. That awful hairdo? The one I branded as ridiculous? Well it shifted, revealing the stark baldness underneath. I watched as she quickly moved it back, telling him to be careful. Her eyes darted to see if anyone had found out her secret, and she found me. Our eyes met and we exchanged silent thoughts. Though I felt like busting out in tears, I managed a smile.

 

My heart broke in that second. It broke for her. It broke for me. That explained it. Cancer. Cancer was why she was so thin, so tired looking, so out of place with a wig. But she was there in the moment, in the trenches with her husband and her children. Still they smiled. Still they celebrated every minute they had while there. Still they carried on as if nothing broke them.

 

This total stranger was a shaft of light bursting through the darker side of my humanity. Though I was ashamed, I felt open and bouyant. My hypocrisy was gone and in its place was something which will last for months and maybe even years. It’s called thankfulness.

 

May God bless her and her family. May God bless all of us who have it good. May God bless our thoughts, the ones voiced and the quiet ones we are too ashamed to speak.

 

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December 13, 2011 -BEAUTIFUL MESS

 

            Tis the season for laughter, fun, and total depression. Yes! I said the word. Sadness. Blues. Misery. Loneliness. Stress. You name it, it happens. Even to the ones closest to us, including ourselves.

 

            Holiday blues can be so different from the next. Maybe someone is suffering from heartbreak. Perhaps someone is missing a loved one who’s gone. Maybe someone is seriously ill. And given our lovely economy, maybe it’s the bank account or the seemingly dwindling value of what the season is supposed to mean anyway.

 

            Whatever the source of hum bug it is, the effect is totalitarian. It grips our physical energy. Our spiritual auras are tarnished. Our outward radiance is thwarted. We go up and down, in and out, battling between the spirits of St. Nick and Scrooge. And it’s constant, even if we don’t feel sad. 

 

            I always say nothing helps the mind more than sunlight. I know. Skin cancer. Wrinkles. Getting older faster. Sunscreen/block. Blah blah and blah. To heck with it, because it works! A bit of chill awakens the senses too, sending a jolt of karmic energy right through the body’s core.

 

            Latching on to those who make us happy is also a good thing. Friends. Family members. Animals who make us laugh or get our emotions out is essential. To let go of negative thoughts and feelings is key to not harboring them. If we lock them inside, we literally clutter, clumping mess on top of mess. We have a choice to feel miserable or lighter.

 

            We can run through lists of this and that, what hasn’t been done, what isn’t going well, etc. Or, we can run through the lists of things worthwhile. How to catch up with a friend. Picking up the phone to say I love you. Thinking of happier memories, rather than those that changed us for the worst. Buying a gift for someone we don’t know. Or sitting quietly next to holiday pretties and thinking of all the blessings we do have and think little of.

 

            The economy, the government, and the state of the world will scare the daylights out of any of us. Or, we can choose to understand that now more than ever things should mean more. We should find our true selves in all the crazy, so we can be one, beautiful mess so to speak.

 

            I think that is what I am trying to say this week. Life is nothing but one, big mess. We can choose to be Oscar the Grouch, or we can be one, big, beautiful disaster. Someone who cares. Someone who loves. Someone who takes shelter in all the good this season brings. I am down and out about a lot of things. But I choose the latter. How about you?  

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December 01, 2011 -FRINGES OF FORGIVENESS

What if your life is a lonely mess of regret? What if when you look back at your memories, disgust fills your vessels and all you see is red? There are too many of us frustrated, hateful, bitter, shortchanged, and so on. That list can be eternal if we let it. We all know responding to hateful things with love is next to near impossible. And for those that make it look easy? Well, perhaps we view them as saints, since most of us don’t feel such calm in calamity. We wish we were that gracious!

 

But what if your life has passed you by already? What if time has caught up, and nothing surrounds you but dark corners? What IF you can turn it all around so you can lead a long, peaceful life the way you thought you would, the way you always dreamed? Well, that would take forgiveness.

 

Hurt is part of who we are as people. Our enemies probably do not deserve the grace we need to give, but if we linger around all the things resentment brings, we are only killing ourselves – one, slow, tumultuous, death. Oh! And our enemies, the ones who started it, the ones who call themselves the victims, chances are they are not as affected as we are. So, the very best thing we can do for ourselves is to live a happy, successful life despite the hurt that’s made its mark.

 

When we turn bad into something good, we grow. We learn to appreciate important things. We suddenly see all the great things that have come from our hurt. And hopefully those positive consequences make us better people.

 

The word forgive means to untie. When we forgive, however we forgive, we detach ourselves from bitter ugliness. We break chains, and cycles, and spiritual prisons, and with time gain wisdom and trust.

 

So this week, if you’ve been hurt, try not telling that story anymore. Get your violin ready to start playing a brand new beautiful song that speaks of the true person you are, or want to be. Rise above it, and focus on those who deserve your positive energy. Radiate outward all the wonderful things you’ve found in your hurt, and use it for the good of this deserving earth.   

 

 

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November 16, 2011 -QUIET ANGELS AMONG US

It was a cold, fall day about a week away from Thanksgiving. The sky was so blue, it was almost violet as swirls of jewel-toned leaves danced along the busy street. I was stopped at a red light watching cars zip by. My mind raced in the world of mundane circumstances - a messy house, cooking and serving the same meal as last week, and being overtired.

 

I then glanced to my right. A man of about sixty leaned against a yield sign, sitting upon the cold cement. His eyes were closed, and he huddled as best he could with his flimsy, worn sweater. He had no socks, and one of his shoes was worn through to his toe. He held a sign on a brown paper bag which said

 

Handicapped. Can’t find work.

Hungry and cold.  

Vietnam Veteran.

 

I rummaged through my car, and found nothing to give. I threw open my wallet, and found a twenty dollar bill, which I quickly swiped. I pulled over, stopped traffic, and opened my steel door to be greeted by the bitter chill in the air. I walked over to the man still with his eyes closed, and touched his shoulder. To my surprise, I was welcomed by a pair of friendly eyes the color of the Caribbean Sea. And when he smiled, I felt my soul move.  

 

I handed him the money. I took my hat and set it on his lap. I undid my scarf and gently placed it around his neck. And if I was wearing a coat, I would have given it to him. All the while he watched me, saying nothing. I then peered one more time into his eyes, and put one hand on his cold, tanned cheek. I said, “Thank you.”

 

I ran back into my car, disregarding the honking horns and the impatient people wanting to make a right. I made my right, and proceeded to pick my boys up from school. When I stopped my car in the parking lot, I was in full blown tears. When I got out, the woman behind me jumped out of her car to meet me. Her arms cradled a brand new bundled up infant.

 

“Thank you for what you did,” she said, also crying. “Some man had just cut me off on the highway, and I was cursing his name all the way to school until I saw what you did for that man. I had to meet you, to tell you I was thankful, to tell you my anger is gone.” She then hugged me.

 

This woman greets me every time she sees me. We exchange a silent understanding that our lives are paradise compared to so many others. That one incident had a chain reaction, powerful and moving. Who knows how many others’ ill feelings were vanished on that day?

 

Perhaps this man was an angel sent to jolt a number of us back into what’s really important. I believe maybe so, but someone else might call it coincidence. I hope during this season that you look back upon your life. Think about the moments which moved you, and take time to be thankful for them. Have a beautiful week!

 

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October 24, 2011 -TRUTH LIES IN DESPERATE MEASURES

           Have you ever experienced something completely liberating? I would have to say I have, but none like the weekend I just had. For the first time in seven years, I rolled out of the driveway with my suitcase waving to my husband and my youngest child. Yep! I was alone in the car, driving to a writing conference. No children. No husband. No dog. No mess. No chaos. Just my GPS and that comforting purple line to follow. Oh! And my very loud music, which I love.

 

            I attended this event, knowing I needed to step out of my shell in order to network, and also to say thank you to the hard working people giving us writers the time of day. But the second I got there, something went wrong. While confirming my appointmentI with a very important editor, I was not on the list! Immediately, my heart stung, and my stomach knotted. Quickly recovering, I spent the next thirty or so minutes skipping breakfast, a bathroom break, and a breather so as not to impose on the editor’s time when I showed up. The first three people had no idea what to do. The next two brought me to other people who didn’t know what to say. The last person brought me to the back where the editors, authors, and agents clumped together to settle their things and breathe before their big day. I was both embarrassed, and doing my best to conceal my angst with none other than my simple smile, hoping it was enough. With my confirmation letter at my fingertips for my defense, turns out I was on one list, but not the other. Whew!

 

            I had enough time to say hello to the person sitting next to me, and was then ushered into my fifteen minute critique. All my questions; all my focus simply circulated everywhere else but within me. I was nervous. I was relieved. But I was blank. She started talking, and I started listening, answering in the best ways I could. Then it was over, and I was in line for the next event, just trying to find a seat. I got one alright. In the back with a huge, cement column in front of me hiding the speakers ahead!

 

            The whole day seemed to play out this way for me. I found myself in odd, awkward situations, yet maintained my smile through it all. I learned some things about myself, which surprised me. One very important thing was the fact that I wasn’t as much of a baby writer as I thought. All too quickly I kept running into people who hadn’t even finished a manuscript, or had never gotten published, or were stuck on the fact that their family loved their manuscripts so why hadn’t it been published yet? I met a few “black clouds” and was delighted whenever I met someone upbeat, confident, and driven. I realized before lunchtime that I had come a looooong way in just two years (I have been writing for 7). I continued to listen, to take notes (I was the only one around me doing so), to savor the experts’ thoughts and comments, and to make sure I wrote out thank you cards on the spot, even though I had to chase the editor down to give her hers (ugh!).

 

            Then the day was over and I was driving home the next morning. The night before, I’d come down from my high. The stress of it all seemed to subside, and I was left with a hollow sadness so deep, I swore my heart sank to my stomach. I was still alone on a journey where much of my way was in the dark.

 

            The key note speaker said something very important to me - something that kept running through my mind. She said, “Write on the edge, knowing you can do it, you are called to it, and you believe in it.” And so I cried the second I got on highway 95 for a long while, because I believe she was acting as an angel to tell me that alone in our corner.  

 

            On the open road underneath the sunshine, I began to think more clearly. I thought about the notes I’d memorized from my editor’s critique. And then this sense of power came over me, and I realized my Lord was speaking to me. Each detail, each comment came with a plan, a spot in my opening chapter where I could work things out. The sensation was so strong, I had to pull over to see it through.

 

            The point of all this is truth lies in desperate measures. It’s where you to take risks. It’s where you let go and get into the something deeply, wholly, and faithfully. It’s where you make things happen, where movement takes place, and where things become clear. And so, I move forward with a plan I know comes from somewhere else. I am an instrument being played by something bigger than me. I will dream big and risk failure, because I have to, because I believe, and because I want to make a difference.

 

            Whatever goes on in your life, I hope you’ll have this premonition: to dream big while risking failure. We choose our destination, but something else chooses the journey before we get there. God bless!

           

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October 18, 2011 - VISIBLY VIRBRANT VIBE - A SIGN OF THE TIMES

I have seen a major shift in my friends lately. I see so many making changes in their lives as they attempt to overcome bad habits, or add something new to their routines. I’ve noticed changes in how many of them look at things, consider consequences, and weight their priorities. Even the way many of them comment or update is different (when I am on the computer). For the most part, I see so much positive. I must say, it is nothing short of inspirational.

 
Getting a solid handle on daily routines, diets, emotions, and the various odds and ends of our lives isn’t easy. Change is magnanimous, no matter how small. It requires legwork, research, and dedication. It may also require Devil’s Advocates, rolling of eyes, and shaking of heads from all those around us. They’re to be expected, and if you want to think positively embraced. Those opponents will fuel your motivation to change all the more; to prove your point; to achieve something that seems impossible.

 

I am addressing this positive vibe, this unseen energy because it is everywhere. It isn’t something that is treading lightly. I feel its presence is consciously and unconsciously moving through us, connecting us to something bigger than we are. And at its best, this vibe is visibly vibrant in so many people I know. I can see these little changes making extreme impacts.

 

Here are some of things I am seeing just from my small group of friends:

 

 

  • Going simple rather than overkill (schedules, fashions, mindframes).
  • Coming of ages (finding out what you want to be when you grow up and going for it)
  • More and more date nights with spouses (even if they’re in the home).
  • An awakening and sharing on well-raised meats, and turning away from commercial overhaul and abuse.
  • Eating more organic foods, and literally quitting processed foods.
  • Spending more time with friends NOT on the computer.
  • Increasing work out routines and purifying the physical body.
  • More and more referencing to a Higher Power.
  • Rekindling of old friendships.
  • Giving and returning compliments.
  • Extending support for all kinds of situations.
 
You can see what I see, and with Autumn arriving, the positive harvest is making headway. So I thank you for your awakenings, your attempts to make a difference, and your wills to drive against common callouses. I am a believer of change when it is something good. We are deeper for it. We are richer for it. We are turning the world into a sensational energy, radiating beyond the individual, and moving toward a light - one person at a time.
 
Homework! Yes, you have homework:) I will always be a teacher!
 
Think of your friends' list (both on and off the computer). What positive changes are you seeing? What is their effect on you, on them, on others? Are you making changes? How are they making a difference in your life? Have a great week!   
   

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October 13, 2011 -THE QUIET SIDE OF COMMITTMENT: A VERY LOUD INTENT

            When I think about this very humble blog, I realize there are things I really hate about it. It’s plain. It’s unattractive. There is no fancy writing or flashy photographs pasted on its walls. No interesting color – just white space and black writing. It is a wonder that so many of you keep coming back week after week to read this! And then I realize something else. Maybe it has nothing to do with how something looks. Perhaps it has everything to do with a feeling one gets when they visit here. Kinda like the old pair of shoes you just can’t part from, or the run down cottage you call home because it’s well, home. And then I start thinking maybe meaning is more important than trendy after all.  

 

            Still, every time I post something, I wish I could tack a cool photo with it, or something interesting I have found. I wish to see a rainbow of color warming up the pages so you could feel more at home, more connected, more fulfilled. This is my wish for Memoirs of a Challenge, for the Elijah Foundation’s site, for the families and individuals who come here for solace or some form of gravity to ground them.  

 

            I have been asked why I have not started my own savvy blog. My simple answer to go along with my simple blog is because I am committed. I live my life this way, regardless of difficulty or the old cliché that says the grass is greener on the other side. As I wait for my own computer savvy angel who could make a difference for us here at the foundation’s website, I remain humbled and committed to the cause of such a worthy platform – to assist children and their families in building support, empathy, and encouragement for their lives.

 

            Perhaps some day one will contact us and say, “I can do this for you.”  Until then, I run this blog from the quiet backwaters, the humble makings of dreams, and the dust and dirt kicked up by hard working people who wish to make a difference – kinda like the Old American Way. It’s what a calling is all about – to stand against the odds, because discouragement is NOT an option for us here.

 

            This is a very strong message filled with wishes, prayers, and hopes – one that can be applied to anything in our lives when it comes to commitment. 

 

And Angel, if you are out there, hear my wish for Memoirs of a Challenge, and come to me!

 

I pray for your wishes, readers, that you continue to stand for them, to have the grace to watch them manifest, to be part of the thing you dream of.

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October 04, 2011 -SUPERHERO VALUES

Our lives are fast-paced with very little time to think about what is important. Too many times we get caught up in the moments, and act on shallow thought rather than clear, grounded value. Most of the time, it is too late, because damage has already been done. For many of these life crises, or “moments”, our principles; our priorities can get lost on the wayside. We can make fools of ourselves or humiliate someone else. In essence, we can certainly put our foot in our mouth more than we would like to admit.

 

Sometimes I wish for the power to see it all before I say and do. I wish I wasn’t so flawed, so confused, so many times incompetent when it comes to life’s curve balls. I wish for ex-ray vision and an iron body so the negative bounces right off the second it hits me. Instead, I am half-blind. My body absorbs everything that hits it whether I know it or not. It comes out one way or another, either by my feelings, my aura, my actions, my physical health, my energy.

 

But in thinking about this, I realize we are given superpowers to grasp our inner strengths – you know, the ones we believe in when things are going great, and the ones that seem to get smothered by the more powerful impulses fueled by anger or greed. We just have to make more time to think about them, absorb them, meditate on them, and let them become us.

 
I know. You’re all probably thinking, yeah right! Who has time for that? But isn’t that why we are here to begin with? Rather than being first, coming out on top, looking better than the next, and so forth, isn’t this where our focus should be?
 
Our common sense is our ex-ray vision to know outcomes before they happen. Our iron body is built upon our core values over what society has conditioned into our belief system. We just have to recognize them and practice them daily. True Zen comes from this type of mastery.
 
For example, wealth is rarely a value in itself. It usually has a means to another end such as status, power, security, freedom, recognition, pleasure, etc. Core values should be the end value of everything before it, and you can see how with this example, things can get shady.
 
If you can, start pinpointing your core values. Build that strong foundation. I can tell you this is a life process, but if you are consciously making this effort, you will see how your little world gets better with every fighting chance. Self-identity will be more defined. Principles will be more stable and ready at a glance. Ex-ray vision will be sharper. We will be more credible. And being a credible person makes us incredible from all angles of the spectrum. Then we are truly someone’s superhero.   

 

  

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September 26, 2011 -ARTISTS INTENT

I just read passages from one of my favorite authors today (Clement-Davies). My own pencil marks are graffitied all over my copies to remind me of his beautiful imagery. I don’t want to forget them. I want them to settle in me, live in me, and grow in me. The beauty of his artistry makes black and white pages come alive with color, detail, and feeling. It’s as if he speaks to me a very, personal message: one that says lifeblood.

 

Suddenly, my own pulse quickens. A certain zest or zing spins through me. I am awakened. I am inspired. SUCH is the power of artistry.         

 

We all have them – favorite musicians, painters, sculptors, dancers, writers, craftsmen. They are masters of our hearts, holding magic keys to undo what we don’t say; what we don’t think we feel; what we never think we are.

 

Form and matter are what they disguise so that we can transcend toward meaning. They go beyond what is and introduce what if. And then we are changed; not where we were, but where we want to go. What we want to be.

 

What is it about art that keeps us coming back? Some may argue this point, but I wonder if it is because much of art portrays life and its many struggles. We relate. It speaks to us. It violently shakes us or gently sways us. Either way, we are moved.  

 

So, the next time you hear her sing that song, the one you can’t get out of your mind. Or view a painting, the one that’s captured your eyes and pulled you in further. Or read a passage, the one you keep going back to over and over. Treasure it. It was the artist’s intent to speak to you, to gift feeling within you, to make you feel alive.  

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September 20, 2011 -DISCIPLINE IN THE STATE OF EMERGENCY

            This week, I will be attending a PTG meeting at my school to hear about their “new and improved” discipline plan. This new spruced up version of discipline fosters a healthier approach to boost self-esteem in students. We were told that studies have proven this system works, and that research supports encouragement thereof. Some other rhetoric, propaganda, jargon – whatever you want to call it is as follows:

 

  • Misbehaving children are “discouraged children”.
  • Getting rid of the crazy idea that in order to make a child do better, first you have to make them feel worse.
  • To focus on solutions rather than blame.
  • In order to do well, students have to feel good.
  • Ongoing effort is a work in progress for individual students.
  • Making sure the message of love and respect gets through.

 

            Out with the old demerit system and onto a new system, which requires class meetings and notations of what individual students need to be working on, without any clear guideline or for that matter CONSEQUENCE to delinquent behavior or ongoing misdemeanors. 

 

            What we weren’t informed of, however, was the flipside of too much positive discipline or the downsides of too much cooperative problem solving. The slogan Rules are Rules becomes sketchy, cloudy, and ultimately fades away. Suddenly, one is lost (parents and students alike), not knowing where the expectations really are.

 

            Our demerit system (a system that wasn’t truly followed to begin with) has been branded as ineffective – a form of punishment, as if demerits are a type of mental abuse on a child for rules they should be well aware of, and of course respect. The result? Abolishment, leaving parents like me wondering.  

 

            I am not saying I don’t support positive discipline. I do. In fact, I take much delight with my own children and students using it. However, there are lines my children are learning not to cross. They are the lines between child and adult; authority and apprentice; rule and impulse; respect and disregard; real-world and fantasy-world. Too much of a good thing can be detrimental if there is no balance.

 

            It is no secret that schools across America are struggling and frustrated. The growing imbalance keels over, and our cups overflowith for sure! It’s inflated. It’s everywhere. It’s messy, due to philosophical extremities.

 

            Narcissism is an obsession that people have with themselves. Entitlement is a systematic flaw in American students where they think everything is owed to them, including challenging rules. Suddenly, they are above, and everything else is below.

 

            The oxymoron? The major, catastrophic overhaul in all this? Schools contribute to warm and fuzzy feel good approaches. The real world? Out there? When they leave the overly soft systems? The real world is holding people accountable for their actions. Society judges the individual, not the cooperative group in many cases. Achievement is much more important than effort. The real world is competitive, and more and more studies are showing young people are not prepared for it - a real eye opener that isn't being talked about enough.

 

            I leave you with some thoughts this week. I know these questions will be churning in my head right down to the pit of my stomach. They will be blinking like neon signs during my meeting tomorrow night in the state of emergency. And I am fully aware that my balanced philosophy is the minority.  

 

  • Are high expectations for students really damaging self-esteem?
  • Is accountability too stressful and damaging to self-esteem?  
  • Is effort more important than achievement?
  • Should competition be replaced by cooperative flatlines?
  • Is the shift of developing the intellect to a narcissistic focus on emotions too tipped?
  • Is feeling really more important than thinking?
  • Should teachers focus more on teaching skills rather than being consumed with therapy?
  • Are students really damaged if they get yelled at, get a demerit, get an extra assignment or job, get suspended or expelled to make up for their misbehaviors at school? (This should be tiered of course)
 
 
Yikes! That’s a lot to think about, isn’t it? I will be thinking about it, alright, but with the focus of balance rather than one philosophy over another.  We can't afford warfare between progressive and traditional approaches in education. Our children are counting on us for balance of the two - something I fear is failing in more ways than one.

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September 06, 2011 -GET A LIFE! get a SPIRITUAL life!

Spiritual practice. Maybe it means becoming closer to your God. Perhaps it means trying to connect more with the world around you. It could be an acceptance of your life, an inner peace which extends beyond just you as an individual.  

            One thing I have learned is that spiritual practice is not something to put off, neglect, or eradicate. It is an ongoing cultivation of self-care so to speak, a necessary kind of maintenance that makes us better people.

            When we do spiritual practices, we are steering ourselves past daily drudgery. It is in these fresh realms that we are awakened, reconnected, guided, and ultimately refreshed.

            Now I know how difficult it is to have a regular, spiritual routine, but I strive for it. Even when I fall asleep the second I begin my rosary, or get side-swiped by a million thoughts in my head, I want it. I need it. Why? Because it defines all the parts in me that maybe I don’t understand, or have lost touch with. It is the one practice that makes me feel bigger than my body (you know, that song by John Mayer?).

            If you don’t have a practice.

            If there is something missing in your life you can’t figure out.

            If life has you in the trenches.

            If you’ve been meaning to, but have not done so.

 

            Get a Spiritual Life!

 

Tips to start!

 

Find a quiet, peaceful place.

Find a spot indoors AND outdoors. Both are very important.

Use self help books, daily reflections, poems, religious books, prayers, or just nature.    

Establish a spiritual ritual unique for you.

Celebrate it with music, candles, and even dance.

Do it often until you do it all the time.

 

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September 01, 2011 -HARVEST HELP

September - the final close to lazy summer days. Life quickens, and challenges become relentless. How does one stay sane? How does one build momentum in the midst of exhaustion, routine, and obligation? We can either wither, brown, and fall away, or we can reap something useful, something beautiful, something savory. Here’s some help to keep you on the road to a successful harvest within.

 

 

 

Moments – they are for seizing not ceasing.

 

Celebrate even the small stuff.

 

When you are in the moment, inspiration takes over.

 

Be passionate about color, and wear it.

 

Find a sense of belonging, even if it means just you.

 

Don’t pass, choose.

 

Get outside to sharpen your senses.

 

Collaborate rather than dictate.

 

Refocus negative energy.

 

Stop putting things off. Just go for it.

 

Regiment yourself on a diet filled with nature…fruits, veggies, whole grains, and protein.

 

Sleep deep, and dream well.

 

 

 

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August 25, 2011 -REFRAMING EXPERIENCE

             Snapshot! Another person who’s ticked you off. Snapshot! You can’t seem to find time to do what you want. Snapshot! Nothing ever works out the way it should. Your mind is filled with a mental collage, but it’s clipped with brash headlines and zaniac news stories that have you stewing over the recents in your life. The result? Depression, disappointment, feeling trapped, and insane anger.

 

No matter which way you look at your mind’s scrapbook, you are the star of the show. It all comes down to how you perceived the incident, how you reacted to it, and what the consequences were. You have to deal with organizing events and putting them in logical order. Oh! And you have to somehow make it look good, or at least make yourself look good.  

 

            Maybe this point calls to mind situations you might not be proud of. Perhaps you reacted out of line, or took things way too far. I know that I am guilty here and there. However, it is important to remember life is unrehearsed. Some may improvise better than others, but the images always remain. They are stuck to our minds like neon signs throbbing in red, lasting for hours, days, weeks, months, and sadly sometimes years.

 

            So, the thought this time around is about reframing our experiences. We are an eternal download. We see. We do. We live our ever evolving dramas. Look back at the images and the feelings we carry daily. What are they telling us? Can we make some of them better? Maybe we should call someone to say we’re sorry or to reconnect. Maybe we should make a commitment to ditch our old ways and find new, healthier ones. Maybe there is a risk we need to take in order to change our course of actions for later on. Whatever it is, take one snapshot at a time. If it isn’t looking great, how can it be changed for the better? Reframe, and then reclaim dignity for yourself and the life you are trying to live.   

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August 08, 2011 -CABIN FEVER

                With that first high fever, the one my little boy came down with right before the Fourth of July, my heart sank. There would be no fireworks for us this summer. Our long awaited relatives would visit, see everyone else, and pass us by.

Little did I know severed holiday plans were only the beginning. In a matter of five days, all three of our children were sick with fevers, aches, chills, and congestion. No one slept, and everyone was uncomfortable.

Two weeks later, I corralled the kids in the car, took them to the doctor (again), and made my argument as to why they needed something to alleviate their menaces. Well, the kids got better and then Daddy got sick. One week after that, Mommy got the “IT” that no one wanted. And she got it the worst!

While I have been holding down the family fort for over a month and dancing a tango around pneumonia, a thought occurred to me..We were still enjoying our summer!

Despite cancelling two weekend vacations and countless days to the beach, dealing with our AC and refrigerator breakdowns, buying more boxes of tissues than I care to admit, and living on cough drops, medicine, and soup for almost six weeks, our summer has been jammed pack with cabin fever!

I am not talking about the kind of cabin fever that drives everyone bonkers, itching to get out (though we’ve certainly had our moments). I am talking about real family fever, where we’ve been forced to be together, think up grand ideas to pass through long, grueling days, and remain in harmony.

We’ve had no choice but to use what’s around us to keep us busy anywhere from puzzling to frequent movie gatherings to board games to arts and crafts to making music to sitting on beds and just talking or reading together. For 5 ½ weeks!!

It’s been enlightening. It’s been fun. It’s been creative. Comical. Insane. Loud. Peaceful. Beautiful. Meaningful. Everything a summer vacation should be.

There is a saying, “Life’s too short to NOT wear your party pants.” This summer, I learned that “Summer’s too short to NOT wear your pajama pants.”  We’ve had our stay-cation. It wasn’t what we planned, but we lived it up in our home. We were there. We were together, and we had a blast.

And though we are not out of the woodwork (still coughing, taking meds, and popping cough drops), we plan to end our vacation looking back at all the things we treasured during our summer’s cabin fever.
Here's to your summer. No matter what! Wear your party clothes....even if they are pajamas:)

 

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July 14, 2011 -RELATIONSHIPS THAT TOUCH

We all crave it. We all need it. But when we think about it, do we really know why? I am talking about touch – a very basic, yet fundamental way of bonding and communicating with those we love.

 

There is something about a person’s presence in the act of touch. When the touch is meaningful, no words need to be spoken, but the messages are clear. They are saying, I love you, you mean a lot to me, I want to help, and I am here for you. The deep current of a positive touch can most certainly outweigh any words, but when both words and touch are combined, the effect is even deeper. So much that one can really feel the spirit within lighten, lift, and drift toward reverie.

 

A compassionate hug, holding hands, a romantic kiss, all of these and more have lasting benefits on the spirit. Some studies show that healthy touch can lower blood pressure, boost the immune system, calm anxiety, and alleviate depression. As Michelangelo once said, “To touch can be to give life.” I believe this is true. I like to think of touch as if it were laser heat, which fuses and repairs any loose thread or tear in a relationship. 

 

Soothing touches make us more resilient in a world which tosses us around in a vacuum of stress, worry, and negativity. Like a disinfectant, worldly toxins are minimized, leaving so much more room for good things like rest, safety, calm, cooperation, growth, and connection.

 

So, if you’re one of those parents or partners or caretakers who hold back from touch, don’t. You are literally depriving yourself and another from one of the greatest joys of being human. The warmth of it, the comfort of it, the message of it – It is a wonder that we don’t do it more often. Think about how to touch in your relationships, and resolve to do it. Your reward will be tenfold. Here are some ideas to help you with your new commitment.

 

Sitting next to one another? Lean into each other, hold hands or link your foot with theirs and caress each other’s footsies using, well, only feet, or thumb wrestle.

 

Passing one another? High five em, Grab a kiss, pat on the back or the top of the head, or literally stop them and ask for a token to pass via a loving gesture.     

 

Lying next to each other? Hold each other, steal a kiss, run your fingers through their hair, and yes, smell them.

 

Standing next to one another? Slow dance (yes, you can do this with your childrenJ).

 

Walking somewhere? Lock arms and clasp hands.

 

Going on a date? Make it a hands-on date where you must touch somehow/someway for the whole time you are togetherJ This is both hilarious and fun as you go from public to private places!

 

Rainy day blues? Get a paper and crayon, blindfold one another, hold hands, and make a picture together going on feelings. Surprise! Look what you’ve made. Make a snack together and snuggle up, share a small blanket, foot massage, paint someone else’s toenails, brush someone’s hair.
 
Caring for someone who is sick? Caress their cheek, run your fingers through their hair, rub their leg or their feet.

 

Have fun, be close, and tell the ones you need that you love them!

 

 

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June 28, 2011 -ORDINARY TO EXTRAORDINARY

Every day things. They are inevitable. They are expected. We do them involuntarily because they happen so much, almost robotic, and often times undermined. There is nothing special about everyday things. Life as we know it, is filled with boring, tedious, demanding routines, which seem ironically to steal the life right out of us.

 

But what if ordinary things were a testament to how we really love ourselves and others? Somewhere in the blurred lines and the no big deals, we are most definitely articulating the person we truly are. We are dictating our strengths and weaknesses. More importantly, we are confirming our higher or lower selves, our deeper or shallower depths, the way we value what we have.

 

If you take the quick-paced world, and slow it down, suddenly ordinary things are truly special. Sitting on a porch swing with a loved one to pass time. Making a homemade pie rather than buying one. Calling someone on the phone rather than texting them. These simple, yet meaningful gestures are just a few slices of life’s rare delicacies indeed.

 

There is no escape from the mundane, but there is an escape from the way we look at it. Do something ordinary, and turn it into the extraordinary. You will instantly be connected, reminded, and rewarded for your efforts. The sweetest, most delicious parts of life come straight from the ordinary. Never forget that.

.

 

  

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June 21, 2011 -TO KNOW THYSELF

It is safe to say I do not know everything about myself. After thirty five years of living in my own skin, I can still…

 

Surprise myself

Love more of myself

Tick myself off

Change myself

Adjust myself

Put my own foot in my mouth

Embrace myself

Navigate myself

Lose myself

Learn something new

Break myself

Fix myself

Celebrate myself

Compliment myself
Inspire myself
Motivate myself

Plunge myself

Risk myself

Inform myself

Honor myself

 

There is no end to the self. We are always a challenge, always a mystery, always a continued piece of art…molded, constructed, taken apart and put back together. Just to confirm myself, to be myself, to know more about myself, so that I can be alive deep under my appearance.

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June 08, 2011 -FIRE AND ICE

Smoke smolders in the whites of your eyes.

Like time it is there, escaping.

Your pile is high, forced in a broken forest

Burning the spirit, crumbling the heart.

My own air escapes me, the very thing that keeps me sane.

I turn poison with everything caving in.

 

Why did I come here?

Why did I think I could?

There’s barely anything left, but empty hands and empty promises.

To pretend to smile and move forward is the only breath I get.

No beauty inside, but only the beast I barely speak of.

 

I fight back with no weapon other than my words, my memories,

What I believe is true.

Your fiery tines lash out. I get whipped. I get burned.

I grow so cold, and you try hard to

Melt me, humble me, and shut me up.

 

There are no victims here, only pursuers trying to find an answer.

Like fire and ice we stand with and then against each other.

A beautiful mess, we take down what we’ve tried so hard to preserve.

And there is silence, the ordinary, the mundane,

All the pieces.

 

Discouraged, I turn around. I turn away.

I call on anything for help.

Hands tied, two left feet, and walking crooked lines,

I move ahead through the extremes.

I hope to find something, anything that is green.
 
J I Avis

 

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May 29, 2011 -These Walls CAN Talk

I used to be a house that no one wanted. Even the ones who lived in me abused me. They loved to dent me, scrape me, put holes in me, dirty me, neglect me, leave me. Like an eye sore, I stuck out, making everyone who saw me cringe. I leaked. I sagged. I rotted away. No one heeded the sign that said For Sale. Who could ever love a mess like me?

 

Then, after years of sadness, the little buds of spring came. Two people stood at my door peering in my windows. I was needless to say, embarrassed and ashamed. They were young, energetic, and willing to learn. I had nothing to offer them but headache, financial obligation, and disappointment.

 

But to my surprise, they bought me. And in time, they made me their own. As if I were their lifeline, their sense of security, they cleaned me. They painted me. And with time, they updated me and made me beautiful with their own, two hands. Now, I stand tall and magestic; immaculate and adored. They gave me a family to protect; a foundation to build upon for their children. They trusted me, relied on me, and showed me my value.

 

Even after eight years, these people continue to clean me, prune me, sweep me, wash me, organize me. Better yet, they decorate me and bring me their family and friends; good-natured people from all walks of life. They sit in my dining room and tell me stories. They fill me with inspiration, and make me more worthy, more important, more beautiful.

 

I hear him as he gripes, and sweats, and fixes. I hear her as she sighs, and toils, and mixes. Through all of it; through everything; through time and time again, I hope they hear me say I love you and I am here for you until you are gone. Before them, I was just a house – meaningless; pointless. Now, I am a home – joyous; spirituous; ubiquitous in every person who lives and visits here. 
 
J I Avis    

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May 16, 2011 -THE FAIREST ONES OF ALL

Everyday the mirror reminds me of my age. Lines lurk at the corners of my eyes, waiting until I smile to make their dramatic appearance. My lip line is not as crisp, and I faithfully apply my lip liner in hopes to decrease its persistent demand. Streaks of gray creep in leaving rogue, silver strands in the sunlight. I work harder to keep my body from moving south, and yet I slack longer because I am tired. Oh yes. Mirror Mirror surely does not claim me as the “fairest one of all”, or does it?  

 

What is the secret of youth when no matter what, the body gets old? This is a complex answer, because it has to do with the heart. Though a vital muscle within all of us, the heart itself has unseen, but powerful realms of force. We beat rhythmically, physically, mentally, and spiritually to the music of our souls. Our inner selves – our spirits – our graces are connected to one another and better yet, something bigger than our bodies reveal. All the keys of youth lie in these realms. They are available to us, if we are attentive to them.

 

Body aside, deep within my core, things are still very green and blooming, but I am still amateur. I am curious as a child, alive with energy and hope. I’ve walked upon my inner gardens, learned some of the ropes, and even planted some seeds of my own. There is still so much to experience; so much I do not comprehend; so much I am not even aware of, and this is my life. The realm of the heart goes on and on until eternity, and my experience of it; my feeling of it; my belief in it is ever changing and never ending.

 

Our thoughts, actions, deeds, reactions, and pursuits all come from the spirit of the heart. That is why its energy must be preserved. It is the only thing we have to keep young; to stay in the light; to keep laughing; to dance in sorrow; to celebrate the smallest of things; to dream the biggest of dreams.        

 

One must be careful though, because within the spirit of the heart lies luring darknesses. Temptation, naivety, addiction, weakness, and indecisiveness can sway, derail, and sabotage wholesome, youthful potential. These splotches of darkness lurk in every direction. They prey on the detached. They thrive on vice. They ruin the “fair ones” and turn them ugly.

 

So, if you look older yet feel younger. If you are lighter, rather than heavier. If you appreciate what you have been given. You are beautifully breaking through like a ray of sunlight on someone else’s world. That makes you definitely the “fairest one of all”.

 

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May 06, 2011 -MOTHER\'S DAY THANKYOU TO HER CHILD

My Dear Child,          

 

From the moment I knew you were with me, you changed my life. All the sleeping parts of me were awakened, and I became so much more alive. Since that time, you have been with me, teaching me, priming me, loving me, and preparing me for all the hopeful things a mother wants for her beloved.

 

            Of all the things I’ve made as a homemaker, wife, mother, and worker, you are my greatest homemade creation. Conceived in love, and reared toward the simple goodnesses of life, you are my masterpiece. I look at you, and see how your promising beauty outweighs any flaw you have. For you are good. You are rooted. You are a treasure trove to me and to the world.

 

            On this day, when you thank me for all that I have done for you, I must do the same. For you bring to me what no one else can in this world.

 

            When I need to be inspired, I just have to look into your joyful eyes.

            When I need to be supported, I just have to be wrapped in your arms for a hug.

            When I need encouragement, I just have to talk with you.

            When I need to be challenged, I just have to focus on the things you do.

            When I need to be humbled, I just have to listen to you.

            When I need to be graced, I just have to see you.

            When I need to be validated, I just have to realize all the wonderful things you do.

            When I need to be pushed, I just have to be with you.

            When I need to trust, I just have to let you be.

 

            This endless list is the treasure trove you are, filled with priceless, important, and necessary purpose. When you are opened and free to display all that you are, you light the world, and you light my soul. I love you, my child. Thank you for making me strive to be better, to live better, and to light the world alongside of you. It is a privilege to be blessed as your mother so that we can work together to make this world a better place.

 

Forever yours,

 

Mama

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April 21, 2011 -CARING FOR THE SICK

Taking care of the sick. It is messy. It is tiring. It can be annoying. We get the run around with no time to relax. We cringe as symptoms surface and temperatures rise. We keep a strong face, no matter how much we crumble. Our patients are cranky, whiny, grumpy, demanding, and maybe even stinky, and we are humbled indeed.

 

The self kicks in. We worry about our time and our sleep. If we’re going to catch it. If it will last long. If we’ll have to change sheets or bother the doctor in the wee hours of the morning.

 

And then the self battles with the heart. While we worry about ourselves, we feel sorry for the one who is sick. We want their pain to stop. We want them to be peaceful once again.

 

Day after day. Hour after hour. Minute by minute. We are back and forth in between selfishness and selflessness.

 

But while we are in the trenches, small things can quickly turn into impressions that are larger than life. One moment can bring a hug, which can in turn imprint on the heart. The person may not remember or want to dwell on his or her sickness, but they will most definitely think about the kindness and tenderness they are shown.

 

And that goes for the caretaker. An encouraging word, an offer to help, or even just noticing how patient they are as a caretaker can move mountains.

 

These little gestures have an amazing effect, because in those moments, it is never about the self. It is always about the heart. And the heart does not waste time on the unimportant. Whether we realize this or not, every time we get the chance to take care of the sick, it is the chance to be greater than ourselves and closer to our centers.

 

Caring for the sick is depressing, isolating, tiring, sacrificing, trying, crippling, frightening, and many other “ings”. But after all is said and done, caring for the sick is an act of honor, of strength, of love. And love completes life, because it involves everyone.       

 

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April 06, 2011 -It\'s the EXTRA That Counts in a Partnership

Days have passed. Hours have withered away. Minutes have dwindled, and seconds have vanished before you can blink. When was the last time you told your partner you love them? Better yet, when was the last time you showed your partner love?

 

            There are a whole lot of people out there struggling to get it together with their partner or spouse. Time literally slips through their hands, and they are always too busy, or they will get around to it, or worse, things just haven’t been “right” lately.

 

            I am here to tell you I have been there, until my husband and I made a conscious decision that what extra things we do for each other is top priority.

 

                                                                                                               

The extra things we do for each other is top priority.

 

                                                                                                               

            We all work. Maybe we have kids. There is the house, the chores, and the daily routines. Maybe we are even going through a difficult time financially, spiritually, or physically. The point is…..extra. Stepping outside our comfort zones. Thinking outside the box. Surrounding one another with TLC rather than just spices for physical contact.

None of us can jump straight into a passionate life without commitment and more importantly, team work.

 

Everything matters when you are in a relationship.

 

 

            And so, we have these crazy, busy lives that literally tear away opportunities to be together. Extra things could be simple, caring words we say in passing. Extra smiles where we stare into each other’s eyes for meaningful seconds. Hugs on the run. Whispering secrets into each other’s ears. These take seconds to do, but the impressions they make last for days and days.

                                                                                                               

Reserving extra time for the special times is a must.

 

            Anyone who thinks they can be in relationship without making special reservations for each other is probably not real high on the love scale. I am not talking about expensive dinner dates or extravagant get aways. Most of us don’t have $20 to our names. So what do we do? How do we do the extra when there is no extra? Here are some ideas my husband and I have stumbled upon and made gold between us. With some constant team work and commitment, we are now rich in spirit together…connected, valued, romantically involved, and better yet, fulfilled. Now this type of “romantic living” has become a part of our natural routine. 

 

  • Create a space that is just for the two of you. Perhaps a bedroom or a patio like we’ve done. Fill it with everything the two of you love, music, candles, lights, and ambiance.

 

  • Write “I love you” in the steam while one is in the shower and the other is dawdling near. This works so great after the end of a long day.

 

  • Make a CD together, and dance under the stars on your front porch or your backyard.

 

  • Leave a trail of love notes on sticky paper in fun places around the house.

 

  • Surprise call one another just to say something fun or something intimate between just the two of you.

 

  • Make dinner time a romantic meal for the whole family complete with table cloths, candles, a formally set table, and music.

 

  • Clean up together.

 

  • Carve your initials in a tree on your favorite walk path.

 

  • Always walk hand in hand. Always!

 

  • Watch a romantic movie in the dark, on a blanket on the floor with a picnic basket in your den.

 

  • Write a love poem or buy a book of poems and read them aloud to one another.

 

  • Walk barefoot together somewhere.

 

  • Play hooky together and declare an “I love you” day.

 

  • Do the unexpected in daily routines.

 

  • Always be creative and find THE FUNNY.

 

  • Use magazines to help stir conversation.

 

  • Dress up. Put the lipstick on for him, and splash the cologne on for her.

Remember:

 

            It is the EXTRA that counts. Find a way to do this daily in your relationships, and both of you will grow together in a romantic lifestyle. Everything else you want will naturally come afterJ

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March 14, 2011 -UNFORGETTABLE

To have seen you today, I am pulled out of time.

I dangle.

I drift.

I float away.

My silence is loud, but my heart is awakened,

A piece, which I buried so long ago.

 

The light in your eyes is a spark,

A sign that life has been good to you.

The sound of your voice is a lark,

Music that plays even when I can’t hear you.

The depth of your smile is a blessing,

A prayer I had for you all these years.

 

To have known you once, we are part of time.

I remember.

I forgive.

I do not forget.

Our silence is deafening, but our hearts are joined,

With one look love comes to the surface.

 

You are with yours. I am with mine.

We honor what we have become, what we are to uphold.

Memories are timeless, and feelings evergreen.

To see you again is just like a dream.

Pain in my heart where you are preserved,

My longing subsides, and life goes on.

 

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March 10, 2011 -INVESTMENTS

Max Lucado says, “Children spell love with four letters T-I-M-E.” 

 

Parental presence is the foundation for time with our children. Downtime, hang-out time, activity time, cook time, anytime, all the time is where presence is sowed. “Being there” speaks louder than any word one can say. Presence is what makes family grounds right for healthy growth, strength, and ultimate wealth.     

The quality within our presence is our spiritual investment. Are we satisfied with one bloom or multiple blooms? One type of bloom or different kinds of blooms? Quality time isn’t a loud thing. Not a proud thing. It’s a quiet, genuine, personal thing between parents and their children. Inside jokes, connective conversations, family rituals, and the little things we “like” to do together all add to our family investment, making it diverse and flexible.  

 

Opportunities come and go, and change with every season. The important thing is to keep a focused eye on the threads which hold families together. These precious threads are what hold the world together. A strong family unit makes a strong individual. So why would we become lazy with our approaches, or too busy to deal with our issues?  Why wouldn’t we be loyal to the central components that make a happy home?

 

If our children spell love with time, then our responsibility as parents is to ensure that our family accounts are stocked with memories, laughter, discussions, and time spent together. We will all grow old, but if our family investments are made, watched, and allowed to multiply, we will be loaded with every good thing life has to offer.       
 
Note: This goes for every kind of relationship out there:)

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February 24, 2011 -Life\'s Traffic Jam

The traffic of life.

 

It is constant - flare ups, back ups, tight squeezes, and the occasional crash. There is speed, recklessness, saturation, and abuse. Important things are forgotten. Motives are lost. Engines are burned out. Fuel is hard to come by. Is this picture graphic enough for you?   

 

Now ask yourself. Why am I running? Why am I speeding? Is there a purpose behind my race?

 

If there is, and you find yourself happy, then congratulations! But if there isn’t, or you can’t define it, and you are downright miserable or overwhelmed, then you’re like most of us.

 

The point of this week’s entry is to define your purpose in life’s traffic jam. Look for your gifts and talents. Are you using them? Find the meaningful intentions you had as goals. Are they still there? Are you working toward them honestly, and with integrity? Are you putting limits on what you can do, thus stifling potential, undermining journeys, and depleting energy?

 

Once you see yourself in this traffic jam, renew.

 

Take a detour. Move ahead. Turn back. Change your mind. Start a new journey. Take a  vacation. Get directions. Take a break. Pull over. Move over. Let someone in. Get yourself out.

 

Traffic is menacing. Find a clearer road. Even if it meanders, and you arrive late, be sure to arrive open, thankful, enriched, fulfilled, and happy.

 

Have a great week! Watch the things that contribute to your life’s traffic jamJ And safe driving!

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February 16, 2011 -UNCONDITIONAL

I put myself second. You place me first.

I lag behind. You pull me ahead.

I drift in vast seas. You bring me ashore.

I bury myself. You dig me out.

I say the wrong thing. You set it right.

I feel alone. You hug me tight.

 

I talk to myself. You listen.

I hurt you. You give me the other cheek.

I push you away. You humbly oblige.

I cast you out. You reel me in.

I send you away. You come back dancing.

I look beyond you. You stay in my view, prancing.

 

I doubt the world. You give me hope.

I wake up. You make it worth it.

I walk along. You hold my hand.

I fly above. You’ve given me wings.

I leave you with nothing. You fill me with something.

I forget what’s important. You teach me over and over again.
 
 
 

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February 11, 2011 -Undermining a Dream

Just recently I sat in the quiet. It was dark, a bit chilly, but I was comforted by none other than the dog – our soul giver. The feel of his fur against my hands put me into some sort of reverie. I started thinking about my life and all the gifts in it.

 

My husband, my children, my home, my dog, my family close by.

 

(I call it the simple life, but when I look deeper into it, I see that it is a blessed life.)

 

All the good things about my life tumbled out, spilling all over the floor. I was buried in good stuff, surrounded by rich memories, filled with joy. And then it dawned on me….

 

How could I have the audacity to ask for more?

 

What I mean is this dream of writing, of being a voice for young people. Was I after the fame of it all? Why was it so important for me to work so hard so that people could read words I’ve written? Am I simply obsessed? Why do we always want what we can’t have? Why do we always want more? What makes me so special to acquire something like this? Is it all in vain?

 

These are the crippling questions – the very questions that inhibit, smother, and kill ambitions and dreams. They are the culprits of fear and self-guessing, which compromise any good intention.

 

Being the person that I am, I prayed as my dog came closer, seemingly knowing my thoughts. As he smothered me, demanding I give him a hug, I laughed. That moment told me this…

 

Because I am called to do it.

 

Writing has nothing to do with me, but it has everything to do with the messages that I am called to be a voice for. I am simply a tool, a worker, a vessel being steered by something greater than myself.

 

I began to see the time I’ve been given. Being home raising my children has given me time to think, be creative, expand, meditate, and embrace. Gift #1.

 

I saw the richness of my life, and felt my appreciation for everything good and everything bad, simple and complicated. Gift #2.

 

I felt inspired to help weave my thoughts into the matrix of a growing person – someone with great potential to live a full life. Gift #3.

 

And so, faithfully from one rejection to the next, I am called. I am listening. I am working. I am here. Do with me as you wish, for I am yours to shape until I die.

 
 

 

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January 28, 2011 -Freedom In Friendship

And so the old saying goes….people reunite at a funeral or a wedding. This past week I lost an old friend in his young thirties. Sadly, somewhere in our busy lives, we lost contact. We managed to stay close in high school, keep in touch in college, and then our connection simply faded as work and families took over.

 

Upon his death, I was amazed at how the times we spent flooded back into my heart. The bottom line is that he meant something to me. Our friendship was worth more than I put into, and vice versa. And though I once told him that, I can never tell him that again. He died not really knowing just how much he touched me. He was genuine, good-natured, and humble, and for those reasons, I loved him. 

 

His tragic death has now started a chain reaction to those of us who were once close. When we are young, we are open-hearted and willing to keep our friendships. When we are older, and something like this happens, we realize that we’ve derailed from something so meaningful as friendships. Suddenly, connections and relationships are the only things that matter. Our dear friend is unaware (or maybe he is very aware) that we’ve realized this is what our lives are all about. So, in honor of our sweet friend, we will gather and hope to preserve and maintain those connections. Friend in the heavens, this one is for you…

 

 

Freedom in the Sky

 

Something so personal, which cuts me to my core

A loss of a friend whose smile is no more.

I honor your life, your value, your lead

And memories of things I’ve loved and will need.

 

I cherish the years and the moments we’ve had

How we savored the good and endured all the bad.

You are precious to me, a part of life that’s so dear.

I will dream of you there while I remain here.

 

I wish you your freedom from burden and strife.

I wish you salvation from a suffering life.

The sunshine will shield me; the rain will bring tears

As I think of your face and all of our years.

 

Sweet sky of forever, embrace my good friend.

Grant him his pardon and a life without end.

Be part of my sunrise with everyday,            

And know that I love you in every way.

 

 

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January 21, 2011 -WAKE UP! LIFE ISN\'T JUST ABOUT YOU

            It’s been a long week with probably too much to do. Ah, the weekends! A time to think; a time to relax; a time to focus on yourself. Sounds great, eh? Of course it is. But I have one question. Is your focus about yourself so deep that you are forgetting about the rest of the world?

 

            Today, we are all wrapped tightly around a society which promotes the self –

Self-admiration

Self-esteem

Self-regulation

Self

Self

Self

 

            We spend much of our time thinking about more money, more success, more glamour, more of what is “owed” to us; and in so doing, we place heavy emphasis on becoming better, looking better, and striving to actually BE better. But how many of us have phony, rich lives? Phony beauty? Phony friends? How many of us have inflated ourselves so much that we don’t notice our own, inner deficits? This can be the derailing component to so much self focus.

 

            As I mentioned before, it is the weekend. I challenge you to think about your relationships. Put aside shallow values, meaningless confidences, and unnecessary materialism.

 

  • Have you been a good friend to someone else?
  • Do you talk too much to hear yourself, or are you really listening to another?
  • Are you only in tuned to how you feel, rather than how another feels in a situation?
  • Have you shown someone else how you really care? Perhaps not in the ways you would like, but in the ways they might need?
  • How hard are you working to help that person understand that they matter in your life?

 

The point of all this is to BE BETTER, but being better may not have to do with you

as a single focus. It may have everything to do with keeping genuine, warm, caring relationships with others. As I tell my children almost daily,

 

“This world rarely has anything to do with you alone. It has everything to do with how you contribute to the world.”

 
J I A 

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January 13, 2011 -UP

Look up

Start up

Charge up

Keep it up

Own up

Give up

Face up

Talk it up

Follow up

Move up

Show up

Call up

Rack up

Stand up

Sit up

Eyes up

Hands up

Open up

Live it up

End.....well....UP!
 
 
J A

 

 

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January 06, 2011 -AN OLDIE BUT GOODIE

Remember when…back in the day…a long time ago.

 

These are the long lost habits or fascinations I keep hearing from people I chat with. Granted, some are not as easy if one has a house filled with children, a job with little to no leniency, or a crippling ailment, but I hear quite a few that are still obtainable. An exercise routine, a certain diet, an old pastime that made a difference – these are most likely things we can still grasp. The point is, many of these routines or lifestyles were positive.

They made us happy;

Gave us freedom;

Connected us to what’s important;

Molded us into better people.

 

With a new year comes a new beginning. That is what resolutions are all about. But before you think up some bold resolution that really doesn’t fit into your life, think about the times when you were most happy. What was it that moved mountains for you? Maybe you painted, maybe music was your passion, or perhaps you used to sit in the quiet more often to listen to your surroundings. There are so many things we discover while growing up. Perhaps it is time to revisit those positive things to rediscover, to reconnect, and to internalize all the benefits that come from those great, old habits. If we do this, then maybe our 2011 will radiate something different, something new, something fresh on our horizons.

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December 21, 2010 -Christmas Miracle

Christmas Miracle

J I Avis

 

It was another one of those days – cold, drab, and busy. With barely any sleep the night before, I trudged through the day half-hearted, edgy, and detached as if I were Scrooge reincarnated. There were things to do, but no motivation to do it. Instead, everything that needed to be done was looked upon as an obligation rather than a privilege. I was simply going through the motions, secretly wishing my life was different for that one day.  

 

            Feel familiar?

 

            I think it is safe to say that most of us have days like this when the routine becomes our enemy, but if we’re paying attention, the smallest surroundings can make epic moments where we’re turned around, thrown back on track, or shifted in the right direction.

 

            So what happened to me on that awful, no good day? Something very simple.

 

            I was on the road, stopped at a red light, internally dealing with my curmudgeon side. It just so happened that when I looked out my window and peered through the glass of another’s car, I saw a young woman crying in the driver’s seat. The tears streaming down her face were lit by the strands of sunlight beaming through her windows, and there were many. In fact, this girl was bawling. Her shoulders shook, and the one tissue she had soaked through, yet she clung to it as if it were her lifeline.

 

            She never noticed me, but she’ll never know how her reaction to “whatever it was in her life” quaked in the deep parts of my soul. I was moved, no better, inspired by my blessed life. Suddenly, my daily demands were an opportunity for me to radiate my true spirit stifled within. That is when I dared to look straight into the sun, searching for the thing much bigger than me to say thank you. It was my Christmas (Holiday) miracle, because it reshaped my season into something beautiful – something meaningful – something wonderful.

 

            What’s your little Christmas (Holiday) miracle? 

 

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December 04, 2010 -GETTING PERSONAL

During this very, sacred season, I will be very personal with my readers. This is a time of peace for me – a time to think about what my life has taught me – where my heart rests true.

 

I have learned so much about the fragility of a soul - the delicacy of feelings - the simplicity of listening and feeling deeply for another being. Though I have trouble spots with many of my relationships, I have learned to see them for who they are and not who I want them to be. It is a struggle I am always grappling with, but something that I am completely aware of.

I have also learned that nothing good comes from lies. Nothing sound comes from shaky foundations. Relationships are not congruent. They are irregular, and what works for one may not work for another. But, regardless of irregular shapes, one thing is for certain - ALL relationships should and need to be reciprocated. If someone cares for you, then they must be cared for in return. If someone appreciates you, then you should appreciate them back. I have learned to really listen to what people are saying with or without words. I have committed myself, no dedicated myself to learn how to love others not as I would have it, but as they need it. If someone needs compliments, I am sure to give them. If someone needs space, I strive to know when to do so. It isn't easy, but these lessons lead me from one day to the next.

I have been alone a lot in my life (college was terribly lonely for me) because I strive to do the right thing for myself and those I love. Now, with children, making friends seems all the more difficult as I am very picky. I trust my faith. I trust my desire to grow in that direction with values that seem to be voided in this day and age, and yet, values are soooo timeless and ageless. My values, though works in progress, have always been my fountain of youth - my fountain of strength. I gripe about my body and my appearance trying to keep up with modern demands for a woman, but really...values are the only things that truly matter. They ground me. They build me. They challenge me. They prepare me. They change me.
 
J. Avis

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November 15, 2010 -TINY MIRACLES

Walking, and noticing the smallest things around you.

 

Friends, relatives, a partner, a child – someone who appreciates you.

 

A job – not because you love it or even like it, but because it sustains you and your family.

 

Possessions, because you have more than you need.

 

Your health, because you are breathing and you are alive.

 

The body, not because it looks good, but because it reflects the deepest gifts within you.

 

The mind, not because you are smart, but because you have dreams.

 

The word, not because of what it says, but because of what it means.

 

Life’s mountains, because they teach you to climb and to survive.

 

Laughter, because it stirs what we work so hard to conceal.

 

Practicing, since we get another chance.

 

Chances, since we can turn our lives around.

 

Challenges, because they build character.

 

Troubles, because they can be turned into blessings.

 

Messes, because they can be cleaned up.

 

Love, because it can be made in the toughest conditions.

 

Love, because it is the greatest virtue.

 

Love, because it is possible.

 

 

Thankfulness is an opportunity to recreate oneself with each, new day. When we find gratitude in our attitudes, we are rejuvenated and called home. We are centered. We are “chi”. We are invincible.
 
J I Avis

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November 07, 2010 -PAIN - FRIEND OR FOE?

I kneel before my pain. It wraps me, constricts me, and somehow grounds me.

There is an altar where I dump all my pain. It is invisible, but very real to me.

I meditate it.

I struggle with it.

I offer it.

Pain.

 

Pain has a way of summoning the best and the worst in me, fusing it all together and leaving me with a big job – the part where I get to pick and choose

What is really important?

What I have or don’t have control over?

Where I go from there?

 

It screams in my face, demanding me to do something – even when I want to do nothing but wallow, strumming my strings of lament.

 

Pain can cripple me.

It can restrict me, holding me back from all my potential.

Sometimes a friend, and many times my enemy.

 

Today, I will make pain my friend.

I will search through it, looking out for my flaws – the only things I have control over. 

I have a mind to decipher.

A body to fight.

A heart to make better.

A soul worth it all. 

I will embrace my pain, endure it, and hope that it will make me stronger.

For pain itself will NOT kill me. My choices will.

 

J I Avis

 

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October 26, 2010 -Authenticity

To be authentic – isn’t that what everyone wants?

 

If you asked me this, I would really have to think about it. It seems that most people are not too concerned about truth. It is easier to dodge the truth, to ignore it, to bury it, to surround it with every possible, fabricated thing we can think of so we don’t see it, hear it, or touch it.

 

Pressure squeezes out our own strengths.

Misfortune bleeds us dry.

The lies we live become the person we are – shallow, unexamined, soulless.

 

The heart of an authentic person is truthful to its origins, its beliefs, and its merits. An authentic person can pass worldly tests, uphold honor in difficult times, and stand quite alone on too many nights – in short – suffer. And who wants to suffer?

 

Yet, if we really look at our lives, some of the greatest people we know have suffered beyond our imaginings. They’ve been hurt, or they’ve fallen ill, and they are still mostly happy, accepting, and genuinely willing to take it all.

 

To have authenticity means to measure the things in our lives. Are they real or are they fabricated so that we feel or look good? Are they necessary to our true happiness? Do they make us a better person? No doubt the authentic people in my life have gone through great extents pondering these questions and more.

 

With so much countering us, how do we remain strong? How can we witness our own, individual authenticity in our daily lives? The answer is both simple and complex. It is courage – courage to be the person we are called to be, and detaching ourselves from the person that the world wants us to be. This is a commitment. This is a life process. It is a slow metamorphosis to grow into an authentic life where we are completely rooted in our own truths, whatever they may be.

 

So, this week, I wish you luck as you start your authentic journeys. I am knee deep in mine, and it will never be over.

 

But to be committed to this,

To be conscious of this,

To be motivated by this,

 

Perhaps makes me closer to the unseen things of this world that drive me, cradle me, and call me. I am trying to listen.    
 
J I Avis

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October 21, 2010 -INSPIRATION

Quiet corners, simple and few

Moments stolen to enjoy the view.

Passages read and read again

Kisses from a loved one, hugs from a friend.

 

Courage at the nick of time

Truth in the midst of grime.

Days of sunshine, clear and bold.

Remembering the good things of what I’ve been told.

 

Earth, water, wind, and flame

Learning to let go, learning to claim.

Desire to light the way

And being humble to save the day.

 

Dreamscapes, brilliant and real

Reality to make me feel.

Life to treasure, memories to keep

Passion everlasting to fill me deep.

 
J I Avis

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October 13, 2010 -Windows

They say that windows are a glimpse of someone’s life.

When someone shares a piece of their life, we get a picture of something…something wonderful or something terrible, or something in between. Either way, a window will reveal something.

 

If you look, there are windows all around us, sizing sceneries and happenings into squares. However small they are, they carry depth, meaning, and feeling.

 

Look and listen to what’s around you. Perhaps you are getting a glimpse of another’s window into their lives. Maybe that window makes you feel grateful. Maybe that window makes you feel lost. Either way, these windows make you feel.  

 
J I Avis

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September 29, 2010 -HUMOR OF A CRAZY LIFE

HUMOR IS…

 

When your pet harasses you around the house, desperate to tell you something you just can’t figure out, until he finally takes it upon himself to eat the soft pretzel you’re carrying right out of your hand that you forgot about.

 

When the toilet roll you meant to put in the toilet roll dispenser is still unbound, free, and almost done.

 

When there is chemistry between you and your spouse, only sometimes it’s toxic.

 

When your favorite song is on and your child is singing at the top of his lungs in a language you’ve never heard before.

 

When the laundry just keeps coming, and you start throwing it in drawers rather than organizing the neat, folded, color-coded piles you’re fond of. 

 

When you’re staring at your child, you know his name, but you’re calling him everything and everyone else.

 

When you’ve brought your child to the beach countless times dressed in a bright orange bathing suit only to learn that while reading a book about sharks with your older child that sharks totally dig bright orange and red colors.

 

When you’ve placed the coffee cup on top of the car, gotten in the car along with everyone and everything else, driven away, and realize your hot coffee is not there to relieve your morning fatigue. Instead, it’s splattered all over the street.

 

When you are seriously thinking about selling your spouse and taking the money for a vacation.

 

When everyone is watching television and you are reading a book.

 

When your car is quiet for one second and the next thing you know, you’re driving the muppet bus, only, there are multiple Animals in there.

  

When you’ve lost your cool, and your child demands you get a hold of yourself this instant.

 

When you’ve cleaned the house, helped the children with homework, caught up with an old friend on the phone, and burned dinner.

 

When you’ve found the keys, found your purse, gathered up your children, found your wallet, but lost your mind.

 

When everything you love to eat clogs your arteries, raises blood sugar, and gives you added poundage.

 

When you feel like you’re getting old, but your kids won’t have it.

 

When your husband takes impeccable care of the house, but one, tiny, missed crack brings a slew of mice.

 

When you’ve promised yourself to get some sleep and you wake up wired at 3a.m. all by yourself.

 

 

If you can relate, click LIKE for this week’s post. Life is crazy no matter which angle it’s taken fromJ Feel free to add your own, humorous takes on things that happen to you on the Facebook Fan Page.  

 

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September 24, 2010 -FALL\'S FORESHADOWING

A new season is upon us. Autumn is very symbolic indeed. It is the season of change – something we all take part in every day of our lives. Changing to be good, constantly tweaking, maneuvering, and rearranging the very things that make up who we are.

 

Fall’s vibrant colors symbolize the signs of wholesome living.   

Reds scream excitement, reminding the soul of the highest esteem, which is love.  

Golds bring warmth and a promise for the joy that’s to come.

Oranges balance the extremities of fiery turbulence and soothing melancholy.

Greens remind me of nature’s presence, symbolizing life’s continuum – fruitful, fertile and forever.

Blues cool and cleanse, bringing the most sophisticated, calming peace.

Violets demand the graceful, noble, and mysterious magic of life in every direction.

 

As farmers harvest the goods they have planted, I wonder about harvesting the good things about me. I have labored so long with trials and tribulations, and I wonder if my seeds have produced anything worthy. How have I lived? Can I reap any benefit from the way that I have lived? If I can, then perhaps my coming winter may come softly, stay quietly, and leave peacefully.
 
J I Avis

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September 20, 2010 -Purpose

Seeking purpose, wondering who, what, when, where, and why.

Looking in all earthly places and then resorting to the sky.

A lighted map to who we should be

Yet so many stray until they can’t see.

 

Reflection and discovery of the self is a part

But much greater power comes straight from the heart.

It’s in the things we don’t see, in the things that we trust.

It’s in the things we believe, which are good and a must.

 

Purpose - it draws us in one by one

Whether we choose to bow down or turn around and run

It comes anyway like a quiet breeze or a storm

Wrecking our lives or keeping us warm.

 

A sole purpose is just one thing,

But a soul purpose is everything.

To be challenged and awakened, beloved and freed

There is no other purpose, no other creed. 

 
 
JI Avis 

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September 09, 2010 -MUSEUM

Artifacts, remnants, fragments, and relics shine.

Photographs, memories, and paintings depict.

Monuments, handiwork, and testimonials detail.  

Artistry, cultivation, challenge and growth configure. 

Abilities, weaknesses, ingenuities, and creations tally.

Nature and resources; fabrications and manufactures; wins and failures compile.   

Tales of truth and romance; horrors and parables; comedy and satire tell.

There is literature.

There is the tangible.

There is the metaphysical.

The spiritual.

The knowledge.

The behavior, the training, and performance.

The past, present, and future.

The worthless and the priceless.

And the history still to unfold.

I AM A MUSEUM.
 
J I Avis

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September 02, 2010 -The Constant of Loneliness

 

As I sit nestled in the comfort of my home, my heart digresses to those who may be lonely, rejected, outcast, or simply lost. There have been many times when I felt these things, and I remember the pain. Loneliness can make you feel deflated in so many ways. You can’t seem to get out of your hole and get off the ground. Worse yet, you don’t want to or you don’t know how.

            When I think back and wonder about the reasons why I felt lonely in the first place, I see how I pointed fingers or literally buried myself in an avalanche of unmet expectations. But since then, I have grown a bit, and I am less lonely during times when I am alone in my life.

            We all have periods when we go it alone, seemingly friendless, misunderstood, or simply flat-lined with everything in our lives - stale points where we don’t seem to move and we wait, uncertain of what’s to come. These times are difficult, and many of them seem like eras or eternities rather than just moments.

            When I say I’ve grown a bit, I mean that I have found something that helps me during these times. My own, personal loneliness has graced me with valuable lessons about how I view myself. Self image is the most important defense I have against loneliness. It’s the way I feel about me; the way I view me; the way I treat me.

            Do I drift according to what others think of me or how I relate myself to others, or do I live as a constant – one lighthouse against all the storms that come to my shores? If I live with expectations that may not manifest, then chances are I am depressed or worried, and definitely less than my true potential. But, if I live to find happiness in the smallest of things – things I can grasp to get me through, then those are the stepping stones I use to hobble along on my coarse roads.  

            Self image grows from defining myself through things that make me happy. Taking a walk, not because I am alone, but because I want to breathe the air or appreciate what’s around me. Or doing something nice for someone else, not because I want to be noticed, but because it helps me feel better about life. All the while, I am feeding my self image positively, not worried about the future, and pushing out that lonely feeling. Security rises as my self image is positively attended to. Independence blooms a little bit brighter.

            Rather than being someone who must be loved by others, love yourself first. Take pride in the smallest of things. That’s when you will discover your gifts and talents. That’s when you will be okay with your loneliness when it happens. That’s when you will shine in the dark like a beacon – a constant. Others may not notice, but you will be okay, because that light will be your own aura to get you through.        

 
JI Avis             

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August 27, 2010 -DARK BLANKET by J I Avis

 

There’s a force in the air. Its dark blanket wants to hold me, smother me, and make me suffocate. It seems that I feel it in too many places, and most of the time when there is a crowd. The energy from this force radiates off of many, mixing in the air like a toxic brew. It dissipates and meanders around the vulnerable, the innocent, and the oblivious, enticing and tempting. I wonder about its unique power as it seems to spread and fill up in seemingly insignificant crevices that have great stakes through time.

 

            You ask me what this force is, but deep down you already know the answer. It lives inside every one of us. Some of us can control it, while others fall into its black pit and drown in it. Shouts, condescendence, rudeness, judgment, and hatred ALL linger in its forceful atmosphere,

 

pushing and pulling

swirling and staggering

dumping and dragging.

 

            The word ANGER resonates like a replayed song that tortures, breaking us down to less than who we are. We can’t see it, but we feel it. Sometimes its quiet lulls and lurks until it is a storm that wreaks catastrophe on us and those we are supposed to love.

 

Regret, hurt, and discomfort are the aftermath of this great, dark force, and many times, it is all we have to show for ourselves. I ask you to look at your life and those who are in it. Where does this force creep? Where does it linger? And I ask you one more thing. Can you rid of it?

 

Throw your blanket of light over ANGER. Hold it. Smother it. And Suffocate it. Push it out, because ANGER is never who you  truly are.     

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August 18, 2010 -More Than a Label

More Than a Label

J I Avis

 

           Jake is cute. So what? He plays football, he drives a hot car, and he flirts with cheerleaders. He is the epitome of the school jock, the homecoming star, and the prom king. He keeps a messy locker, runs late to class, slouches in the back looking bored, and never participates. I’ve even seen him smirk at me once or twice because I am an active student who actually does the required work.

            I’m sure you guessed it. Jake and I are polar opposites. I read books, win science fairs, and practice my morals. I’m not much for makeup or sizing my diets down to green leaves, so many might label me as less than a girl. While Jake spreads cheer, sews his social seeds, and shines in the spotlights, I am content in my quiet corner surrounded by my other artsy smartsy friends. Like water and oil, fire and ice, and light and dark – that’s who we are.

            But I like him, see. And no one knows it but me.   

            He has this smile that lights up a room. And his eyes? Well, let’s just say they make my knees buckle. There’s this thing that draws me to him. It’s something I can’t figure out. On the surface, he is happy, but if I look really hard, I have to wonder.

            Maybe it’s my imagination, but I’ve caught him a few times looking my way, though I don’t know why. I am ordinary compared to the long legged daisies that flock all around him, puckering their lips and batting their eyes at him. I have no business even trying that hard for a guy. Oh, who am I kidding? I’m just not that coordinated. I’m not that good, you know?

            Oh well, the music room is open and no one’s around. I’ll just go and sing my blues away…

            “That’s really good,” he says. I am startled when I see Jake at the doorway, listening.

            There’s something in his eyes like a longing I can’t place. I even think I see a tear.

            “It’s the song they sang at my mother’s funeral,” he said as my heart suddenly skipped a few beats. “She always loved it, and I haven’t heard it since.”

            “Jake, I – I’m sorry,” I say. “I – I didn’t know.”

            “There’s a lot you don’t know about me,” he said. “You only know what you stereotype, and even that’s not the truth behind anything.”  

            Boy, did he grab me by the heart and twist it real good, but he was right. I had nothing to argue. I was guilty. I labeled everyone, including myself, always prejudging and never giving anything a real chance.

            “You know, I bet I could beat you at Geometry proofs,” he chuckled, moving closer. “And I bet you would look really cute on a date.”

            My throat went dry.

            “Are you asking me out?” I said.

            “Only if you promise not to label anything, and give me a chance. You’ll see I’m a good guy,” he said.

            And then it hit me. That strange thing that drew me to him, remember? It was the unexpected. A lesson learned from an unlikely candidate who would soon break the rigids of my labels. Labels that stifle, blind, and hurt.   

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August 12, 2010 -Homerun

HOMERUN

By J I Avis

 

A beautiful child sits near me in the park. His sunken eyes are lit with wonder as he watches the boys and girls playing ball. His bald head is gently shaded by his pin-striped ball cap. His hardy giggle transcends into the breezy air as rustling trees dance above us.  Fluffy, white clouds interrupt the azure from the sky, carving out fields of heavens that are reaching.

                My eyes turn back toward the boy whose body is minimized to bones as he rests on the wheelchair that carries him; guards him; envelopes him. His frail hands are wrapped tightly around the arm rests, eagerly waiting for the next boy at bat. The pitcher releases the ball, and he holds his breath as the batter moves to swing. Crack! It’s off. It’s whisked. It spirals out of sight, bringing three runners into home plate.

                “Game over,” he says. “Whew! That was a good one.”

                “Yes,” I say, getting ready to wheel him toward the car.

                “I miss playing ball like that,” he says.

                “I miss watching you,” I say.

                “Mama, I’ve just had a thought,” he says, suddenly concerned. “You won’t be able to watch me when I die.”

                I gulp, feeling the pain of our reality weaken me. I fight its force and I manage a shaky smile.

                “No, but I believe I will feel you, my love. And I will always remember the way you were and the way you are now,” I say.

                “How am I now?” he asks.

                I kneel down beside him with tear-filled eyes. His gentle face calms my restlessness, and the feel of his embrace hugs my sorrow to its quiet.

                “You are the most beautiful person I’ve ever known,” I admit to him. “You’ve suffered. You still suffer. And after everything, you still smile. You still find joy in others’ happiness. You still love the world too, only more now. It’s like the thing that’s inside you works so hard to break your body down, but it can’t touch your soul. You get stronger. You grow more beautiful, and you teach me to be better.”

                “Really?” he smiles the giddy smile of a thirteen year old.

                “Yes,” I sniffle.

                “Homerun then, huh?” he asks, making my heart break further as he winks at me.

                I hug him, wishing I could lock us in that moment, knowing that one day soon I wouldn’t be able to hug him anymore. And here he is asking me if this experience is a homerun! But somewhere in my miserable sadness; my unfathomable fear; my desire to retaliate against the cancer that consumes him, is my faith. I am suddenly humbled, deafened by the sound of my boy’s resolve, and all I can say is…  

“Homerun, darling.” 


Responses: Chrishawn:
Tear-jerker....I have a hard time containing my emotions when I read this.
Brava!

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August 05, 2010 -EFFORT BEYOND THE KEYBOARD

EFFORT BEYOND THE KEYBOARD

JI Avis

            Someone once said that one can never have too many friends. But what happens when those friends become nothing more than a computer screen or a photo in a box? Suddenly, their facial features become remote. Their familiar antics disappear. The sound of their voice turns into clicks on a keyboard. People fade, and a computer takes the limelight. Conversations become text messages – lower caps, fragmented thoughts, no punctuation, no emotion. Everyone is flat-lined, and we’re all guilty.

            Some may argue that this isn’t such a bad thing. Technology is inevitable in our society, and no one can fight it. Besides, it’s better to talk to someone rather than no one.  Computer access increases social networks, obvious, instant outreach, and immediate thought satisfaction. I admit to my support of these truths. There are major benefits to computer communication, and I take advantage of its easy access. But I can’t help missing the old ways of talking on the phone with someone or catching up one on one over a cup of Joe. There are many times when I want to slow down and communicate with someone eye to eye. After all, nothing can replace a person’s smile or a person’s presence.  

            So, what do we do? How do we maintain personable relationships with people who matter in a world where fast-paced technology takes over?

Slow Down

Take the time to pick and choose the people you want to see or be with in the midst of your busy schedules. Make an effort to approach them on a personal note either by a phone call, a personal message on Face book that is just between the two of you, or if you’re lucky, an actual meeting where you can chat like real people.

Be present

Step away from the temptation of a quick word here and there. Visit someone. Be together with a friend. Presence in a friendship speaks louder than any words one can type or speak.

Don’t Make Excuses

It’s a fact. We’re all busy! But are we really too busy to take an hour or two every few weeks to be with someone; to share our point of views, our families, our support?

Monkey see; Monkey do

If you want your children or your own friends to be personable and have strong people skills, you have to show them this. Trust me….these skills will not be learned from a computer!

Be Consistent

Real friendships and relationships are rarely about dropping a line here or there. They are a constant testament to your integrity in a natural way so to speak; a way of life; something that you are a part of actively and regularly.

Know When to Quit

If you’re living in the same area and you’ve tried and tried to get a relationship deeper than just a computer status, move on. Bottom line: You’re worth more than that, especially if you are a personable person needing more than your keyboard. Relationships are so much more than a one way street. Find those who feel the same, and make the effort to build your friendship from there. Reciprocation is a MUST in a friendship.  

            When we’re young, making friends seems easier because we are constantly revolving around social opportunities. As we get older, making friends can be more difficult when life is pinpointed to overworked jobs, crazy kid schedules, and isolation. Let’s not forget that once you have children, appropriate friendships become a serious issue! Either way, at ANY age, maintaining a friendship is always the tougher task. Are you really satisfied with minimizing a friendship to your computer screen? OR Are you and your friend willing to commit to move beyond the keyboard and being present in each other’s lives? Stay connected to what counts!

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July 29, 2010 -Puzzle Pieces

Puzzle Pieces

J I Avis

The world is a giant puzzle, connected in one way, shape, or form.

Moving pieces scattered all about, wondering where they fit.

Alone, they are unique and seemingly insignificant to the larger picture

But together, they are a masterpiece of the greatest art that ever was…

Life.

I am a piece of the world’s puzzle,

And I am very small compared to some other pieces.

My edges are jagged, but just the other day I met someone whose were frayed.

We shared something in common…

Longing.

Some pieces fit, and others are still scattered.

Many force themselves to fit, while others hide until they understand their form

Some are lost, and some get found

But all the pieces, no matter how small are important to the message…

Love.

Without me, this great puzzle is incomplete.

I must value the piece I’ve been given.

Fill it with the colors of my life

Plotting my way. Understanding my shape. Balancing my form.

So that I may find where I fit.

Belonging.


Responses: Chishawn

I fit! I love how this blog basically instructs you to get off of yourself
and realize it is not about you but how you can compliment someone else. Beautiful
job! :)

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July 23, 2010 -Heart Break

Heart Break by J I Avis


Years of empty words and pointless conversations.

Months of hanging onto your promises.

Weeks of trying to decipher your faceless presence and your haunting stares.

Days of smothered insecurities and wish-filled hopes.

Hours of collected tears and wasted dreams.

Minutes to break my heart.

Moments to wander lost and afraid.

Seconds to feel the pain.

 

I’ve given you chances; you’ve drained every one.

I’ve given you trust; you’ve stomped on it.

I’ve been there for you.

I’ve lied for you.

I’ve lied to myself.

I’ve given you wings; you never took me flying.

I cleared the road for you; you left me in the dust.

You’ve taken it all; I let you have it.  

 

Now there’s me in this quiet, but I am not afraid of the dark.

Underneath the ruins lie my values.

Hiding behind closed doors are my morals.

Somewhere in the shadows are the dreams I’ve yet to hold.

I will learn

To live

Without

You.

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July 14, 2010 -Woman: A Worthy Cause

 

Woman: A Worthy Cause

by

JI Avis

            I sit comfortably with a magazine on my lap. I flip through its multiple pages, each one with a different girl who seems perfect. These full-lipped, no mess, sultry-eyed, gold-toned beauties imprint on my mind. Suddenly, I’m not so comfortable. I’m restless, feeling as if there is something I need to do – something to make me look better, feel better, and be better.

The next thing I know, I am watching a movie, and there it goes again. Images of a woman’s body are never missed – some obscene and others tactful – but enhanced nevertheless. A perfect shot of her here or there; a sensual smile, a provocative gesture; it’s all there, personifying pleasure and accentuation the smallest aspect of who I really am.

So many days I have felt the power of ugliness; of being swooned and outcast; of being tried and spent; of being challenged and misunderstood. I have second guessed the way that I look. I have compromised my intellectual capabilities. I have failed to see the true beauty that gets buried deep inside, like the goodness that I am or the compassion that I feel for the world around me. Too many times, I am caught up in the faceted world, which bisects my nature and turns it into something tarnished or flawed. I realize that I am far from the kind of woman society hails, or Hollywood for that matter, and there is a part of me that rebels, sometimes at the expense of me and other times, at the expense of others.   

Society is a loud place, and more times than not I am humbled and quieted, struggling to keep face and knowing the honesty I owe myself. Inside the folds of my skin, my heart beats for the world to make it a better place. There is a soul within this body, aching to help and to inspire anyone who will listen. I am the very breath of the space that is around me, which in and of itself is gold. These are the things I have to remember – the things that I must cherish in order to rise above nonsense.

I am woman, worthy of respect. I am your mother, your sister, your daughter, your wife, your best friend. I am a creator, a thinker, a fighter, a nurturer, a powerhouse; second to nothing, and in that, I am significant – worthy of every wonderful thing this world has to offer.  


Responses:
Chrishawn: Yes- Very empowering and encouraging!

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July 07, 2010 -Facing Life in the Face of Death

 

Facing Life in the Face of Death

By J I Avis

 

What if I was told I was dying? How would I muster the strength to move toward that ultimatum? More importantly though, how would I consider the life I already lived? If I were to go back, then like the seasons, my memories would change. Some would bring joy where I would feel warmth all over. Others would cause pain and perhaps regret. Either way, all would have colors and characteristics of their own, awakening my senses and stirring my soul. My body would be slowing, but my soul would be invigorated. Suddenly, faded memories might be clearer, and everything I ever was would be vivid before me.    

            To face death is to directly face life. What and how did I feel at certain times? Which things did I savor, and which things did I disregard? What rules did I follow or make up as I went along? Was I one of those people who never cared, never changed, or never got better as I got older? Or was I one of the lucky who found my center and connected every fiber of my being to the world given me? Though my life was worth it, did I show that it was so?

            I try to imagine the moment of my death – the one right before I close my eyes forever. When I think of that moment, I hope to be free. Free of worldly things that do not matter. Free of feelings that cripple my heart. Free of sour thoughts that hinder the good things I’ve done or the good things that are. I want to let go of a world that I’ve loved so deeply to see the universe I believe in.

            I imagine my heart’s beat as it slows. The fluid within me dries. My senses falter. My body is tired as it becomes motionless, but all the while something inside me stirs. No, it is buoyant, dancing as it detaches. It is ready. It is alive. It is beautiful. It is vivid more than ever as it moves to be freed of its earthly shell. And in that moment, when my physical eyes close, my soul is energized. I have not left myself, only my body, and I am flying. I am fleeing. I am traveling to paradise.  

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July 01, 2010 -Promise to a Child

PROMISE TO A CHILD

By

J I Avis

 

My little girl is mesmerized with herself in front of a mirror. She toys with her pigtails, smiles at what she sees, and even pays a kiss to herself. Her beautiful face brightens the room, and her joyous light radiates everywhere she goes. She unknowingly wears the cloak of innocence, not yet weighed down by pressures, worldly things, or ideas that could sabotage the feelings she has for herself.

            It is a scary thought how one day she may look at herself with a different opinion. Her eyes may have shadows cast upon them or worse, a psychological or social blindness, keeping her from seeing her beauty on the inside and the outside. She may compromise all the good things about her in order to fit in. Perhaps she’ll even grow apart from me so that she can hide all the wonderful things I know she is and will be. It is a reality that is quite possible for her and to all young people out there.

            The choice to fit in or to hold tightly to one’s true self will be her greatest challenge as she grows. Will she be strong enough? Will she be keen enough to see right through the nonsense? Will I be? If she chooses to fit in, then she will be a pawn – open, mislead, and eventually taken over. If she chooses to stand against all the things that could hurt her, then she’ll be the chessboard – rooted, strong, yet alone as all the pieces are taken and maybe one, true friend is left if any.

            With strength comes loneliness – a singling out or a setting apart from the fast paced society which forces a loss of respect and a leap into danger. With loneliness may come sadness, confusion, or anger – things that will walk with her on her journey of growth. She’ll need support. She’ll crave companionship. She’ll demand to understand.

The road of growth will not be easy, but I have to be strong for her and she has to be strong for herself. Through it all, I promise to talk to her. To be there for her. To hold hold her just enough where she will not feel stifled – all the while adjusting as we go. To stand behind her, giving her the voice of reason. To walk with her, straightening her wings and readying her flight so that she can grow into someone who will soar.  

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June 23, 2010 -The Process of Being Sorry

The Process of Being Sorry

By J I Avis

 

Saying the words, “I’m sorry” is as common as saying “I love you”, yet both are not about the words. They are about the process. Once an apology leaves your mouth, it never stops there. It becomes part of you – a piece of you that you must stay attuned to. It is a testimony that you must live by once you’ve committed to apologizing to someone.

            I am not talking about rolling out the red carpet or kissing someone’s feet after you’ve messed up. I speak of a kind of fuel or power behind the words, which can rebuild relationships when a “sorry” is taken to heart. I am talking about effort, commitment, and the deliverance of your apology. If you say it, you MUST deliver it. That is, you must mean it, and live by it for the rest of your days.

            Some might say it’s an art. Others might say it’s a science. I say it is spiritual. Being sorry is being vulnerable. It is an open, conscientious act to admit a self flaw. It is nothing short of a power driven by one’s heart – to reveal, to repair, to reassess, to reinstate, and ultimately to reaccept in a new kind of light.

            When love is the basis for a relationship, being sorry has a chance. Suddenly, it becomes more than just words. It becomes the envelope that wraps what counts and keeps it protected and cherished. It is the constant ingredient that allows the savory aspects of a kinship to come to the surface.

            If apologies are seen in this type of approach, then like a diet, it becomes a way of life so to speak – a constant effort to never allow a relationship to repeat the hurt, the sadness, and the disconnect. The process of this type of apology makes a person grow better, stronger, more deeply and more in tuned to how the other needs and wants to be loved.

            So, the next time you say “I’m sorry”, don’t just say it. Feel it. Show it. Live it!


Responses:

Christine

I really love the fact you wrote about the meaning of sorry. So often in our society today, people use it as a crutch, say the words which sound hollow and
without meaning to "be polite". I feel a lot of times the meaning of an apology is lost and that is something I try to instill in my children- to really mean and
take to heart an apology. They shouldn't be just words, they should be the start of a journey. Thank You!

Jenny
It means so much that you appreciate this! As a mother, wife, friend, and coworker, I am really big on saying sorry. I too am adamant about teaching
my own children the meaning and commitment behind a sorry. In that, we are connected, and I too thank you for your words of support.

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June 16, 2010 -Moments

Moments

 

I’ve found myself in crowded places these last few days while on vacation. Roads filled with people from all walks of life. Every nook and cranny packed with the sound of voices. While music filters through the giant space of air, I watch; tired and hot, yet tuned into the world around me.

             In one spot, there’s a family carrying on with laughter, chatter, and energy. I can see the smiles and twinkles in their eyes as their happiness connects to others that feel the same way.

             In another area, there are two people sitting quietly, pondering their surroundings. Perhaps they are taking in the well tended gardens or the clouded castles in the sky. Whatever they are thinking, it’s peaceful and they are content.

             And then there are the ones having a moment with their spouse, holding hands or maybe even having a spat. Children here, there, and everywhere are wearing joy, contentment, exhaustion, or utter frustration.

             In this place of amusement, families gather to be with one another. And in those little spaces, there are moments, good and bad. Through it all, there is a bond of history between each one. Roads and times they’ve traveled on. Situations and dilemmas they’ve stumbled upon. Seconds and snap shots they’ve treasured. And in the midst of everything, there is the foundation, which is love.

 

Love that goes with them.  

Love that carries them.

Love that takes them home.


Responses:

Chrishawn: Great read. Simple but complicated reality. When families gather nomatter..they will go through a range of emotions but usually end up back 'home'so-to-speak. Loving each other through the roller coasters.

Jenny: Thanks for chiming in:) I feel encouraged by families who can be together, go through the motions together, and come out still loyal and fond of each other in
their likenesses and their differences:

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June 09, 2010 -Beyond the Noise

Beyond the Noise

by J I Avis

 

Noise from this world can often be my source of inner pollution. Television, computers, cell phones, music, children, adults, barking dogs, unfriendly tones, and overwhelming news flood the earth’s spaces until it bulges, bursting at the seems. My insides constrict and I feel the pounding in my head. Like the tide, anger can rise within, crippling me.

I can’t eat. I don’t sleep. Even when the noise is gone it runs through my mind, flashing images and screaming thoughts.

I make a great effort to stop the noise. I try to be still. I look for solace. I focus on the quiet things, which are hidden or simply drowned out.   

 To be aware. To have a still mind. To be true to myself. To be expanded to where my heart is open, identifying and listening to all the things that bring joy, is to be alive and fulfilled.

 To have a still mind in the midst of a chaotic world is next to near impossible, but it is essential in order to have a productive life. Inner peace is the root to a person’s potential. It brings a calm clarity that can endure anything. If I can find the things that bring me peace, then I can break the tension that’s constantly threatening.

 Perhaps that is my test. Perhaps that is why I am here to begin with – to be able to face worldly noise and hear the music of my soul, which sings a steady peace that moves forward humbly and with a smile.

Respond »

June 02, 2010 -You

You in 100 words

J I Avis

 

Skies may become starless. Clouds may cover the blue.

Roads may meander to where I feel lost.

No matter what, there’s you.

 

Perhaps the sun won’t rise or just as badly, not set.

Colors may fade, and light disappear

But you, I won’t forget.

 

Seasons bring change, yet my heart will stay true

Like a diamond in the rough

I will shine just for you.

 

Birds may stop singing. The earth may stop spinning.

The fields may grow dark and cold.

But with you

I am winning

With you

Time is not thinning

With you

Love’s a promise to hold.

Respond »

May 27, 2010 -Surrender

“Surrender in 100 words”

by...J. Avis

            For now, I grieve. I breathe in my sorrows and turn them into tears of acceptance. I move onward, slowly watching as the colors of challenge paint my life. They form a shape – a thing I can grasp. Is it a dream? Is it a person? Is it my place in this universe? I do not know, but I believe in fate. I believe in purpose. Somehow, someway, light will spill onto my darkness – my fears – and my hurt will fall on the wayside. Beyond these shadows is something beautiful – something that reflects the person I was meant to be.

 Reflection

Sometimes we just feel sad, or tired, or just plain defeated. Occasionally these feelings overrule our optimism, our strength, and our determination. Though we may not see it, these struggles are the very keys to our true selves. Rather than pushing them away, sometimes it is important to surrender to them – to listen to them for a while – so that we can see our journeys more clearly.

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May 19, 2010 -Armory

Armory
By...Jennifer Avis


The obscure path stretches before me. I can see the twists and turns up ahead. I wonder about the crossroads, the forks, the dead ends, and the long stretches of nothingness. A hint of fear creeps up my spine as the possibility of hardship stifle my optimism. Will there be darkness? Will there be storms? Of those, I am sure.


Still, the road set before me is bordered with green pastures. The blue sky holds the light of promise. The wind surrounds me as its invisible tines push me, revel me, entice me, and keep me from turning back.

I am mostly alone on this journey, but I feel the support around me. Like a fortress, I move with it as it is my first armor. And if the path I choose strips that armor from the likes of me, I have my second one, for it flows beneath the surface of my skin. It is my very own – my belief, my energy, my heart. When beaten down, it rises again. When thrashed about and severed, it regenerates. It is my soul, connected to something bigger than myself and the driver of my everything. And so I move forward, vulnerable and yet invincible at the same time.      

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May 12, 2010 -The Beauty of Change

The Beauty of Change
By...J I Avis


Change forces us to move beyond what we are and perhaps what we want to be. Our comfortable paths can often times veer towards mysterious ones that either lead to magic or even more challenging places. Not knowing can make us disregard opportunities or lead us to insecure discomfort, making us resist change.


But let’s think about the beauty of change. It’s as if our souls metamorphosize into something wiser, greater, and much more spiritual. As the hand of fate surrounds us, once we let it in, fate steers our steps. And as we travel through change, we become different. Perhaps struggles become rested, pain turns into tolerance or revelation, and fear grows into courage.


Regardless of how we look at change, it is an iconic, individual process. We are never the same person no matter if we keep moving forward or turn back to start again. Awake to the changes blowing through our beings. Believe in change. Believe in the unseen. Believe in who we are as beautiful spirits with room to grow. 

 Questions for this week: What is your challenging change? How have you grown thus far? What are you still struggling with?

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April 28, 2010 -Growth

 

Growth

By ...Jennifer Avis

With dreams aglow in the darkest of night
I see the shaft which brings hope and light.


These two, left feet feel the rhythm of chance

And I make them listen so they learn to dance.


Engendering will that drives and sows

Till it exhausts and revives wherever the wind blows


Today I am a leaf, but tomorrow the stalk

Growing my roots until I can walk


Above and below, over, under and about

This heart rises up and begins to shout


I was, I am, and I will be

The part of the song that sings about me


I live, I love, and I strive to see

All the wonders that are and that may come to be


But now, in the quiet of solemnly ode

The path sets before me, my lifetime, my road.  


Reflection: The subject of growth is broad and most of the time, subjective. Ultimately though, the concept of growth, the process of growth, and the consequences of growth are nothing short of freedom.

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April 21, 2010 -Loss of Mama

The Loss of Mama

(Voice of an adult)

By... Jennifer Avis

I think about that night when I lost my mother. I swore the moment she closed her eyes was the moment my world went dark. It wasn’t just a silent eclipse either. To me, it was as if a giant meteor crashed inside my world, sending storms, floods, and poison into my spirit. For a long time, I was crippled, and there were many days when I thought her death killed every inspiration within me.

             I often surged between loneliness and anger, and then there were many times when I washed up on bargaining shores.

             “If I could just have her back, I would be a better person,” I often said.

             Deep down though, I had no control over the fact that she was gone, and bargaining would lead me to nowhere every time.

             My aftershocks included angry bouts of unfinished business, to crying spells of regret, to day long silences that humbled the functioning parts of me. Fragments of her face appeared in and out of my mind, whether I wanted them to or not. Remnants of the way things used to be haunted me. No matter how hard I tried to piece myself back together, I was stuck, coexisting with a grief I didn’t want or couldn’t handle.

 I lived in sadness. I let it eat at me as if I was the last thing left in my world, all the while feeling the good things about me disappear. Somewhere in my depression, I became small and lost in my tragedy, drifting the way a leaf does once it falls from its core.

 In time though, I learned to acknowledge the mess that my mother’s death caused me. There was no order to it, no planned events that I could prepare for. I just rolled with my emotions, never really knowing where I would end up. Thankfully, I got through the days where emptiness threatened to keep me, and I clung to the days that gave me strength to keep moving.

 Through my hardship, I learned that it was alright to feel these things, and though these emotions were loud and impinging upon my life, I came to understand just how deeply I loved her, how dramatically she touched my existence. And now, I often wonder, since I am learning to be better without her, if she even knows how much she teaches me in her death.

 To this day, I learn to listen to myself compassionately. I strive to take initiative over my life and seek support to help me find hope or validation. Most of all, I learn to allow myself to remember, to be sad, and to be happy. She has taught me to carry her memory, but to carry myself first, since I must go on. And though there is a crater lying deep within me, the signs of life bloom everywhere around it with her voice whispering through it all.


Responses:
My mom always sang this song called A Bushel and a Peck to Collin.  It goes, I love you, a bushel and a peck and a hug around the neck.  You bet your
pretty neck I do, doo doo doo doo doo doo doo

I saw a card at the store today in the mother\'s day isle that played it. She was speaking to me. God allows pain in our lives to remind us how much we will be spared of it when we
reach him. Until then I have decided that when people say life is hard, they are wrong. Life
is not hard, death is. Death of a person, a dream, a goal, a harsh word when it could have been softened. That is all death, and on earth we daily die a little bit
each day. When we choose to live, we realize that is our goal. Eternal Life. And therefore
life is not hard, Life is our abundant destiny.

Thank you for your beautiful blog.
Dianna

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April 14, 2010 -The Loss of Duncan

The loss of a pet provokes serious emotions within children. Sometimes they cry out loud, while other times they cry on the inside. It is important to address this type situation to all family members if a pet has been lost. The Loss of Duncan was written to help validate a child’s voice during this tough time. After all, to many families, pets are just an extension of one another. They are our family too.

 The Loss of Duncan

by... J I Avis 

              "For the first time ever, I am alone in my room," I said, as tears swelled in my  eyes.
            My one, true friend was gone. Duncan was taken to the vet to be put to sleep, and though it was the best choice for him, I still hurt. I tried to think about all the days he didn't feel so good, and I pushed myself to understand. But I missed his softness. I missed how he wrapped his neck around me when I gave him a hug. And I would have given anything to hear the whip of his wagging tail and the short flicks of his tongue as he kissed me good night.
            When I woke up this morning, Duncan couldn't walk. He had just enough strength to lift his head and look at me. I will never forget how his sad eyes told me everything - that it was time for him to rest. And though it was hours since he'd been gone, I couldn't help but feel a bottomless hole deep in my heart.
            "Honey?" asked Mama as she gently opened the door.
            She tip-toed in, carrying something, though I could not see its detail in the dim light. Once she turned the light on, I saw that it was a book of some sort. As she sat on my bedside, I couldn't help but let my tears fall.
            "I know this is hard, but you are not alone," she said. "We all miss Duncan. He was a part of our family for a long time."
            "But I want to hug him, and be with him," I cried.
            "Here," she said, sighing. "I made this for you."
            She placed the small book on my lap, and I saw more details as I wiped the tears away. There on the blue cover was the title Duncan and Me. When I looked inside, I saw Duncan and me as babies. We were wrapped around each other like two pups in a pack. With each page, a new memory lit up my heart. He was my dog. He was my friend. He was my brother, and I loved him all the way.
            "This will help Duncan stay close to you," said Mama. "Though you have to go on, you don't have to forget the ones you love."
            I still felt the deep pain of loss, but I knew my mother understood me, and so I hugged her. And when she left, the tears still fell as I grieved.
            I looked through the photo book, and I found that it did help. I couldn't change a lot about what happened, but I did learn that I could remember. And every time I saw Duncan's familiar face, I remembered his smell. I remembered how he greeted me. I remembered how I loved him, and how my dog loved me. 
            The last photo in the book was the most recent one of us. Duncan had been sick, and his eyes begged to rest. I studied the photo and knew we'd done the right thing by letting him go. I pictured him running freely somewhere in my heart - free of pain, free of sickness - the way he would have wanted, and I smiled through my tears.  
            "I will love you forever," I whispered to the photo. "And I will miss you always."
            When I closed the book, I put it under my pillow. And when I closed my eyes, Duncan was there in my mind, playing the way he loved to. And instead of falling asleep broken hearted, I couldn't help but smile.   

   

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April 07, 2010 -Mirrored in Truth

Mirrored in Truth

(Anyone’s voice) by... Jennifer Avis


Mirrors – they were made to reflect. When I look in the mirror, I see all the physical things about me, my hair, my eyes, perhaps the flaws in my skin or the contours of my body. Some parts I like, and others I can do without.

             If I stare a bit longer, I can move beyond the flat surface to places I cannot see, but feel. I can feel the rush of my blood, the tingling of my skin, and the attention of my senses. Perhaps I am fine, but perhaps I am not.

             If I stare even longer, I can see the reflection of my imagination and my feelings, the very things that motivate or sabotage me. In those moments of mirrored images, I am magnified, depicted, and exposed to my truths. More than just literal, I am reflected from all angles and all degrees of light. I am present physically, but also beyond that. I am a soul, endless, searching, and bountiful.

             Look in your mirror. Stare at what you see, then move beyond that. Find the mirror to your soul. Is there a void, or an abyss? Are you restless with questions you can’t answer? Or are you invigorated and hopeful? What does your mirror reflect about you?  


Responses:

Chrishawn Floyd
My mirror reflects, at this moments, my silent wishes. It is good. Sometimes, 'hope' is the best tool for tempering fear and insecurity. Hope is a
way out, even if just a little.


Sharyn Rogers
When I look in the mirror, I am in disbelief. I can't believe that I am a wife and mom of two with another on the way. I wonder if I am doing what's
best for family and myself. My many insecurities surface, but I remember I have God on my side. He will guide our family (and me) to lead our best life.

Christine

My mirror is shiny and reflects back self-realization. I see the body I am left with after having 2 children. I see the green and gold flecks in my eyes that
have seen miracles, horrors and everything in between. I see my heart which is always so full of love and hope and joy. I see my mind which is strong, harsh, has
made rash decisions when it comes to friendships, has made excellent decisions when it has come to family, has made quick decisions in times of urgency and has
been reflective when my environment allowed it. My mirror shows me who I am- a strong woman, a mother, a friend, a daughter, a veteran, an educator,a poet at
heart and an always hopeful soul.






Respond »

April 01, 2010 -The Swing

The Swing
By... Jennifer Avis


“Not again,” I groaned, pulling the covers over my head.

                It seemed that I was always on an invisible swing. When pushed one way, I was depressed. When pushed another, I was manic, throwing some tantrum or feeling shaky over the slightest thing. All I wanted to do was stop myself from swinging.

                “This is one playground where I don’t want to play,” I whispered under my sheet, trying to hide from the world.

                Lately, I felt dizzier, less hungry, and just plain low. And don’t get me started on the sleep I lost. No matter what I tried, these days seemed to go on and on. Sometimes I wondered if it was the math trouble I dealt with or the boy I liked who didn’t know I was alive. And though everyone I knew went through similar things, I was affected ten times more.

                The truth was I felt like I couldn’t handle anything. With no energy, what was there to do? I didn’t want to go to practice, and I definitely didn’t want some coach yelling at me for not performing the way I should. I didn’t want to study, because I barely remembered anything. My heart was just not into the things that were supposed to matter.

Anyway, my headaches were enough. They were frequent and they seemed to last forever. And my anxiety? Well, who wanted to sit in a chair and have their legs shake for no reason? That in itself required whatever concentration I had just to look normal. It wouldn’t surprise me if people thought I was a freak.

“Why get out of this bed today?” I asked myself.

I was at the bottom of all things, and I didn’t feel very good. I was simply lower than low, deeper than deep. Life was just bad all the way around. And the only movement I felt was the swinging. It made me edgy, almost crazy like.  

But with a swing, there comes a swing set. And with a swing set, there comes the ground. So in my mind, I put my feet out, feeling for it.

“Time to get up anyway,” I told myself.  

My feet touched down, and I was off that terrible swing even if it was for a little while. Just as I wanted to, I left it, hoping something would lift me up. And on the way down the stairwell, the morning sun streamed through the window. Its warmth wrapped me in its light. The brightness filled me, and I felt its positive energy. I took it in. I breathed it in. I felt better just by the light of day. And in that feeling, I felt hope for myself.       

 

Reflection: Emotional upswings and downswings – we all ride them from time to time. Some of us get caught in our emotions more than others, and many of us suffer greatly by them. Today, try to seek safe ground, somewhere where you are not spinning, not swinging, and not trapped. Open your heart, and seek a spark. Find light and hope in the smallest of things – a smile, a hug, the sun, the spring. Think about something that cheers you up when you are down. What is it?  


Responses:
Chrishawn Michelle Floyd: 

Very Cathartic! I like how this entry offers a solution as well. It gives one a 'light' in the tunnel, so-to-speak.

Christine Tysor:

Jennifer, this was a recreation of what I would imagine a child with depression or anxiety may feel. I actually closed my eyes and could submerse
myself in the character. Wonderful job with the story and anecdote. This will truly speak to a child and help someone cope. You have a wonderful gift!


Michelle:

Gosh when I am down, I feel lousy! No energy, anxious, the smallest
things can set me off.
When I feel like this, I have to remind myself to take a
step back and revamp, which is TOUGH!
It takes all I am sometimes. What makes
the happiest varies, sometimes it's just being alone
and quiet, sometimes it's
fast, upbeat music, and sometimes it just takes the sunshine on my
face, or a hug
and kiss from a loved one. I go off what I need the most at that moment in time.
It gives that moment to revamp and just be.




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May 08, 2009 -Summer Camp

Hi everyone,

I found a great website for summer camps. It is broken down by state and has options for religious, therapeutic, high adventure etc... some even have scholarships available. 
http://www.camppage.com/virginia.htm

I hope this helps you all!

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February 25, 2009 -Children and extra-curricular activities

I watch children coming and going from my son’s elementary/middle school every day, and I can almost see their personalities by watching their mannerisms. How do our children develop personality?  It stems from their home life and family interactions, but school and extra-curricular activities play a large part in creating the “whole” child. Do you think it is important to include your children in extra curricular activities such as clubs, sports and scouts? Do you think that it helps children emotionally to have these additional responsibilities and outlets?

My experience leads me to believe that additional responsibilities help to mold children. It keeps them focused and points them in a direction that does not generally find trouble. It gives them experiences that help them to grow and mature. It gives them avenues to make new friends and develop new skills. My mother always told me that “a busy child has no time to look for trouble”.  I find that to be true. As a parent of four children, I am exhausted from running them here and there. It is a lot to ask to attend meetings and practices and games, pay dues and buy uniforms, pictures and trophies, and watch our children face others that could hurt them or embarrass them. So, why do we do it? What else do these additional organizations do for our children?

One reason was to build a resume of sorts for our children to get into colleges and universities. It is amazing to see what is asked on an application and how competitive it is to get accepted into the institution of your choice. The more our children do, the better their chances at getting accepted.  I would hate to think that we are enrolling our children in everything under the sun just to get them into a good college though. Another reason to involve our children is to help them emotionally and socially. I think children need more from the community than parents and teachers alone can provide.

My son thrives on his outside activities! Without these outlets he would drive himself (and me) crazy. He desperately seeks time with friends outside of school and finds camaraderie in his sporting teams. Emotionally and physically, he reaches out and exerts himself as a release of his tensions and frustrations.

I was reading a few articles on www.education.com and found that some of the things children learn from team sports go beyond scoring, batting, shooting and winning. This also goes for clubs and organizations in addition to sports. We can’t all be athletic, now can we?

·         Ego checks – Children are egocentric. They are encouraged to work with a group for the betterment of the team and not just themselves. They learn to be happy for other player’s or peer successes.

·         Positive Mentors - A dedicated, thoughtful, and skilled coach or group leader can have amazing impact on children. Sometimes your child will respond better to an objective coach than they will to their own parent. When children have early, positive experiences with coaches, they continue to seek out and learn from mentors who can help them with school, jobs, and other interests.

·         Three “P’s” – Practice, Patience, Persistence

·         Another reason for family time – Playing ball with your children can mean a great deal to your children in our busy world. Practicing the sport is not the only benefit however; spending time with your child/ren is a much greater advantage.  We often find that it is these moments that we are able to communicate and teach a value.

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February 18, 2009 -School Absenteeism

We are right in the middle of cold and flu season. My son was home from school for one day due to a fever and headache. He also exhibited symptoms of a cold. The school nurse told me to be sure to keep him home until the fever was gone because there had been many sick children in school when they were still contagious. I am not one to keep my child home and. For that matter, he does not being home from school. I later found out that a child in my son’s class had similar cold/flu symptoms and had just been admitted to the hospital for pneumonia. He was in ICU and on a respirator.

This school absence made me think about the overall population and what kinds of things keep children out of school. I already knew that absenteeism was higher when a child first starts school or day care. The immune system of a child has to be developed and that tends to happen as soon as a child is exposed to a large group on a daily basis. What I uncovered was that Kindergarten had the highest absenteeism and it decreased with each year a child was in school. The average number of days missed ranged from 5-18 days per year for a typical kindergarten child (www.nccp.org).  I also found that attendance improved with the income bracket of the family. Poorer children were found to be absent more often than economically advantaged children. Also, it is found that race also has an impact on absenteeism. The American Indian tends to be absent more than any other race.

So, other than age, income and race, what kinds of illnesses are keeping our children out of school? According to www.cureresearch.com, children are absent from school based on three categories.

1.      Physical Disorders

a.       Brief illnesses

b.      Chronic illnesses

c.       Fatigue

2.      Behavioral Disorders

3.      Psychological Disorders

a.       Anxiety

b.      Depression

Obviously, the physical disorders are the main cause of absence. What can we do to assist children who are absent or improve their attendance?

1.      Provide educational materials to parents on the spread of infection

2.      Keep our classrooms clean and sanitized

3.      Encourage children to wash their hands frequently

4.      Have Kleenex and Hand sanitizer available

5.      Provide on-line resources for assignments when children can not be at school

6.      Make sure that the school guidance departments are aware of any extenuating circumstances that a child or family is experiencing so that they can receive additional support.

It is important that schools and families have open communication. The overall education of our children is in our hands. We cannot expect to receive help when our children are out of school unless the school understands all of the issues being faced.

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February 04, 2009 -Death and dying

I have a friend who is dying. Diagnosed with cervical cancer 3 years ago, the cancer has metastasized to other organs. She has had many surgeries, and much chemotherapy and radiation. And yet, in spite of her daily struggles, she continues to raise her two beautiful daughters, aged 7 and 11 - both still in elementary school. For some time now and with immense courage, she has been preparing her children for her passing.

As a single parent, she has had to find the future adoptive family for her children. The girls have been spending time with their new family to make the transition just a little easier. In just a few months this will be their permanent home.

What can you say to someone who is planning their funeral and preparing her children for a different life? Frequently, I think about her girls and the reality that is facing them. Reading materials for the children are very important while they work with grief counselors available at school and other therapeutic environments. Although I have not spent much time with the girls recently, I know that their incredible mother will be easing them through this difficult period with all the support she can find.

In the future, The Elijah Foundation will be providing books to address this situation. We intend to reach out with sympathy and care when dealing with this sensitive issue.

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January 29, 2009 -Celiac Disease

The weirdest thing happened when I was taking care of my sister’s two dogs recently.  I fed one dog some biscuits that were - unbeknownst to me - meant for her other one.  At first, the dog gave no indication of his later reaction! In a few days clumps of his hair fell on the floor. Continually, he was scratching an itch and soon broke out in a rash. Soon his obvious digestive problem began: excessive gas, diarrhea and some vomiting. My sister returned she asked what I had fed her dogs during the day. When I told her, she was really concerned and told me, in no uncertain terms, that I had been killing her dog!

Before she left, she forgot to tell me that her dog had Celiac Disease (CD). I had already heard about CD from some friends and knew that it was an allergy to wheat products. What I didn’t know was that her dog had this problem or that both dogs and humans could be afflicted with this condition. So, as always, I did more research to get a better understanding of this disease.

CD is a digestive disorder that damages the small intestine and interferes with absorption of nutrients from food. People with CD cannot tolerate gluten, protein wheat, rye, and barley. Gluten is found mainly in foods but also in everyday products such as medicines, vitamins, and lip balms.

Symptoms of CD vary from person to person. Symptoms may occur in the digestive system or in other parts of the body. Digestive symptoms are more common in infants and young children and may include:

·         Abdominal bloating and pain

·         Chronic diarrhea

·         Vomiting

·         Constipation

·         Pale, foul-smelling, or fatty stool

·         Weight loss

Then I wondered what how my sister had adapted her dog’s diet. He is fed with a special dog food that is three times more expensive than the regular kind. I was shocked! Did families have to buy more expensive food products? What do you order at a restaurant? How do you teach children what they are allowed to eat when they are not with you? What about schools and school lunches?

Knowing what I know now, it is obvious that early education is vital for children coping with CD. However, education is needed not only for the child, but for everyone who comes in contact with the child – other children and adults. This is a great example of why children’s books on disease are so necessary!

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January 21, 2009 -Global Anxiety Disorder

Global Anxiety Disorder is a form of General Anxiety Disorder. It encompasses the same symptoms such as excessive, uncontrollable and often irrational worry about everyday things that is disproportionate to the actual source of worry. This excessive worry often interferes with daily functioning. Individuals suffering with GAD typically are overly concerned with catastrophes, they anticipate disasters, and are overly concerned about everyday matters. They often exhibit a variety of physical symptoms, including fatigue, fidgeting, headaches, nausea, muscle tension, muscle aches, difficulty swallowing, twitching, irritability, sweating, insomnia, and hot flashes.

A close friend of mine told me of her concern for her daughter who struggled with anxiety when it came to issues dealing with war and international crisis. Her daughter had anxiety attacks when the news came on and when she read the newspapers. The international problems had been so significant to her personally that she shut down when she was exposed to “global” issues.

I had never thought about the anxiety that children must feel when they hear about war and crisis. This information caused me to reflect and think about how many children probably struggle with this same problem. It is clearly impossible to shield our children from the negative news that surrounds us daily. It is a fact of life that the United States in involved with many ugly situations and that these situations are being exposed to us constantly in the media. Can we put our children in a bubble and protect them from this? I don’t think so.

What we can do is sit with our children when the news is on. We can look at the paper with our children. We can explain that our government is protecting us with our military forces. We can educate them on the state of our country. We can explain that our efforts to protect others sometimes result in casualties. We can talk about our international efforts and the positive changes we are seeking. It is also helpful to seek the counsel from a therapist in your child’s school.

Next week I will be talking about Celiac Disease and the complications that can arise due to the dietary needs and eating out. Please check back with us.  

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January 07, 2009 -Happy New Year!

Happy New Year readers! I hope you are now refreshed and ready for an exciting 2009. I am very enthusiastic about this year.  During the holidays, I was able to relax and reflect on the last year and think about the continuing direction of The Elijah Foundation. Some of the objectives I have established for 2009 include:

·         Applying for at least 1 grant per month

·         Attending at least 6 conferences or special events to promote EF and our upcoming books

·         Printing and distributing at least 2 books

·         Spread the word about EF through internet contacts and social websites

I have already started meeting these objectives and will submit our first grant of 2009 next week. I will be attending an adoption seminar in February and sharing our adoption prototype. The bipolar book will be printed in the next 2 months. (Details will follow as they are released) And, links to the Elijah Foundation have been added to friends’ websites and added to Facebook.com.

Next week I will return to our regular format by discussing a new disorder. Check back to find out something new!

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December 17, 2008 -Osgood- Schlatter\'s Disease

A number of years ago, I had friends visit me from New York. Their youngest son was with them and we were talking about his soccer, basketball and baseball teams.  Apparently he was struggling with sports due to extreme pain in his joints, particularly his knees. He was taken to the doctor and was diagnosed with Osgood-Schlatter’s disease.  I had never heard of this so I asked a lot of questions and did my own research. My friend suggested that I write a story for her son since this disease is so common among children between 11-14 years old.

What is Osgood-Schlatter’s Disease anyway?  It is pronounced “oz-good scholt-ter”. It is one of the most common causes of knee pain in young athletes.  It causes swelling, pain and tenderness just below the knee, and over the shin bone. It occurs in children who are having a growth spurt during their pre-teen or teenage years.  It is believed that it is caused from the pull of the large muscles in the front of the thigh. When the muscles contract, the tendons pull away from the shin bone causing pain.

This problem becomes more noticeable during activities that require running or jumping.  It is most common in athletes who play football, soccer or basketball or are involved in gymnastics and ballet. This finally made sense now. Even though I had never heard of this disease, I could see how teenage athletes could be challenged when they had to endure the pain affiliated with their favorite sports. It put a whole new twist to the phrase, “It hurts to grow up”.

Osgood-Schlatter’s Disease usually goes away with time. When the child stops growing, the pain and swelling should go away because the tendons become stronger.  It is rare that the disease persists beyond the teenage years.

I thought it would be interesting to develop a story for my friend and for others who struggled with the pain of growing. Our character will be a grasshopper. I look forward to the creation of the book. Is there a particular issue that your child struggles and copes with? Please write to me and share your story. Our books are all written from experiences of real children. We are always looking for touching experiences that will help others.

Please check back next year when I will continue my blogs. I hope that the information I share is helpful to you and provides insight on the challenges of our children. I would love to hear from more of my readers. Have a wonderful holiday with your loved ones!

 

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December 10, 2008 -Counseling & therapy

The awareness in our culture of children needing some form of counseling or therapy or a combination of both is evident. Regardless of what a child has had to cope with, there is always a service that is willing to help. Therapy is not only used for crisis situations but for every disorder, disability, challenge, family problem, life circumstance, or issue that is imaginable. Types of therapy are as varied as the reason for therapy. They include Massage, Art, Pet, Horse (equine assisted), play, group, behavior, family, in-patient, and, out-patient etc.

As a child I thought that a therapist was a “shrink” and that they tried to get into your head. It was not something that people admitted to if they went to see someone. I went to family therapy when I was young and it wasn’t so bad. I also went to therapy with my son many years ago. It wasn’t very stigmatizing either time. Now there are therapists in every school and you can request help for your child for any reason.

As a result of this therapy explosion, are we a healthier culture now than we used to be? Is this therapy really helping us or our children? I, for one, am thrilled that my child can talk freely and openly to someone outside of the family if he needs to. I am glad that there is confidentiality. I think that children have the ability to be more confident and independent when they can seek help and counsel as needed.

What kinds of experiences have you had with counselors or therapists? I would love to have your input. Next week I will attempt to uncover the facts surrounding Osgood-Schlatter’s Disease.

 

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December 03, 2008 -The Holidays

           

As the holidays approach, I am reminded of the challenges children face when they have to fulfill the wishes of more than one household. The new movie Four Christmases is an example of the problems that can arise. In this movie, the couple is required to visit four homes over a busy holiday because of parents that have divorced and remarried. As we watch adults coping with the trials this presents to them, I think of how much more difficult it is for children.

My children, along with numerous others, have to make choices or be forced into situations that they know may hurt one or more parent. As a parent, it is never easy to share my children with others but it is especially difficult to put them on a plane at the most social times of the year. I used to get angry and unfortunately made them feel guilty about some of their choices. Now I have accepted that it is their holiday too; usually, they too make sacrifices when trying to do the kind thing for everyone. My response can make or break the spirit of the occasion.

What can I do to help my children to have a happy Christmas? I have found that removing any barriers to their communication with their father has been helpful. I also take a neutral position when they ask what they should do. I do support whatever they choose to do. I encourage them to maintain a healthy relationship with their step-family and have learned to hold my tongue when I see pictures of my children in the arms of others.

It is still not easy; I struggle every holiday with my emotions. There is always a part of me that hopes my children will choose to spend extra time with me. Whenever I do have sad or negative feelings, I go alone into a quiet room to let off steam and thereby protect my children’s emotional state. It is always helpful to create my own distraction so that I am not dwelling on something that is out of my control. These skills have helped me improve my relationships with my children and are making me emotionally stronger.

I hope that you are not faced with the situation I have described. Eventually all our children will grow up and be separated from us on some holidays to be with their new families. One way or another, we want our children to be confident in their decision making and grow to be emotionally healthy adults.

Please share any of your stories that may help our readers with their circumstances. It is always nice to know that we are not alone. Check back next week when I will be talking about children and counseling/therapy.        

 

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November 26, 2008 -Diabetes

Some time ago, I visited a college friend. While we were chatting about the old days, her youngest daughter bounced into the room to get her “finger stick”. I observed what had become a common routine for them. After the band-aid was placed on her finger, she went back outside to play with her sister. Surprised at the maturity of this beautiful five year old , I asked multiple questions about what I had just witnessed. Diagnosed with diabetes when she was two, every day throughout the day, her blood-sugar levels are checked. Incredulous that this was now a normal part of their routine, my friend told me the long story of how their family has learned to cope with diabetes.

I had never really thought about the prevalence of diabetes among children before. Consequently, I did lots of research. I was surprised at what I discovered about Juvenile, Type 1 diabetes. – it tends to run in families and is NOT caused by obesity or eating excessive sugar. It is a disorder with high blood glucose levels due to a deficiency of insulin secretion in the pancreas. WHAT???

After a person eats, a portion of the food is broken down into sugar (glucose). The sugar then passes into the bloodstream and into the body’s cells via a hormone called insulin. Insulin is produced in the pancreas. With diabetes, the pancreas either produces too little insulin or none at all. The sugar then builds up in the blood, overflows into the urine and passes through the body.  If the blood sugar is not controlled, major complications can occur affecting the heart, eyes, kidneys and nerves.

According to HealthScout, an estimated 17 million people in the U.S. have diabetes of which about 1.4 million have Type 1. There are support groups throughout the country for diabetics. My heart goes out to the children who must cope with this syndrome. Do any of you have issues or situations that you could share from your experience with diabetes? I may be adding my own stories some day. My father had diabetes that was diagnosed when he was in his 50’s. They say that it is hereditary so I am glad to know all the warning signs in advance.

Next week I will be talking about the challenges children face with holidays and travel and relatives.

 

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November 19, 2008 -Eating disorders

I have had a fewI never had any direct experience with eating disorders. There was a period of time when I was away at college that I thought my sister might be anorexic and the family her situation very seriously. I also had a friend in college who admitted to being bulimic. Other than those two cases, the only eating disorders that I had experience with were overeating binges like most of my friends. We never thought it was a problem, probably because it wasn’t frequent but occasional isolated instances.  But I digress.

Eating disorders fall into three categories: Anorexia, Bulimia and Binge Overeating. Anorexia is characterized by refusal to eat and extreme weight loss. Bulimia is also characterized by weight loss but is related to binge overeating that is later regurgitated or exercised away or eliminated with the use of laxatives and diet pills. Finally, the overeaters are those who don’t try to rid their bodies of the food but continue to feel depressed and shameful.

What are the current trends? According to www.helpstartshere.org,

·         Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness.

·         This incidence has doubled since the 1960’s.

·         Increasing numbers of children as young as six suffer from this illness.

·         10% report onset of illness by the age of 10 years old.

·         42% of 1st -3rd graders reported wanting to be thinner.

·         9% of nine year olds have reported vomiting to lose weight.

Some people don’t believe that eating disorders are that big of a problem. The complications of these disorders can be permanent and devastating. They can include:

·         Osteoporosis

·         Muscle Atrophy

·         Heart Problems

·         Dehydration

·         Growth impairment

·         Teeth erosion

Treatment can help 60% of the population. For some patients, as many as 20%, it is too late and there is no recovery. It is necessary for patients to receive nutritional counseling, psychiatric help and medical attention. For the best treatment, family counseling is also encouraged so that recovery has the most positive outcome.

One of my relatives in California approached me with the story of a girl who is being educated at home due to her eating disorders. She was not well enough to go to school.  She was looking for resources that would help her with recovery. My Aunt showed her our stories and she actually asked for The Elijah Foundation to create something for her. I hope to include her story in the future. It will be very special.

Please send us your stories. I want to hear from you. Next week I will be discussing Diabetes.

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November 12, 2008 -ADHD

ADHD or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder - is similar to ADD but includes an hyperactivity component. It has become the most diagnosed and over-diagnosed disorder in the last 20 years. Children must exhibit symptoms for six continuous months before a diagnosis can be made and with onset usually in children under age seven.  Many believe it to be the leading diagnosis when parents and teachers cannot cope with their children. Agreeing with this view, Dave Levine, who wrote the article: Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) is a Fake Disease, says that, “it was created by boring, out-of-touch leaders who are p****d off that kids aren’t listening to them”.  He also says that “ADD is an excuse for poor leadership.”

Another report by Lawrence Diller, M.D., Schools Pressure Parents to Force Ritalin Use, states that there has been a 700 % increase in the use of Ritalin since 1990. Schools are saying that parents must medicate their children, or take their children to another school, or be turned into Child Protective Services for neglect for withholding necessary medication. The diagnosis of ADHD has jumped in the United States from 500,000 children in 1985 to over 7 million today, according to www.ADHD- report.com.

Why am I saying all of this? It seems that the more popular diagnoses nowadays like bipolar disorder and autism would have been diagnosed ADHD in the past. Misdiagnosis was common as doctors were easily swayed by labeling and then prescribing medication for children displaying symptoms similar to ADHD.  This is not only an American phenomenon: ADHD is also the popular diagnostic choice in The United Kingdom and Australia. Consequently, their statistics have jumped considerably in the last 20 years. 

Having worked in the child care industry in the past, I have met many children diagnosed with ADHD who have had their behavior modified by the use of Ritalin or Adderall. They don’t seem to be stigmatized by their diagnosis and speak openly about it. I believe it is usually accurately diagnosed but still one that brings great stress to parents; largely because of the controversies surrounding the medication prescribed - what parent wants to drug their child?  However, the question still remains, “is it the right diagnosis for all of those children?” Parents need to educate themselves and their children. It is always smart to get a second or third opinion before medicating a child. I know that I had to do a lot of research when my child was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Parents must be the advocate for their child. Know your children!

If, in fact, your child does have ADHD, help them to understand the disorder. Give them books to read. Also, help to educate the caregivers in your child’s life about the disorder but also about your child’s individual circumstances. Be aware that sometimes difficult behaviors may have more to do with personality conflicts with teachers or situations than with ADHD. For example, some children cannot sit in a classroom for long periods. An active child may need an environment that reinforces hands-on learning. That is an option in certain schools. Explore avenues that will ensure the success of your child. Let’s not set our children up to fail; let’s find the resources and circumstances in which they can succeed and thrive! Every child is unique and must be treated as such.

Next week I will be discussing eating disorders. Please come back and visit. I welcome your input, suggestions, experiences and comments.

 

 

 

 

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November 05, 2008 -Growth Impairments

 
Height has always been a big deal for my boys. I have 3 sons who were not blessed with tall parents. They were always the last ones to hit that necessary growth spurt and hoped and prayed that they would catch up with everyone else. Fortunately, my two oldest boys have exceeded the heights of both their father and me and they are must less anxious about their standing in their peer groups. My youngest son is 14 and he has just started his growth spurt but still remains shorter than most of his peers. He is encouraged by the height his brothers have achieved and uses that fact if he feels insignificant with his friends. After all, we just started basketball season!

What if height is just not going to be one of your assets? One of the peers of my middle son has a significant growth disorder and must takes growth hormones daily. I often wonder what he thinks and if people say anything to him. My kids say that he is “cool” with it and he is popular and fun to be around, and that no one really cares because they know he will not get much taller. He is a phenomenal athlete and gymnast!!! I really enjoy watching him do flips off my diving board when he comes over to swim in the summer. When we still had a trampoline, he would give us a great show with all of his moves. I have never seen evidence of any poor self-esteem due to his height.   

Did you know that childhood growth impairments were considered a disability under the Social Security Administration? They are said to be related to other medical conditions and therefore, eligible for disability programs. Growth impairments can be related to cerebral palsy, kidney damage, liver and heart disease among many other issues. In some cases, it has been noted that an organ transplant could reverse the growth issue (if that is the reason for the impairment).

So, as I mentioned in a previous blog, there are some great books for children who are just delayed in growth, but what will help the child who will NOT grow to the height of his/her peers? With other issues we have discussed, we should always be sensitive to that child. We can help the child accentuate their positives attributes, and we can find support resources for the child to give them the encouragement they may need to overcome their challenge. I think our biggest challenge is educating children’s peer groups to sensitize them and protect our children from any ridicule. Children can be so mean! Have any of you experienced challenges with growth related issues? If so, I would love your stories and input.

Check back next week when I will be addressing ADHD.

 

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October 29, 2008 -Dental issues

When I was in the fourth grade, I had to make a life changing decision; maybe a world-changing decision: Should I accept my parents’ wishes and be fitted with braces? Either way, I knew that I would be on the receiving end of, sometimes merciless, teasing. I needed the braces, as I had terrible buck-teeth, but, I knew that the same kids at school that mocked me about my buck teeth would mock me more for wearing braces. What’s a child to do?  In the end, I acquiesced to my parents and went to the orthodontist. The braces themselves hurt and were ugly and gave me a very sore mouth. And yes, I was teased and called many names for about two years.  I struggled to make the most of the situation but felt my friends were mean. Very few people had braces at the time and the things they said were hurtful. I remember the day that I was given the “headgear”; it was awful! I had to wear it most of the time for a few months and then only wear it at night after that.  To this day, I still cringe just thinking about it.

I do remember the one thing that made me feel a little better. My parents presented me with a t-shirt that had a smiley face on it and the smiley face had braces. The shirt said, “Tin Grins Are In”. I felt special and wore the shirt all of the time. I don’t remember ever seeing anything else that made me feel better. 

Years later, although my son had braces twice and hated it both times, I don’t remember him being laughed at - times had changed. The second time, in particular, he was confident enough with his braces that he ran for “Mr. Sophomore” at his school and WON! His braces didn’t inhibit him from being a public figure in his school.  

Now braces are so common that perhaps the stigma is gone. What do you think? I would love to hear from those of you who experienced braces. Are we still trying to help children cope with their dental dilemmas or is it a non-issue?

Check back next week when I will be discussing children that struggle with height and growth delays.    

 

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October 22, 2008 -Divorce

                                            
 Today, children’s lives are so much more complex than our lives were at their age. And yet, I think modern children are much more able to adapt to their changing circumstances than we were.

When I was young, it was rare to see a single-parent leading a family, or even two remarried parents uniting into a blended family. Now family life is different; I am different. Now most families are touched by divorce in one way or another. Let’s look at some statistics to give us an idea of how we have changed - according to research by Vital Statistics (2006), in the USA:

·         49% of marriages end in divorce

·         Although 82% of all married couples reach their fifth wedding anniversary, only 52% celebrate 15 years of marriage

·         The median duration of first marriages that end in divorce was slightly less than eight years

·         Most people wait about three years after a divorce to remarry

I am this statistic. I was divorced after 17 years of marriage – so is best friend, my next door neighbor (x2) and my sister (also x2). When I was young, I didn’t even believe in divorce. I do now! As we get closer to Thanksgiving and Christmas, I have noticed that the consequences of divorce are one of the main topics of conversation among my friends: I hear phrases like, “Where are your kids going for Christmas?” “When will they leave?” “My kids can’t go until after 12:00 noon on Christmas day.” “I wonder what they will buy my kids for Christmas.”

The children have become used to negotiating this brave new world – conscious that they might appear to slight one parent for another. And it is not just our country. In case you were wondering, divorce rates do vary substantially in different countries. Check out these world divorce statistics:

·         In Sweden, 64% of marriages end in divorce

·         In Canada, 45% of marriages end in divorce

·         In France, 43% of marriages end in divorce

·         In Israel, 26% of marriages end in divorce

·         In Greece, 18% of marriages end in divorce

·         In Italy, 12% of marriages end in divorce

 

Although divorce is more readily accepted today, it is still a major issue in the lives of millions of American children. Consequently, it is a challenge to all adults to help them accept and resolve these issues - even schools, day care centers and athletic teams have to keep the custodial arrangements straight. The Elijah Foundation is trying to provide some help by developing a story that children can connect to. It is about a whale whose parents divorce. It is particularly stressful for the baby whale since whales are known to mate for life. The baby whale feels isolated and embarrassed around his friends, and sad and lonely without both parents.  The story will help children understand that although their parents are not together, they still love the children. They will always have a relationship with both parents.

I could go on and on about divorce but I must stop now. Check back next week when I will be discussing dental issues.

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October 15, 2008 -Foster Care

We all know what foster care means… right? It is a system that 

 

 places children with temporary guardians because their parents are either unavailable or incapable of caring for their children on their own.

 

So, who are the children waiting in the U.S. foster care system? According to www.kidsarewaiting.org and Federal AFCARS data:

·         510,000 National children in foster care

·         32% of foster children are between the ages of 0 and 5

·         28% of foster children are between the ages of 6 and 12

·         40% of foster children are between the ages of 13 and 21

·         Average # of birthdays a child spends in foster care: 2 birthdays (28 months)

·         Average # of placements children experience:  3

·         17% (88,475) of children live in group care or institutional settings

And, what are United States' foster children waiting for?

·         248,054 (49%) are waiting to be reunified with their birth families

·         127,000 (25%) are waiting to be adopted

·         Average time foster care children have been waiting to be adopted: 39.4 months

Where did the United States' children go after leaving foster care in 2006?

·         287,691 children exited foster care

·         152,152 (53%) were returned to their parents

·         49,741 (17%) were adopted

·         45,761 (16%) left to live with relatives (some through guardianships)

·         26,181 (9%) “aged out” or left the system at age of 18 or older

·         12,086 (4%) left for other reasons (ran away, transferred, died)

·         2,349 (1%) left for unknown reasons

It must be very sad and confusing for a child to have to grow accustomed to new environments because they have no stable home or family. I know that I have seen many TV programs about children who get lost in the system. The statistics that I listed above make it much more “real” to me. It also reinforces to me that these children need resources to help them adjust to their situation. "Once they've been in multiple (homes), you can pretty much be assured they'll end up in a (mental health facility), either suicidal or with attachment disorder," says Linda Berny, a professional in the foster care field.

The Elijah Foundation will have a story to provide to foster children. We have interviewed foster care therapists and created a story that will touch the lives of these families, children and survivors. Please support us in our efforts to reach children in need.

Response 10/23/08

This book sounds great. I am a foster parent of many years and do a lot of
training and mentoring for other foster parents.I have searched for a great book
not only for my own kids but to give to new foster parents for children in their
home. Thanks
Chris


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October 07, 2008 -Physical characteristics

Most of us feel uncomfortable about one of our physical characteristics. Is it our hair color, ears, nose, weight or height? And, how many times a day do we hear self-deprecating  remarks from others about their “sensitive issues.”

I was attending a conference a number of years ago, and talking about my books with a woman working at a booth across the aisle from me. She asked if I was planning on doing a story about red-headed children. At first, I thought she was kidding me - I chuckled as I answered a quick no to her question. When she told me her story, I realized how wrong I was to treat her suggestion so lightly.

As a child growing up with bright red hair, she was taunted and mocked by some of the children around her. In her child’s mind, she translated the abuse of the few into the disdain of the many. Consequently, she felt isolated, embarrassed, and generally uneasy around all children. She even promised herself that she would never marry and have children of her own – she didn’t want them to suffer the same problems that she had. Unfortunately, no resources were available to help her and her parents work through her real and sometimes perceived difficulties. She suggested I write a book about a red-headed rooster who wanted a different colored comb.

As adults we can choose to change some of our physical characteristics; we can dye our hair, or, realign a crooked nose. However, these options are usually not open to children? We love them just the way they are, but how can we build-up a child’s self-esteem when their peers tear them down because of their “look”?

·        Accentuate the positives and encourage them to love themselves for who they are.

·        Be aware of their sensitive areas. We may have grown so accustomed to the way our children look, that sometimes we do not realize that they may feel sensitive about themselves. 

·        Help children understand that although first impressions about them may not always be positive, those opinions do fade away once others get to know them.

·        Point out the trait that they are sensitive about which is shared by a popular movie star or musician. This shows that challenges are not insurmountable barriers to success.

·        Find stories that children can relate to that will help them cope with and work through their issue. Some good examples are:

o   Chrysanthemum, by Kevin Henkes, addresses the child who has difficulty coping with her unique name.

o   The Spotted Pig, by Dick King-Smith, is about a pig who thought his spots were ugly and tried to get rid of them. It is perfect for a child who is sensitive about freckles.

o   Stand Tall, Molly Lou Melon, by Patty Lovell, is written for the child who needs encouragement. She struggles with being very short, having buck-teeth, a voice like a bullfrog, and being clumsy. She is teased at her new school until she shows the others how these traits are really her assets. It is heartwarming!        

In time, the Elijah Foundation will have a number of books that aim to help children work through issues with their appearance. We understand the need for children to feel loved and accepted and we look to be the resource center that they are looking for.

Next week I will be discussing the issues surrounding children in foster care.

 

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October 01, 2008 -Autism

What do we know about autism? 

I have seen so many advertisements on television and on billboards recently. Consequently, I thought I would do some research into the subject. Although now deemed an epidemic, It seems that autism varies in its functionality. According to the Centers for Disease Control, “one in every 150 American kids has some form of autism.”  That was very alarming to me and I found that the definition and criteria for diagnosis have been expanded. There are simply more means to define autistism than in the past.

The diagnosis of autism is usually based on three symptoms:

1.       Difficulty with social interaction

2.       Problems with verbal and non-verbal communication

3.       Repetitive actions or obsessive interests

These behaviors can range from mild to disabling. Parents generally notice that something is wrong with their child when they don’t exhibit the normal developmental milestones of talking, smiling or making eye contact by 16 months.  Sometimes they have met the milestones and then they instantly disappear. This must be the most frustrating experience of them all.

So, what causes autism and why are the numbers so high? It might have to do with the change in how they are diagnosed or labeling based on only a few symptoms. Autism has been blamed on maternal nutrition, obstetric and environmental factors, diet and even immunizations. Scientists have not agreed on a cause or even that it is related to any of the above theories.

How is it being treated? From what I have read, autism is treated in a variety of ways depending on the doctor, school, therapist or parent group that you are working with. The approach and treatment can include:

1.       Changing the diet, such as removing milk or wheat products

2.       Adding nutritional supplements

3.       Stimulating the brain by having the child repeat behaviors over and over until they are routine again

4.       Making eye contact

5.       Increasing their spoken word

6.       Rewarding a child for appropriately performing a task

7.       Reinforcing positive behavior

Is there hope? According to my research, parents should not despair. The road ahead is filled with research, support and opportunities. Progress is being made. With the growing awareness in the community about autism, we should all feel more confident that help is on the horizon.

Next week I will be addressing the physical characteristics that some people find to be negative in themselves and how their self-esteem is affected by this.   

 

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September 24, 2008 -Conferences