Social Media and Our Youth

My post today is different than normal, I have a concern and I wanted to share it with you.  For most of you this may seem insignificant. But for some of you this will hit close to home, please know you are not alone. I want to talk with you today about the internet, more specifically social media, and our youth.  I am speaking to you today as a mother and as someone who has worked in counseling positions for over 30 years, but I am not speaking to you as a law enforcement officer.  I make that distinction because I think they know much more about this issue than I do.  I do however, think I know more about it than many parents do, probably more than most individuals do.  Over the years, the kids I have served have taught me many things that I did not see coming.  How the internet and social media touches their lives would certainly be in that list.  I would encourage you to think about how it affects your family members lives too.

Good vs Bad?

The internet allows me to have instant access to basically any knowledge that I want to seek with only a moment’s notice – it cannot be bad right?  I mean, what could be bad about that kind of knowledge and access?  It is my opinion that most things can be good and bad depending on how you use them.  Can that access to knowledge be good?  It sure was for me.  You cannot imagine the hours saved by doing internet searches while in college.  But how could this also be bad?  Well, along that line, can I look things up rather than try to figure them out?  I sure can, which bypasses skill development.  It can also allow for immediate access to things you did not want your children exposed to. There are a multitude of concerns related to the internet, but in my opinion, the bigger worry is the use of social media. I believe we have missed how significant this can be for our children.  I think that deserves our attention as parents and professionals.

Social Media Flooding?

I don’t know about you, but I cannot list all the forms of social media available to our children.   But I have to be honest, I was a better parent in regards to this area because of my work.  I would never have anticipated how destructive social media can be to our children had I not seen the other side of it from my work.  I believe I am probably like most of you, I am glad to have the internet and to have social media.  You will find me online way too often.  I rationalize that I use it to connect with friends, and I do, but sometimes I neglect the person in front of me while chatting to someone far away.  We need to stop doing that by the way, we need to start attending to the person in front of us, especially when that person is our child or family member.  But that’s not enough, it is not just that there is too much time on social media.  You might have noticed this, but sometimes people are not nice online and that concerns me.

Social Media Distress

Our children deal with peer related issues during the day from the time they leave the home until they return.  However, with the advent of the internet, social media, and smart phones that changed.  Now our children deal with peer related issues 24 hours a day.  I would say from the time they get up until the time they go to bed, but many times our youth are interacting online while we think they are asleep.  In other words, there is not a down time from peer related issues.   Imagine what life can be like for the someone who is having problems getting along with a peer.   You would not believe the horrible things kids do and say to each other.  Maybe you would, I however have been amazed many times over. I have seen girls cry at the things once best friends now post about them. And others cry when ex-boyfriends post pictures that should never have been taken but now are shared with the world. And still others when their home life/family life is made fun of in a peer online group. It is amazing the things some kids say online, with no guidance it can become devastating.

Things You Can Do

It is difficult to think that we have children that are using the internet to cause harm to each other.  Yet we watch adults do the same thing online over and over.  Do not be surprised when our youth look at a screen and type hurtful things into it.  To them, it is not a person.  I know that sounds crazy, but most do not perceive their ugly comments as hurtful to a person. Many would say things online they would not say to a peer’s face.  You know, kind of like adults.  So, what can you do about it?  How can you help make sure your child is not hurting others or being hurt by others?  Well, in my opinion, start with getting involved. Know your child and their friends, if something concerns you address it, don’t ignore it.  Encourage kindness.  Our kids watch us, if you are using the web to “tell people off” then expect the same behavior from your child.  Monitor access, kids/preteens/teens do not need 24 hour internet access with no intervention from you.  I know it is your child and you can trust them – I do too, but I don’t trust everyone, monitor access.  Personally, I think it’s a great idea to have account information, even if you do not use it.  Control the hours the internet is available.  You know there is nothing wrong with phones being plugged in on the kitchen counter while people sleep, it’s a thought.  If you are concerned with how your child is being treated by others don’t ignore it, address it, help your child even if it means you have to call others for help.  Above all, listen to your child.  Put your own phone down and listen to your child.  I wish I could tell you the number of times children, and by that, I mean children/preteens/teens, have said to me “my parents don’t care.”  I know that you do, but they need to know that too.  Spend time and invest in the relationship.  Tell you what I will put my phone down and talk to my child, join me in it please – your child wants to hear from you. Thank you for spending this time with me – be blessed my friends.

Rest for the Weary, and for the Rest of Us Too

Rest, do you ever think about it? I mean seriously and intentionally plan rest into your day or week? Sometimes it seems we are going so fast we forget to stop. You know the old saying stop and take time to smell the flowers? While I think that’s a great idea, I am actually purposing more than that. What if you also made plans to plant the flowers? Take the day to visit the flower gardens? Drive through the countryside to see the flowers? You know, make plans for whatever creates a sincere rest for you.

Rest Differs

Rest is different for each of us. I’m sure some of you are thinking “hey Cindy planting flowers is work not rest.” Yes, you would be correct for many, but for me playing in the dirt is rest. I love the feel of the dirt in my hands, so that’s rest for me. What’s restful for you, what things/activities create a peace for your spirit? How do you work that rest into your day? I believe it is important that we plan intentionally for rest… it’s good for our body and our spirit. Plan for rest.

Find Your Rest

In the spirit of rest, I am intentionally leaving this blog article short… I hope to leave you hanging while thinking about rest. So the question for you is this: what is restful and how can you work it into your day/week? Singing? Working out? Prayer? Walking? Reading? Playing catch with the dogs? Sewing? A ride on a motorcycle? Drawing? Playing guitar? Archery? Time with friends? Fishing? Baking? You get the picture… have fun building rest into your day! I leave you with things I consider restful worked into kaleidoscopes… photography is also restful for me. Seek and find your rest: rejuvenate your spirt, soul and body. Be blessed friends, thank you for hanging out with me.

Life Lessons From Kids Who Shoot Bows

I had the privilege of spending part of my weekend in a youth archery event. These events are always interesting to me. There are parents and children from different walks of life gathered from all over the state with one common denominator; a child who shoots archery. There are youth from all age ranges and all skill levels. Some of these kids have the talent to make this into a career, while others are new to the sport. Some like me, are here because their child shoots, others the whole entire family competes. I appreciate the spirit of all of these families. The people make the event.

Building Friendships

I have found lifelong friends through archery. Many of us have been together for several years. We have travelled and competed around the region, state and the Southeast United States. I was once very new to this sport. I had a daughter who wanted to shoot and I had never even held a bow in my hands until I held hers. I was that mom, you know the one who wears everyone out with questions? Yeah, that was me! Fortunately for me, this community is one that helps each other.

Servant Leadership

I can tell you by observation which kids have higher end equipment, but I cannot tell who is better by the way they treat each other. These kids are incredibly helpful and gracious to their competitors. Those who excel and have been around, the leaders in the sport, they treat their peers like they have a responsibility to help others. It’s almost as if they know one of my favorite verses, “to who much is given much is expected” and you have been given much. Frequently when the older kids are not competing they are helping a younger child. I love that, I love watching them help each other. I saw that several times Saturday. It would be so easy for these kids to stand back and watch, but they help. They help grow the future generations. I want to replicate their attitudes and behaviors for the rest of the world. We could learn a lot from these kids.

Passing It On

Interesting don’t you think how we can all learn life lessons from watching kids shoot bows? I suppose you could say the same of many child sporting activities. But I have sat at many sporting events and I have never seen this until I met archery people. These people will give you equipment to help you finish your tournament, even if you are a competitor. I cannot count the times a competitor or the parent of a competitor has helped us out while on the range. And it wasn’t because they liked us or we were nice, although I hope we were. I have seen kids loan others expensive equipment to help them with a shot knowing that they were competitors. This weekend was no exception, I watched coaches and parents cheer for teams and individuals. I heard encouraging words to competitors. I watched the granddaughter of a great archer help two very young archers as they began their journey. That moment I saw the teaching from her grandfather pass down to another generation – it was beautiful. I have seen kids give up releases and share things just to help each other when it would have been easier to ignore their predicament. Let’s face it, helping your competitor may not be in your best interest at podium time. But what if this is about more than a trophy? What is character development worth? Certainly more than the $4.25 medallion they are chasing. In archery there is a belief that you are your own competition… improving your own score and doing your best matters. In reality everyone wants to win, it is a competitive sport, but this is bigger than a medal. Sometimes it’s not, unfortunately there are always those kids and parents that care only about the win, you can usually tell who those are. I run with the other crowd, the bigger group that cares about more than winning.

Changing Our World

What would happen if we handled our world like these kids do archery? What if we decided we cared more about helping each other than beating each other. You see, in my opinion, when you win so do I. When we move forward we all win. When you challenge me and help me grow we both win. What if we all decided to grow together? We could learn a lot by hanging out with the archery community. They have their bad moments too, but this weekend reminded me of the good in the world and of the good in humanity. You can’t imagine how cool it was to watch that young lady making a difference in those young lives just as someone else did hers once.

Impacting the World Around You

What if we all lived like these kids treat their competitors, imagine the difference we can make in someone else’s life. I simply cannot count the times that another archer or parent helped us on our journey. There were additional pointers, lessons, introductions to those who could help, equipment loaned, snacks and drinks on the trail… well, basically anything we needed someone shared. As a woman who knew nothing about archery I never felt alone on a range, there was always someone to offer support. Thank you archery community for supporting and encouraging.. thank you for your friendship and for your examples of the way we should be. I am so thankful for the memories we have of the great people who have touched our lives. Thank you all – you have been incredible blessings to us. I hope you were as blessed by us as we were by you. Thank you for reminding us to take care of each other… it means more than winning every single day. Thank you kids for the reminder from this weekend, caring more about helping our fellow man matters – together we all succeed.

Stepping Out of Your Comfort Zone

I am trying something new this week.  Trying new things is not always something I do particularly well.  I like to try new things if it’s something that I wanted to try. Does that make sense? I like to do new things like a new hobby, going to a new movie or learning a new skill.  This however is slightly different.  I am trying to drink more water…. and I am using a fruit infusing water bottle to do this.  Now I know that probably sounds insignificant to the world, but personal health has never been my strong suit. I have always had great friends who encouraged me to walk, run, get active, and eat healthier. Thank goodness for friends, I would’ve been lost without them. Remember Barnacles or Oars? You can read about that here, having a good support system is important. When you are venturing into uncharted waters, it is helpful to have others who are encouraging you along the way.  It occurred to me today that we all face new things each day.  Today for me it is water.  As we face new things sometimes it seems like we get stuck on issues that seem so easy for everyone else.  Easy or challenging, the process of trying new things can be a good experience for us, even if we end up not liking it.

Fruity Water Anyone?

My new thing is this fruit infusion water bottle.  I have seen these before, but I have never purchased one, because I am pretty sure that fruit does not belong in my drinking water.  However, I am doing a walking club activity­.  That is another new thing for me. Wow, I have been busy.  Anyway, one of the components to my walking activity is the fruit infusion water bottle.  When it arrived in the mail, I was disappointed, I just wanted a regular water bottle, but one that is insulated.  My daughter however was impressed, so I thought maybe I should try this.  I didn’t even have fruit to put in a water bottle.  What kind of fruit does one put in water anyway? Hmmm… well the box had ideas of lemons, limes, and berries.  Okay, I can try that.  The next trip to the store included some time in the fresh fruit section.  Lemons, limes, how about raspberries – that sounds good right?  Mmm and maybe some blueberries and kiwi? I shall try this and see how it works out.

Planning and Preparing

When you try new things, sometimes it takes a little bit more preparation than you might have anticipated. Sometimes it takes the extra trip to the grocery store or the extra learning, or just additional efforts that you didn’t anticipate as a part of the equation. Sometimes it seems like when we try new things, we just wing it, but other times when we try something new, we need the preparation, and maybe even a support system. My water bottle was not a major task but obviously I couldn’t use my fruit infused water bottle without fruit. In the mornings when I leave my house, I leave with a cup of coffee and a cup of sweet tea. I have this great friend who gifted my daughter and I some Yeti cups. Those will keep my drinks hot and cold throughout the day. Both will last me the entire day. However, I really need to reduce my caffeine and sugar intake, and I need to increase my water intake. I am an intelligent person and I know these things, yet I often choose to do nothing about it.  But here is this new water bottle, so now is a great time for changing my habits. My trip to the grocery store left me with a variety of fruit, so the next morning before work I was able to prepare my fruity water bottle along with my coffee. I started with lime because I like lime and water. It was a great choice. The next day I decided if I like lime, I wonder what raspberries and blueberries would taste like together.  They are great by the way! By the end of the day, I was drinking an increase in water and I ended the day eating my fruit that had been in the bottle.  I like the fruit after it has been in the water all day.

Lessons Learned

I’ve learned from my experiment that although I didn’t plan to do this, I’m glad I persevered with it when I wanted to quit. I kind of like my new habit. I’m drinking less sugar, I’m drinking less caffeine, and I’m increasing my water intake in a way that I’m okay with. As I drive home with my lime water tonight, I wonder what flavor I’ll come up with for tomorrow morning. It is always interesting to me how resistant I can be to change. I wonder if I’ll ever be that person who looks at thing’s new ideas as new challenges.  I don’t know, but I am glad I am that person that perseveres. It would’ve been easier to have given my water bottle to someone else, put it in the back of the shelf, or even toss it. I struggled a lot with how to put it together and make it work, I realize it should have been easy, but it was not for me.  I found that it’s hard to do ice and fruit together in these bottles. I was ready to quit, and my child gently remind me it really wasn’t that big a deal why don’t you try again. Sometimes I do think we have to move on to something else in life. But sometimes I think she’s right, why not just try again. I think I’ll take a bit of her advice and try things again. Thanks for hanging with me today, as always, I’ve enjoyed your company.  I hope you have a blessed day. Go try something new and good for you!

I Shall Have Cheesecake

Happy Birthday to me…. Thank you for stopping by to share in my birthday party! I find the celebrations change as we get older, yet I continue to celebrate. You see, I am glad I am having a birthday. I really don’t mind the age. Now, let’s be honest, I could do without all the aches and pains. And the gray hair, thank goodness for beauticians and color. But I am okay with the age. Celebrating my birthday means I was here for another trip around the sun. It means I was able to participate with my family and loved ones in all kinds of activities and events over the last 365 days. My birthday is special, I know yours is too, and yes indeed it is. Mine however, falls on the very last day of the month three years out of four. And that last year, my birthday falls on the second to the last day. Pretty cool, I know you are thinking that right now, and you are right! Most of you cannot claim that very insignificant claim to fame. That is life you know, full of lots of insignificant, yet significant to someone, events.

Birthday Traditions

My birthday is like that. At this point in my life, you would think, that I would see my birthday as just another day. But I don’t. I want to celebrate and enjoy the day. I will do nothing spectacular, but it will be significant. I think we should create significant ways to do our lives. That looks different for each of us, because what is significant to each of us is different, kind of like the kaleidoscope, always changing. This year my birthday will be a dinner with my parents. I don’t know what we will have, or even where we will eat. Their house? A restaurant? I don’t know, but I do know that I will eat with them and be very thankful of the opportunity to share my birthday dinner with them. Macaroni and cheese, loaded potato soup, steak and shrimp… I don’t care about the meal, but the people matter. That will make the event significant to me. Later, I will also get a have a dinner with my family. I hope to top it all off with a granddaughter dinner next weekend. Birthday week – that’s a pretty good idea. Perhaps I should consider this for the future. Perhaps you should too? How do you celebrate your birthday? What great family traditions do you do?

Celebrate You!

Birthdays provide opportunities for us to take a moment out of our day and celebrate each other. Our family birthday traditions have evolved. We were the people who always had a cake, presents, and a dinner for the birthday girl/boy. As we got older, somehow it occurred to some of us that not everyone likes cake. I know, odd right? I learned this lesson from one of my children, well two of the actually. I recall when my very young daughter announced that she wanted cheesecake for her birthday. Who eats cheesecake for birthdays?? Well, it was her day, so I made my first cheesecake. Years later I learned I have another child who doesn’t like cake. How can this be? He doesn’t like cake, but he loves brownies. So, birthday brownies it is. Why do we have to do cake? It is so funny to me how sometimes we do what we have always done simply because we have always done it. It is time to move past that mentality. Let’s do things because it makes sense, because we want it, maybe because it’s what you have in the cupboard, or it’s what it you can afford. But not just because we have always done it that way. I remember noticing my son had eaten no cake, and it occurred to me that it made no sense to bake or buy him a cake – he didn’t want one. It is okay for us to create new traditions in our lives. This year, I have purchased cheesecake for my birthday cake and I am kind of excited about it. I didn’t just get a cheesecake, I got the variety pack – that means everyone can chose their own slice. Pretty cool right? I love that, I love that we can grow into new things. I am always excited by growth even in areas that may seem insignificant. Because let’s face it, if you care about something it is no longer insignificant. Enjoy your day, I plan to enjoy mine. Thank you for spending part of your day with me!

My life as a Blogger

Such an interesting title for me. First off, blogging is not my life, but it sounded catchy so I went with it. Second off, if you know me, it is kind of amazing that I blog. Blogging became an ‘in’ thing and so many of my friends picked it up and ran with it. I however did not, for no particular reason, but I just did not explore blogging. It may have had something to do with the single parenting, graduate school, full time working mom role I found myself in. Yeah, probably, lets face it, at that point there really wasn’t time for blogging.

Do we have time for dreams?

Time? Is there time for blogging now? Perhaps, there is certainly more available than during the above mentioned season of my life. I have picked up blogging as I am exploring an area of my life that I have kept hidden away in a closet upstairs. You know the one, the closet where your dreams are? Upstairs, way at the end of the hall behind the pile of boxes. Some dreams are too close to the heart to even share. And yet, I have no idea why? Why do we put our dreams up and away? Why are they not out and talked about? Why not go upstairs, get that dream out and tell others about it? Better yet, build a roadmap towards the accomplishment of the dream!

Dust off your dreams

Now that would be a great thought. You know, develop a goal towards a dream rather than leaving the dream dormant in the upstairs closet. Yes, I think I shall do that! Well, actually, I already did that… dusted off that dream and got it out. That is, in fact, what you are reading about today. I want to write. I love to read! I think I was the only child in America that read so much she got in trouble for it, seriously really did. True story, there was a lot of reading going on back then! So, as much as I love to read, I have always thought, I would like to write. And here I sit…. beginning on that journey.

I am dusting off my dreams, join me?

I have worked with families and children throughout my career, and am at a point where I would like to write some children’s books that promote social and emotional learning, learning geared towards helping our children as they grow into well-rounded adults. So I have dusted off that childhood goal of wanting to write a book. I am not sure I ever thought it would be a reality. Do you have some of those, dreams you didn’t dare to think might actually materialize? Maybe they can, maybe you can dust off your dreams and begin to implement some steps towards them.

Learning new steps

That is part of why I blog. I started blogging in an effort to begin writing. At the same time, I have started writing a series of children’s books that will promote social and emotional learning. I began these processes only a few months ago. It seems like yesterday, and yet so long ago. I am amazed at the things I have learned since I began this process. I did not know what SEO meant, do you know what SEO is? Apparently, if you are going to do things online, this is a good thing to know. I have since learned that SEO stands for search engine optimization, and it is something that you want to excel in. As search engines pick up your content (in this case my blog) that process further helps to promote the content. I have learned little things like how important it is to include headings, pictures and links help to promote the SEO.

My journey

I started writing simply because I wanted to dust off my goal. I picked this goal up once in 1990 as a coping skill, and I laid it back down and had not picked it back up since. However with some inspiration and some encouragement, I picked my goal back up in the end of 2020. I am beyond thankful for those of you who have encouraged me to share my dreams and to go get them. I have to admit, I have learned things in this process that I did not anticipate, and I am also thankful for that. Learning is a process I enjoy. Sharing it with you is even bigger enjoyment. I hope these articles provide a smile to your face and a feeling of ‘we are not in this alone’ to your soul – because we are not. I selected the title A Kaleidoscope Life, because that is what life is to me, one small turn and everything looks different. I added the photos because I have recently renewed a love affair with the camera. I have found new ways to embrace the photography process and I like the art I am creating – this is indeed a feeling I enjoy! This process has been one that I have personally benefited from, I hope you can say the same, I hope you see benefit in the readings of my writings. I hope you find support, encouragement and challenge in the words you read here. What dreams are you going to dust off? What will the first steps be for you in moving towards your goals?

Building dreams and setting goals

My photos this week were made from a photo of a frozen soap bubble. Circumstances have to be right to get a soap bubble to freeze, this was a new task for me. I learned it takes effort and perseverance to make this happen, as the bubble freezes frost patterns emerge on the bubble. I think dreams and goals take that too – effort and perseverance. A friend told me this frozen soap bubble (the original is below, it is the last photo) looks other worldly – I think dreams can feel like that – other worldly and unattainable. Dreams move us forward towards other things, find a dream and work towards it. Your dream may change along the way, but dreams are good for us – dreams and goals give us things to work towards. Enjoy the process! Change is always a possibility, live your Kaleidoscope Life to the fullest, and thank for spending part of your day with me.

Barnacles or Oars?

Barnacles or Oars? That seems like a funny question don’t you think? First off, it is finally up to 36 degrees here in Tennessee, so who in the world would be thinking about water anyway. The only water I thought about today was ice and snow as I watched it melt.  I would bet you think question should have been gas or electric… heat that is! Heat is indeed an issue for most of us right now, but oddly enough so is barnacles or oars. As a matter of fact, barnacles or oars should be a question for all of us all of them time. I can hear you now, “Ok, Cindy, what is the point here?”  As you probably already know from reading my ‘about’ section, I work as a School Counselor, in that work I find myself asking my students questions like this.  I frequently use examples and images to help the students relate to what we are talking about, but also to give them a visual image for later.  Barnacles and oars provides a visualization regarding the individuals in our life.

Social Influences

I have always been struck with the social influences that individuals often select in their lives.  It is important to surround ourselves with people who want the best for us and who are willing to work to help us get there, or at least, at a minimum support our efforts to move towards better.  But then there are those individuals who don’t help us move forward, who don’t encourage us or support us, but in fact, who usually make efforts to pull us back to where we were.  It is my belief, that sometimes people don’t want you to do better.  That there are people who want you to fail.  I think sometimes it makes them feel better.

Making Positive Changes

I know that sounds like a crazy thought, but follow me here. Remember, a couple of weeks ago when we talked about Forward Momentum, you can read more about that here. Have you ever tried to implement something new in your life?   Maybe you wanted to quit drinking alcohol, quit smoking, lose weight, go to church, start working out, control your shopping and spending habits, read more, or go back to school.  Often times, when people try to implement life altering changes they hope for the support of those around them.  But you see, your friends didn’t want to make the change – you did.  “Yes, Cindy, I understand, but they are my friends, they will support me.”  Yeah, I hear you, but I would challenge you to understand that there is a difference between a friend and someone you do things with.  And sometimes, those people you do things with, well, they want to keep doing those things that you are trying to walk away from. 

Influences

Have you ever spent any time thinking about the influences in your life?  Who is a part of your life and why have you selected those individuals to participate in your life?  So many times, we have great people surrounding our lives, but sometimes we surround ourselves with people that are not encouraging us, supporting us, and helping us to move forward in our lives.  I am not suggesting you remove everyone from your life, rather that you think about who is in your life and why?  And who’s life are you in, and what do you offer them?  

So, Barnacles or Oars?

So, sometimes, you may find that you have to handle that friendship in a new way.  Will you have to walk away?  Maybe, sometimes you do.  Other times you simply need a new awareness and someone to support you in your choices.  It is not easy to implement change in your life, and sometimes you need help.  I know I do. I am so beyond thankful for the times in my life when friends stood beside me and helped motivate me to do better.  I also remember times that I felt I stood alone. I later learned I was not alone, but it was a life lesson.  So, the question I ask my students when we talk about social influences is this:  Barnacles or Oars?  If you were in a canoe trying to cross a lake would you prefer barnacles, something that attaches itself to you but offers you nothing?  Or would prefer oars, something that helps to propel you towards your goal?  As for me, I have had plenty of barnacles in my life, I’m in the market for oars.  I don’t believe you can have too many oars in your life.  Go find some more oars in your life, we all need more oars!


Making Snow Days Memories

There is an ice storm that has gone through Central Tennessee where I live, and I understand it will be followed by a snow storm so life is a little different today than it was this time last week. Snow and ice always remind me of my youth. For me snow days mean family fun days. Well, they always did when I was growing up anyway. I am pretty sure they also meant family work days, but for some reason I recall the fun days more than the work days. Growing up in Nebraska, I am certain there was plenty of work. We had animals, and they need to be cared for in the heat, cold, snow, and ice. There is nothing like chipping the ice for the animals to have water in a Nebraska winter… can you say cold? Then, of course, there would have been walks that needed cleaned and a driveway to clean. Mom was a nurse, and hospitals don’t call off when there is snow. I am sure there was plenty to do. But that is not what I recall, I am also certain that my recollections have a great deal to do with how life was presented to me, mom was good at creating fun from nothings.

Childhood Memories

I recall playing in the snow until your nose and fingers were so cold you couldn’t stand it. We would come in after our gloves, coat, hat and boots are soaking wet and lay them on a chair in front of the wood burning fireplace. You know, the fireplace full of the wood you helped haul earlier with the fire that you helped build – I’m telling you there was plenty of family work going on. And we could always expect to go upstairs to hot chocolate and puzzles. I haven’t a clue why, but I seem to recall that we would have had a puzzle going for snow days. It would not be long until we were ready to go back out again, usually before our outer wear was dry, but mom would always find us another set. There were snowballs to be thrown and snow forts to build. We once built an igloo by the side of the house, crazy right? Nope, just a good old Nebraska snow drift. Winter fun at it’s finest.

Memory Makers

As a mom, I look at those days with a little bit of amazement. How in the world did my parents always make it look so easy? Have you ever noticed the work that goes into being a parent? Have you ever stopped to appreciate your own parents? I have not done that nearly enough. Mom and dad, I appreciate you, beyond words. (They will read this, usually before you do, I am eternally grateful for you both.) What about yourself, have you stopped and thought “today was a good day, I did alright?” Sometimes it feels like we strive for perfection and are willing to accept nothing short of that. I am all for striving for improvement, but perfection? Nope, not going to hit it and it is not my goal. Happiness, growth, contentment, and love those are some of my goals.

Making Memories Today

What about you? What are you working towards and how are you doing on it? I hope your days are similar to my childhood snow days were: sure there was work, but there was fun too and the fun outweighed the work. My memories are of the fun. Take some time today and create some fun memories for yourself and your family. Go out and play, get some pictures, slide in the grass, open the curtain and look at the beauty, play a game, build a puzzle, and have some hot chocolate. Just enjoy your family. Later, when life moves on you will be glad you did. For today, stay warm and bundle up if you go outside. I think it’s time for some hot chocolate over here. Thanks for spending part of your day with me. Be blessed friends.

Taking Care of You!

Holiday Emotions

Friends, this is a “Special Holiday Edition,” bear with me at this edition is a little longer than most, I find that sometimes holidays can be challenging and wanted to address some of those challenges. Holiday months come with a mixed bag of emotions. For many, days like Valentine’s Day have no emotional significance, those people will simply ignore the day and go on. For others the day is filled with happy anticipation, and still others holidays like this are filled with overwhelming emotions. If you are in that last category, please know you are not alone. Our society does not talk about this enough, but often times holidays are emotional and depressing, but remember you are not alone. Whatever holiday it is that gives you grief, you are not alone. And the best part is that you can feel better, I hope this article helps guide you in that direction.

Valentine’s Day

February has long been considered a month of love. At exactly the half way point, well for 3 out of 4 years anyway it is exactly the half way point, we celebrate Valentine’s Day. For that day, as with many other holidays, we will we celebrate the day with some of the significant people in our lives. I know it looks different this year, and I wish that were not the case, but life is what it is and Valentine’s Day, like so many other days looks different. Usually school children make really creative mailboxes and valentines for their classmates, parents frequently make purchases for their children, and many will treat their significant other by taking them out to eat, or bring them chocolates, flowers, and gifts. Awe…. what a nice day to celebrate love. But for some it’s not. What did you say? I said that for some Valentine’s Day is not the wonderful day full of love, hugs and kisses. For some, it’s a day of grief, sadness, and frustrations. Like Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Christmas and birthdays, for some these holidays are overwhelming.

Holiday Grief

So many people are quietly suffering on days like this–days that society considers to be celebratory. Individuals who are grieving the death of someone do not easily embrace days like this. Likewise for those who are estranged from someone important to them. That may be a spouse, child, parent, or old friend. Whoever it is, it hurts. Holidays are often difficult days for individuals and yet, it is a holiday so there is pressure to fake happiness and not discuss grief with others. Let’s be real, no one really wants to be around a gloomy Gus on a holiday right? Wrong! When you have loss, you also have others that want to share in that journey with you, you are not alone. And you can feel better, it may be slow and it may take a while, but you can feel better.

Holiday Self-Care Plan

“But I feel alone, Cindy, I feel alone.” I hear you, and so will the others around you. The reality is that when I say people care, people do. They may not know what to say or do, but they do care. But what can you do; what can you do to feel better? I am so glad you asked, because I do have some ideas for you. It is not enough to say “feel better”, frequently feeling better takes action. So here are some ideas for you when holidays like this arrive and are more than you can take emotionally:

  1. Know that feeling is ok. It is ok to be sad, it is ok to feel alone, it is ok to be angry, it is ok to cry. It is ok to feel. But also know that we all need skills and strategies to help work towards feeling better. Being healthy and feeling good is the goal.
  2. Plan an activity for yourself. How about something special you would enjoy doing for yourself or with a couple of friends? You like music? Then plan a trip to a music store and see some instruments, maybe go buy a new CD, or find an online concert. Personally, when I am at a loss I like to go to one of those little stores where you paint ceramics. It’s not usually something I do and it’s a treat for me, so it gets my mind off of things. Sometimes just walking in the mall feels good, when it’s warmer, I prefer walking in the park or even on the neighborhood streets. I like to take pictures, I think of it as art and I like to try new concepts. Even coloring feels good. So does reading a good book. It takes my mind off of things when life is overwhelming, and it feels good to create something.
  3. If you want to eat out for the holiday, might I suggest not going to those date night restaurants on the 14th. If there is a place that you enjoy but causes sadness when you go there, maybe skip that place on the day in question, you can always go back later when your feelings are not quiet so intense.
  4. Phone a friend! You know the phrase, call a friend as a lifeline. If that friend does not answer, call another friend. Keep it up until one does. Talk to a person, even if you do not want to talk about your sadness. Just talking is helpful.
  5. Physical activity is good. It is good for a daily activity, but it is also good for times like this. Go for a walk, find a treadmill, go for a swim. Let your body heal itself, let your mind and your body gain strength from the endorphins that are released when you exercise. True story, I don’t understand all of the science of this, but I know that it works. Try it out.
  6. Grab a notebook and a pen and begin to journal your thoughts. Sometimes you feel like you cannot share your thoughts with others, but you can always share them with yourself. Writing to your self sometimes helps you figure out exactly what it is you feel.
  7. Create a plan… and put it into play. Chose some things that will help you feel better and begin those steps. Sometimes in life one of those steps is to consider counseling, sometimes even medication, but all of the time one of steps is taking care of you. Self care is important, create a plan to take care of yourself.
Always, Always, Always… Take Care of You!

You matter! I matter! We all matter! Seriously, we all matter and that means we have to take care of ourselves. There are times in life when we feel unable to maintain self care, when we are too sad, too tired, too depressed, too overwhelmed, or too frustrated. Those are the times we call on others to help us. It is ok to ask for help, trust me, this one I know, I have asked many times. Sometimes it’s a friend over the phone from miles away, other times it’s a meal with my parents, or dinner with my husband, a drive with one of the kids, bending the ear of a colleague at work, or even the neighbor who doesn’t even know how significant it was that they listened to me talking about my dogs. It feels good to not feel alone, and I don’t have to tell you how alone I am, and I don’t have to talk to you about my intense grief or feeling of helplessness or failure. But if I start a conversation and I feel less alone, I begin, for that moment to feel better. And the next day I do the same thing and the next day and the next. Create a plan to take care of you. Use some of my ideas, add in some things that you do, but create a plan. Write it down, sometimes when life is a lot writing it down and having a checklist is helpful. As February winds to a close know that you are not alone, in a world full of people we do not have to be alone. Find joy in the day and in the month regardless of who you spend the holidays with and call someone and keep calling someone until someone listens. You are worth it, take care of you. Thank you for hanging out with me today!

Tired of Traveling?

I just don’t want to. I know I need to, but I don’t want to. Every. Single. Day. There is a new request, that usually feels more like a demand, for me. There are so many expectations that sometimes I find it beyond challenging to keep up with them. Have you ever felt like that? Like it might be more than you can do just to make it through the day? Sometimes maybe it feels like everyone else is coasting and you can’t seem to climb the hill in front of you. Sometimes when you look up it feels like there is just more hill than you can even see. Just writing that makes me tired.

The Hill

Today we drove to visit one of our kids for supper. One the way there we drove to the top of a beautiful hill. It was interstate all the way, and looking back in the rearview mirror the view was stunning. My husband was driving so he had to focus on looking forward, but I was entranced with the sun going down in my rearview mirror. The higher we climbed the prettier the view. Then it occurred to me to look forward, and wow we were going slow. The speed limit was 70, which usually means most people are driving at a speed closer to 80 than to 70. However, at this moment, when I looked at the speedometer I was surprised, we were going 50. He never drives 50 on the interstate unless he has to. I noticed we are in the passing lane, however we were following a semi truck, and that truck was passing another semi truck. I am the daughter, granddaughter, mother, aunt and niece of truck drivers, I have a great deal of respect for the profession. They work hard at essential jobs and are frequently underappreciated. However, at that moment in time, I really wished this guy would complete passing the other truck and get back in the ‘slow’ lane. Nope, it was not going to happen! We, us and the millions, ok maybe seven, cars behind us were slowing down even more as the two semis chugged up the hill. My dad used to refer to these events as ‘rolling roadblocks’, you can drive, but the road is blocked and you can’t pass until someone moves. On this particular evening my truck driving friends were still moving slow, obviously, the crest of those hills were a lot for these two trucks. Slowly, and I mean slowly, they crept to the top. As we neared the crest, we were down to almost 35 miles an hour. I believe those trucks were going as fast as they could up that mountain, it was a long, slow grade.

My Hills

I am that truck sometimes, it is all I can do to make it up the mountain. I am probably the one in the passing lane. I am struggling and you are all waiting on me to get it together. Not for any particular reason, you just want me to get it together and get out of your way. Remember I am the semi truck in the passing lane, you want me to move over so you can go on about your way. As we reach the crest I will move over with a sigh of relief, I am so glad I am no longer holding you back, and you can go on about your way. I can tell that life is just easier for you than it is for me, it seems we often think that you know. I will struggle up the next hill to and you will be long gone down the interstate on your smooth, trouble free journey.

Our Hills

But wait, will we ever be together? Will we ever just get to stop and rest together? Of course we can. Remember, just a slight turn of the kaleidoscope the view changes. We can ride together, we can even help each other out. You know the hills and the valleys in our lives are better together. After all, you may have passed me as I slowly move up a particular hill in my life, but we will meet again. And when we do, I can help you on your journey, just like you can me on mine. I am to thankful for people who help along the way. It makes the trip more enjoyable, even when we get stuck going up a hill or broken down in a valley. Look up, look around, take it all in. Sometimes, we have to look around to find something good to hold onto as we chug up life’s mountains. And always look around, take a minute and take in the experiences of life, life has awesome views. Remember, on my journey I saw the most beautiful sunset filled with pinks, oranges, and blues in the rearview mirror. Be well my friends, and enjoy the view. Find something good in your day today. Thank you for spending part of your day with me.

A Kaleidoscope Life Photos

One more thing, I have been asked to show some of the photos used in my blog. Today I have used several variations of the same photo. The picture was the shot of my rear view mirror. I use four of those to create one layer of the kaleidoscope photo, then I created four layers. So, in essence the photo you see is made of 16 images of the same photo. The following four kaleidoscopes are the same image, but they are created individually at the very last step to create a slightly different look. If you look closely you can even see the “images are closer than they appear” lettering from the mirror. I hope you enjoy the images as much as I enjoy creating them.