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Thursday, July 28, 2011

LOVE

My parents were the icons of love with their unconditional dedication and devotion. They greeted one another with hugs and kisses whether they were coming or going. They even held hands while out in public! We never witnessed them fight or show any disdain or disrespect towards one another. In fact, it wasn't until we were adults that we learned about my father's passive-aggressive approach to my mother when he disagreed with her. 


Unlike most homes, my mother was the one who was just a little bit strict while my father was easy going and non authoritative. So, when my mother would occasionally ground my little sisters and he would disagree, no one would know. My sisters thought he was just a bit absent minded when they would ask him if they could go out at times which just happened to coincide with my mother being gone for the day. My father would allow them and coincidentally ask them to be home 10 minutes before my mother was expected home. And so this went on throughout their teen years. He loved my mother but didn't agree with some of her decisions. Instead of showing any disrespect in front of the kids or towards her, he just played dumb. Kind of genius-like! 


I longed for their compassionate kind of love and looked in all the wrong places for a real long time...20 years to be exact. Love has to be shown not just stated to be real. If someone tells you he/she loves you and then abuses you, hurts you, cheats on you, etc., well, that is just not true love. Abusive spouses/friends often will woo their significant other back into their lives by telling the person how much they love them. The actions state otherwise. Everyone deserves to truly feel loved and to have someone to love. Once you have that in your life, WOW, what a life you will have!


My husband reminds me a lot of my mother with his compassion, hugs and constant verbal reminders that he loves me. I thank God every day for such a warm, loving man in my life. It took a lot of lessons to get here, but once I got here, I embraced the relationship whole-heartedly. 


Kids need to be exposed to loving relationships. After all, kids learn what they live. We all know this. Are you role modeling a loving relationship in front of your kids? Do you deal with your disagreements behind closed doors? Do you show respect towards one another no matter what underlying stresses you are facing? What can you do to better role model unconditional love to your children?

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

LAUGH!

Laugh! Laugh often! Laugh at silly things! Watch a comedy before you go to bed or before you start your day. Read a joke each day (you can have them sent to your email or can buy a 365 day calendar with funny daily whims). I have one on my desk that I read and laugh to daily! Just laugh! Laughing releases endorphins which are mood enhancers!

No matter how tough, depressing or upsetting life might be right now, you have to find something to laugh about. During the 8 years that my mother was sick, my three sisters and I would try to stay amused and humored through some of the darkest times. Yes, we were sad and scared and upset with the circumstances, but they were out of our control, so humor was one way of getting through it. We had a Brittany Spears song that reminded us of our mother's circumstances. Any time one of us would hear the song, we would call a sibling and play it to them or  their voicemail and just laugh. It was one way in which we coped. We could cry and laugh at the same time.

When my mother finally passed away my family was at the back of the church ready to process in with her casket. The priest blessed my mother with a sign of the cross with the holy water. Unfortunately, in doing so, he soaked my one sister. Mistakenly, he then handed the water to that sister who made the sign of the cross and inadvertently soaked another sister. And so this went on all the way around the casket with all four daughters and my father soaking each other with the holy water, and of course, laughing. Even the priests were laughing. One stepped away and was doubled over trying to gain his composure.  My mother had a good sense of humor so we were sure she was laughing in spirit with us.

Somehow, in the darkest moments, you have to find something that makes you laugh! Laughter can help you get through the tough times and help you to be resilient to the obstacles you are facing!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

BELIEVE

"Believe." That word is posted throughout our home. It is on wall artwork, pillows, candles, plaques, shelf decorations, blankets and Christmas ornaments. In any room in our home, you will find the word "Believe!" This is the word that helped my husband through his divorce after his wife left him many years ago.

He was in the kitchen fighting tears looking out the kitchen window asking the question, "Why?" Randomly, his eight year old daughter asked from the other room, "You know what one of my spelling words is this week?" Through tears, he responded, "No, what is it?" She said, "Believe. B-E-L-I-E-V-E. Believe."

From that point on, "Believe" was my husband's mantra. He got through his divorce, remarried and raised two great kids while balancing his successful business. Even a few years ago when his company fell victim to the recession, he kept on believing that things would get better and they did.

You have to believe that life can and will get better no matter what your circumstance.   Believe in your ability. Believe in your strength to get through difficult situations. Believe in a better life. Believe in a happy future. It is kind of like the old saying, "Whether you think you can or think you can't, you are right!" Believe you can!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

DREAM!

One of the factors for being resilient is having a DREAM. You have to visualize your future. Where do you want to be? How do you plan to get there? What resources do you need to get there? What obstacles are in your way and how can you overcome them?

Many years ago, at a low point in my life, I often dreamed and even daydreamed of a better life.  I would take long bike rides and walks dreaming of the good life. Mine was not traumatic or horrible, I just wasn't in a good place or a good relationship and wanted better. I mainly wanted a caring, loving husband.  I visualized myself living in a nice neighborhood with kids and this special husband. From the beginning of my dream, I never dreamed of having my own children, they were always going to be step children or foster children whom I could help. Anytime I found myself down about my present life, I drifted away in my dream. That dream got me through some tough times and rough relationships!

 A few years ago I was bike riding in my neighborhood and it hit me. I was living that dream I had years before!  I literally almost fell off my bike when I saw the home that I dreamed about  just a few blocks from my present home. I was (still am) married to the most loving, caring and giving man. He has blessed me with two step children who are now young adults. I am blessed. I am grateful. I am in a much better place because I never gave up on my DREAM!!!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Do you have what it takes to be resilient?

Life comes at you fast. Some people were faced with adversity at a young age and some adults have not faced any major obstacles or issues....yet.   Regardless of when your time comes for this thing called life, you have to be ready! If you were already hit by it, maybe through abuse, loss, disease or divorce, I hope you were able to recover and move forward successfully.

So, what made you resilient? How were you able to rebound from the incident(s)? Did you have outlets like music or sports that allowed you to RELAX? Did you have a DREAM that you would someday be something big and important? Did you BELIEVE that things would get better at some point? Did you have at least one person in your life that your truly felt LOVED you and whom you loved? Were you still able to LAUGH & find humor in the funny things in life despite the sad or hurtful experiences you had? Those were the ingredients for resiliency.

If you were lacking any of those resiliency factors, you may still be struggling with whatever issue you faced. It's never too late to attain these factors, though and get through life a little happier!!Stay tuned!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Resiliency in families

         How do two children from the same abusive family grow up so differently: one resilient, one not-so-much? As a counselor who has worked with students  from  a specific part of the alphabet for the past 11 years, I have met many siblings who have faced the same adversities, yet turned out so differently.
         I had a young girl, I'll call Mary, who was the ideal teenager. She was so full of life, loved by her peers and teachers and very actively involved in her school. She was the poster-child for being "well-rounded!" On top of balancing band, orchestra, dance and theater, she maintained about a 4.4 GPA with as many honors and Advanced Placement courses she could possibly take. I would see her late after school while still at drama practice and see her first thing in the morning at band or dance practice.  I often thought what a great upbringing she must have had given her personality and livelihood.




Her younger sister, I'll call Carey, entered high school when Mary was a Junior. She was gothic, depressed, uninvolved in school activities and struggled academically with just the basic curriculum. I spent a lot of time with this young lady. I learned of her abusive father who was an alcoholic and her difficult mother who was nothing less than miserable.

Both girls: Same parents-different outcomes. 

Mary had a DREAM to be a musician, Carey had no DREAM, no future plans, no desire to go to college.
Mary BELIEVED in her ability to succeed no matter what the challenge. Carey did not BELIEVE in herself and in fact compared herself to her more successful sister.
Mary RELAXED with her music and dance and Carey was an angry young lady who didn't even make time to RELAX.
Mary LAUGHED  with her variety of friends while Carey was grim and sad and didn't crack a smile, let alone, LAUGH.
Mary had a lot of peers and staff who really LOVED her. Carey did not feel LOVE from her parents and had few friends she could rely on, let alone feel loved.

Two children. Two years apart. Two dysfunctional  parents. Two different outcomes.

Resiliency can make or break you.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Mind Over Matter (M.O.M.) Intro

Hi Everyone,

I just wanted to introduce my new blog: Mind Over Matter. This blog focuses on  resiliency and the children's books I have written (with the help of a great team) to help kids become resilient.
     I specialized in researching what makes children  resilient, (able to rebound despite adversity), while pursuing my ED.S. degree and planned on further researching HOW to help a child become resilient at the doctorate level. Unfortunately, I had begun working at a new district where I was contractually unable to take a sabbatical until my 5th year in the district, at which  point my credits were no longer valid towards the PhD.
     Still having the interest and drive to help children become resilient, I decided to write childrens' books which would also serve as motivational decorations for their bedroom or playroom. The books, which are aimed for pre-schoolers, are titled: Believe; Laugh; Relax; Love; and, Dream.
     My niece Jackie Kennedy and I initially brainstormed the contents of the books. My friend Dawn Luce believed in my idea and set me up with her friend, Jan Hill, a very talented and whimsical artist. This past Spring & Summer we brainstormed, revisited and refined the pages. Many of my nieces, nephews and friends have given us great input throughout the  process. My friend and colleague, Kim Weber, eagerly joined the team and became our typesetter. Presently, we are doing the finishing touches on the book, "Relax."
     Through much deliberation, I came up with the name for these books: M.O.M. Mind Over Matter. This title certainly describes the books and the ability to be resilient, Also, the acronym, M.O.M. brings my late mother into the making. She was my inspiration and the reason I am resilient.
     Our goal is to have all 5 books on the market before the holidays of this year (2011). They will be sold individually or as a set. My ultimate goal is to create the same type of books for elementary students and teenagers.  (Shhh. I haven't quite told the team about this part yet!)