Figuring Out Kids

This past Saturday, I had the great luck to run into a sweet little girl at a birthday party. She was three or four, shy, and just as cute as a button. She was obviously completely out of her element, understanding that she and her sister were just their Dad's tag-alongs for the evening. There were no other kids to play with, and though there were three well-mannered dogs, these girls weren't used to dogs. It was just them.

(Bill Frazzetto, http://www.flickr.com/photos/bfraz/11768748/)

At one point, I did my best to talk to her. And that best lasted, um, two minutes. It was just terrible. I'm not sure if I don't know how to connect to children or she was perhaps particularly shy, but I wasn't getting anywhere with her. She had a little action figure of Daphne from Scooby Doo that she handed me. And she had some Disney princess that I couldn't name and wasn't permitted to know. Now that I think on it, perhaps it was Belle? The point is this: at what time do you learn how to converse with little girls to where they'll talk back to you?

While you ponder that gem, let me share this one as well: A great story on how to talk to little girls, after you've learned to talk with them at all. This is a great perspective on how to teach a little girl that she matters, that her opinion matters, that what she does matters as opposed to who she is, how her hair looks or what she's wearing . . . which all little girls carry with them through adolescence into adulthood.

While we're on the subject of raising children the correct way, this is most certainly not the right way to do it. The cheating scandal from Atlanta has just taught a generation of children (who were in those classes at that time) that if it's too hard, just look for the easy way out.

A lot of conversation has been had about what will happen to the teachers and administrators who willfully or complicity participated in the scandal. But what about the conversation about what happens to the children who really didn't pass those tests? What about the children who really should still be in the second grade, but are now in the eighth? What about the kids who have failed at basic educational skills for years, but were failed by those who needed to have their best interests at heart?

Of course, any conversation about student engagement and participation can't be had without thinking of the other participants: the parents. Where are the parents who knew their kid shouldn't be doing that well? Are they that naive? Were they all so hopeful that one day their kid would suddenly become brilliant, that when it happened, they didn't question it at all? Or are all of the parents of the cheated kids just out of touch and don't care?

I'm sure I don't know the answers to those questions and I'm sure each circumstance is different and unique, but I'd like to think that even mildly-engaged parents of under-performing students would have seen something was wrong.

What are your thoughts? Your suggestions on how to talk to little girls? Or the best questions to help them understand their self-worth? Or your thoughts on the Atlanta cheating scandal?


The Power of Positive Thinking

It's cliched, trite and overused, this phrase. It's been the title of a popular book by Norman Vincent Peale. And it's true.

In the June 2011 newsletter from the Center for Creative Leadership, there's an article entitled, "You Are What You Think You Are."It does a great job of reinforcing this truism and clearly pointing out ways to combat negative thoughts.

One thing this article reminded me about was the need to have a mantra, to literally tell yourself over and over and over and over again one particular thing that is essential for you believe about yourself. For me, that mantra is "Strong. Intelligent. Beautiful." I've tried to make it a part of my personal brand.

Personal branding, I think, comes straight from understanding the concept of positive self-talk. Personal branding, in it's most basic form, is perhaps the intersection of the best understanding of yourself and how you want to be perceived by others. It's the place where self-esteem is permitted, nay, encouraged to grow.

At the beginning of personal branding, you have your benchmark. Continually participating in positive self-talk can and will help move you from your benchmark and in the direction of your ultimate personal brand.

How do you practice the power of positive thinking? Have you considered how this can work for you in relation to your personal brand?


And Don't Forget to Be Happy

For a number of years, I've struggled with understanding happiness: how to be happy, specifically; that while you can be very happy, there's a definite difference between passive and active happiness; and, understanding that happiness is not just innate and automatic most of the time.

That's a hard realization, I've discovered: finding out that once things are "set" (whatever "set" may be for you), happiness isn't automatically included. Happiness, it turns out, is not part of the "set" package. It's a value-add that you actually have to decide on "purchasing." It's like some insurance; the insurance can be a great idea and is sometimes a life-saver, but is not automatically included.

And you do have to "purchase" happiness, in a sense. You have to want it, and in wanting it, you have to work towards it. Since happiness isn't automatic and won't just happen, you have to learn, through trial, what really makes you happy.

And then, you have to Do. Those. Things.

You're essentially "purchasing" your happiness: putting time and energy into things that you know will pay off handsomely when it comes to your mental and physical health. Life will be better if you try to be happy, even if it seems to be terrible right now.

Happiness, it turns out, is a lot like relationships. Or plants. Or pets. Or, I imagine, kids. You have to nurture happiness to have enough of it or . . . realize one day that you miss it. At least that void is fixed easily enough. (One caveat: mental illness is a completely different beast; thus and such, the rules for returning to true happiness are completely different--and this blog post will not address those.)

And so, I'm going to revisit a tried and true list of things that make me happy and enjoy my evening with the wonderful man in my life, another glass of wine, a book and a great little, purring fuzzball. And remember to "purchase" my happy.


The Blessings of Those Gone Before

When I started this blog years ago, one of the ways that I found to generate content was to share emails that my Grandma Tawanka had written me while I was in college. Yes, I was in college a good number of years ago--about 13 years to be exact. And 13+ years ago, the Internet was still in it's infancy. Email, while I was in undergrad at UNC-CH, was still checked with a dial-up Unix program. The idea of a user-friendly interface was a strange and evolving idea, but had to be done, because not everyone could remember that ^X was Cut and ^V was Paste. But, I digress.

Realizing that I had some blog momentum that I'd started building last week, I needed to post something to keep it going. And I thought I'd return to that old crutch: sharing my Grandmother's wisdom. Now, it's not that I took that wisdom for granted; in fact, many people have told me over the years how wonderful and what a blessing it was that I shared those thoughts. It's just that it became awfully easy for me to pull out one of Grandma's thoughts, instead of thinking up my own topic.

So, as I navigated to the files where I keep Grandma's emails, I began to realize something had happened. That something was that I had effectively posted all of Grandma's emails before my blog fell off a cliff into utter oblivion.

And . . . well, that's just tearing me apart. Although I loved re-reading and sharing her emails, not having them to read and savor as I format them and get them ready for you to read means that she's gone once again. And though we were never terribly close (we lived on different coasts of this great country, you see), I LOVED getting those emails from her. Really, at that time, no one else I knew had a Grandma who would email them. It made me realize how special I was to her.

So, though I'm sad that I don't have any more words of wisdom to share with you from my Grandma, I hope you'll look through the blog for the posts tagged with "Grandma's Thoughts" and find one that you like.

Because they're all there. And I hope you, too, will take a blessing from those who have gone before us.


Has Facebook Lost Its Finesse?

In Toastmasters this evening, a very interesting theory was postulated in one of the speeches: Facebook has lost it's finesse for those long-term, bleeding edge adopters.

Those who were once permitted Facebook use because they had the use of a .edu email address in bygone years may have grown weary of Facebook and its uses. Those who once posted their class schedules and their one measly photo, now may have lost interest in the social media platform that has become so ubiquitous, so popular, so prevalent, so . . . bourgeois.

(Source: Lucius Beebe Memorial Library's Photostream)

True enough that Facebook has no exclusivity any longer. Where one once had to be a student or a professor at an educational institution--which insinuates that you were intelligent and computer savvy in the days when computer savvy was still rare--Facebook is now a veritable mall of social networking. Anyone, from age 13 up, is "permitted" to have a Facebook account. Anyone. The quiet nerd. The outgoing socialite. The popular and unpopular alike. The rich and the poor and everyone in between. (I have it on good authority that the most visited website at our public library is Facebook.)

This theory is definitely one that has given me pause. I still find value in Facebook. Heck, my family seems to only know how to communicate through Facebook (but hey, it works . . .). And it still can share the richness of life: because of Facebook's immediacy and users seeming lack of inhibition in posting (even me - because we forget about the extra 250 people we friended, thinking only of maybe even 10), we get genuine, raw emotion. We get videos of our far away friends doing . . . whatever they may be doing. We get photos of their significant life events, the ones they're so excited about that they want *almost* everyone to know about.

Perhaps for those original Facebookers, something is lost. IMHO, I think that loss has been a great boon to everyone else, however.

Tell me: what do you think? Has Facebook lost its finesse for you?


Happy Brithday, America!

For me, the fourth of July is a time to reflect on where this country has been and how far we've come--also known as understanding and appreciating the history of this great country.

Now, I'm not much of a history buff. In fact, I don't think anyone would ever use the word "buff" in a sentence with the word "history" and a reference to me. I will say that history has become more interesting and more important to me as I've grown, although I don't think I'll ever actively seek out more history to read or watch.

Well, let me take that back. Perhaps I will. History is, after all, a story. And I do like a good story, be it nonfiction or fiction. Indeed, I realize that I've been seeking out increasing amounts of history in my life: my husband and I went to Washington, D.C. for vacation this year, where you simply cannot escape the history of this great nation. I've found that I like to read well-written biographies or autobiographies, and film really conveys the intense emotions found in history much better than other mediums.

Most recently, we watched Gettysburg. Or, more correctly, we finished Gettysburg (it is quite a lengthy movie). As Jeffrey points out, the director is and was a neophyte when he made this film, but what makes it great is the director's love of Civil War history.

You get to see that the soliders had no time to grieve; they had to fight to stay alive. You don't feel the hunger of the soldiers, but you hear their commander ask over and over again for rations for his troops, so you know they're probably starving. You see the anguish and stress that General Lee was under in trying to plan an attack, as well as the hope in his face as he watches his troops advance on the field of battle. You see the myriad of troops march across the field, ultimately to their deaths . . . and you feel the fear, but you also feel their strong resolve.

And, at the end of the battle, you get to see the pain and torment of war. You understand that those who survived, those very brave men on both sides, will never be able to banish from their minds what they had seen that day, much less any of what they'd seen in the days, weeks, months and years before.

And for those men and women (who did participate in the Civil War and were essential to the fight on both sides), as well as those before and all those after: Thank you. Thank you for our freedom and fighting to help preserve it. I pray that we may never take your sacrifice for granted.


Searching for Good Money Advice

If you know me, you know that I've long been a student of all things money, particularly ways to save it and keep it. Now, that doesn't mean I'm frugal. Far from it. In fact, I spend money when I'm blue and I love, love, love to not have to cook. Doesn't mean I don't like to cook. I just don't want to have to do it. So, needless to say, I like to eat out.

I'm happy that I've found these two great enewsletters recently, full of good money advice for women: DailyWorth and LearnVest. I've been a DailyWorth reader for more than a year now - a function of surviving during 14 months of unemployment - and I find their information fascinating and helpful, usually. LearnVest seems to be a little less helpful . . . but I'm reserving final judgement. I've only been a subscriber for a just over a month.

In any case, if you're on the lookout for good advice, check out DailyWorth and LearnVest. And, if I can keep up this semi-regular blog again, keep a lookout for more posts on money! 'Cause hey: we all want it, we all need it, so what are we going to do with it?


Saturday's Combo Thursday-Friday Post

Ok, so I'm on a delay. C'est la vie.

Thankful Thursday: Because it's been so freakin' cold recently, I continue to be thankful that I have a place to kick off my heels and hang my stockings; that I can heat that very special place; that I can afford to pay the bill for that heat; and that I have unemployment as income so that I can pay that bill (and several others) for the heat.

It's a great time to remember that if you're blessed enough to have even that, perhaps you should skip your next Starbucks fix and drop the money off at the Samaritan Ministries or Crisis Control Ministries.

And, for Fabulous Friday: I'm dating myself here, but I will admit that I was (am?) a Trekkie. Ergo, the Tribbles:
If you want one, check out ThinkGeek. They "shake and quail," according to the product pushers. Be careful, however, that your adopted Tribble(s) don't turn into millions overnight. Or get near Klingons.


My Days of the Week

So, in an effort to return to more regular blogging, I've decided to make it a little easier on myself. Really. I'm going to denote particular days of the week as particular topical themes.

Here's what I'm thinking:
- Movie Mondays
- Wacky Wednesdays
- Thankful Thursdays
- Fabulous Fridays

I'm leaving the other days of the week open. And not committing. At least, not unless I have something to write!


Peace of Mind

(February 26, 2000)

Peace of mind is a jewel looked for in the worst of times and in the best of times. It's the feeling we get when we turn off a busy road to a secluded spot along a country lane. Peace is suppertime when the sunset gilds every window and a quiet contentment makes man and nature akin. It is a warm bath, a soft pillow, a shaft of moonlight that touches the spirit.

It is knowing that things can work out: peace comes and life is worth living.

It doesn't interest me what you do for a living. I want to know what you ache for, and if you dare to dream of meeting your heart's longing.

It doesn't interest me how old you are. I want to know if you would risk looking like a fool for love, for your dreams, for the sheer adventure of being alive.

It doesn't interest me what planets are squaring your moon. I want to know if you have touched the center of your own sorrow, if you have been opened by life's betrayals or have become shriveled and closed from fear of further pain. I want to know if you can sit with pain, mine or your own, without moving to hide it or fade it or fix it.

We never really lose anyone, if they were ever a part of our lives. The important thing is not to regret what has gone before but to take from it the lesson and the experience that was in it for us.

Life is a two-way street: not always sunshine and flowers, but a few clouds and a few tears go with it.

I want to know if you can be with joy, mine or your own . . . if you can dance with wildness and let the ecstasy fill you to the tip of your fingers and toes without cautioning us to be careful, be realistic, or to remember the limitations of being human.

It doesn't interest me if the story you're telling me is true. I want to know if you can disappoint another to be true to yourself . . . if you can bear the accusation of betrayal and not betray your own soul. I want to know if you can be faithful and therefore, trustworthy.

I want to know if you can see the beauty even when it's not pretty every day, and if you can source your life from God's presence.

I want to know if you can live with failure, yours or mine, and still stand on the edge of a lake and shout to the silver of a full moon, "Yes!"

It doesn't interest me to know where you live or how much money you have. I want to know if you can get up after a night of grief and despair, weary and bruised to the bone, and do what needs to be done for your children.

It doesn't interest me who you are, how you came to be here. I want to know if you will stand in the center of the fire with me and not shrink back.

It doesn't interest me where or what or with whom you have studied. I want to know what sustains you from the inside when all else falls away. I want to know if you can be alone with yourself, and if you truly like the company you keep in the empty moments.

When all these questions are answered, then I can look with tranquility inside myself and say:

"With beauty above me, I lie down . . .
With beauty around me, I lie down . . .
With beauty before me, I lie down . . .
With beauty below me, I lie down."
Peace to all,
Mom (Tawanka)
Though I am close to completing Tawanka's emails, I've come to notice they've been saved out of order. I had hoped to post them in order, but alas, I have not.

That said, I've looked over the last several that I have to post and realize that this is the last email that Tawanka ever sent. She died less than two weeks after this email. It is one of her longer emails, but certainly one that, I think, sums up much of what her emails tried to convey: the love, peace, and her particular way of looking at life.

* Sigh.* Miss you, grandma.


Write? But why?

So, here it is. The post in which I tell you that I failed miserably at Nanowrimo this year. The post in which I tell you that I still haven't found my rhythm yet since I've been unemployed. The post in which I remind you that I've been unemployed for, um, almost 6 months now.

In other news, I have been doing some freelancing. And a good chunk of my time every week is often spent figuring out COBRA and all things related to COBRA. And I'm still hung up on this "madly in love" thing that's going on.

I think those are the best reasons possible for any failure on my part of the former. ;)


It's That Time Again

November 1 starts the word count. I'll find a counter, as in the past, and stick it on the left. Help keep me accountable! Oh - and feel free to pass along any great story ideas. I'm fresh out right now.


Moving Past the Past

(February 11, 1999)

Many things from the past echo within us--voices, sounds, thoughts--some of them best forgotten.

Sometimes, we remember just so we can be grateful. Like the well-fed dog that turns primitive at the sight of a bone, we pick up on our own instincts and react before we think.

If we see what is about to happen we can meet it with good humor and have less need to make everyone in the present time pay dearly for what happened so long ago.



Hello, World

Why yes, it's been a while. Good to see you, too. Hope you're doing well.

Here's the short & long: Life's good. Enjoying unemployment (as much as one can enjoy unemployment). Wyndham Championship went well this year, as did the 2009 Professional Development Seminar for the Tarheel Chapter of PRSA.

And, news of all news: I'm head-over-heels in love.

'Bout damn time.