Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Reach for the Stars by Margaret Hart

Two nights ago I was literally glued to the television, watching, in awe, a wonderful movie entitled, "A Smile as Big as the Moon," based on the book of the same name by Mike Kersjes. If you miss the chance to see this Hallmark Hall of Fame movie, please read the book.  
If you are the parent of a special needs child, I know this story will bring a smile to your face as big as the moon. It is about a class of special education students, who, against all odds, were the first special needs kids to attend Space Camp in the early 1990s. It was their teacher, Mike Kersjes, who fought to get both the principal of his school, as well as the director of the camp, to allow the kids to attend.  That was a hard- won battle. He then had to come up with $50,000 to fund participation. Fortunately, he had a generous donor. Kersjes, like the kids in his class, is inspiring. He is the kind of teacher I wish every child could have. 
I grew  up  understanding what special needs meant before the term was born. My younger sister was born with Down's syndrome, and my mother was a special education teacher. For  years I watched my mother fight for the best opportunities for my sister, as well as for the students she taught.  She was beyond dedicated, spending most weeknights with materials spread across our dining room table, preparing for the next day's lesson.  Mike's triumphant story struck a deep chord with me because he reminded me of her:  an inspiring and dedicated educator, and a tireless advocate for the rights and needs of individuals with various forms of mental retardation.  
If you aren't familiar with Space Camp, it was founded in 1982 to promote the study of math, science, and technology.   In its early days, the camp catered to gifted and talented students.  Today, thanks to Mr. Kersjes, the program accepts individuals regardless of ability or intellect.  It is arguably one of the premier programs of its kind in the United States.
A Smile as Big as the Moon is a story about what can happen when someone believes in you. It is a story about the human spirit. About perseverance.  And it is ultimately a story about acceptance.  We all want to be accepted. And when we accept one another for our differences, and celebrate what makes each of us unique, we will find that it is possible to reach for the stars. 

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Monday, January 30, 2012

Happy New Year to Me….—by Jamie Levine

I love birthdays—especially my birthday. And it’s not about the cake (I don’t even eat cake). It’s not about the presents (At this point in my life, I don’t really get many presents—and I certainly don’t expect them). And it’s not about hitting important milestones (I hit the legal drinking age decades ago!). But one thing it is about is the attention...as well as the possibilities.

My birthday is on February 1st, and for decades, I’ve been touting February as “birthday month,” with the implication that I celebrate all month long (and that my friends should celebrate right along with me). Now, in the era of Facebook, it’s easy for people to remember my birthday—but, out of habit, I still relentlessly remind everyone of the date (and I believe old friends must have it imprinted on their brains). It’s my day and I like to milk it; it’s the one day on which I don’t have to feel guilty about focusing on me. And I don’t expect much from my friends and family—simply attention: Cards, calls, texts, emails…oh, and flowers are nice, too.

It's also crucial that I celebrate with the people who are important to me. This year, I kicked off my birthday with some fun pre-celebrations: Dinner in the city last week, and a pre-birthday bash at a local bar this past weekend. Both nights were spent with close friends whom I've made throughout the years, and reminded me of how blessed I am to have so many wonderful people in my life who care about me. A few friends who couldn’t make it to my party promised to celebrate with me on other nights ahead, and of course, my birthday, itself, will be spent with my family—and most importantly, my daughter, who loves birthdays as much as I do.

The other important thing about my birthday is that it comes exactly one month after the start of the “official” new year, which gives me one month to practice for what really counts—my new year. I never make resolutions for January 1st, and this year, I didn’t make any specific changes in my life on January 1st, either. Instead, I just started to change my way of thinking…and I’m hoping February will bring me some positive new possibilities. I’ve been practicing the virtue of patience when dealing with my daughter, and I’ve been focusing on taking better care of myself, emotionally, and giving off the right kind of energy with which to attract the love I want in my life. I’m nurturing my treasured friendships—and developing new ones. And I’m getting ready for my first experiences working as a speech-language pathologist (as a grad student in the clinic) and am prepared to take more risks in order to learn more. I intend not to simply grow older—but to grow better. And no matter what happens, I think 42 is going to be a very good—as well as a very significant—new year.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Living Dangerously — A Book Review by Maureen Eich VanWalleghan

Mommyville is a place mothers carry in themselves. Everywhere you go there you are...In Jennifer Wilson’s new memoir—Running Away To Home, our family’s journey to Croatia in search of who we are, where we came from and what really matters—she captures perfectly the internal conflicts mothers face as they pursue their dreams with their families in tow.

Wilson set out to write a travelogue and says she ended up becoming an accidental memoirist. Too personal and emotional for a standard travelogue, the internal process of taking one’s family on a year long adventure to find a lost heritage in a formerly war-torn country becomes an exploration in expanding the self and redefining what family means.

I was fortunate enough to interview Wilson and felt sad that we didn’t live in the same town, since my instant desire was to go have coffee. In reading her book and even more so when speaking with her, one finds a kindred mommy spirit. It is easy to imagine quickly becoming her good friend, which is what reading her book is like. She tells a great story—but the level of personal detail about her fears, her hopes, her desires—it feels like she is hanging out sipping coffee right in front of you. The intimacy of her writing is compelling especially if one has ever dreamed of traveling and taking along children or if one is considering something completely crazy like making a significant life change.

For me, what is so absorbing about the narrative is how the reality of motherhood in the United States is clearly articulated. It’s not always a fun place and Wilson acknowledges the isolation of the experience, but then in this bold move of changing her life for a year with her husband and her two kids, she sees what is real in her family and in America. The revelations Wilson discovers at times are unexpected, but also comforting. An overwhelming sense that life is “a glass half full” becomes a reminder that each of us individually—that I personally—have so much to be thankful for in these United States.

If you have dreamed of travel, but thought it too daunting with children, then Running Away To Home is a must read. If you're feeling like you can't remember what's important as you shuttle back and forth between swim lessons and dance lessons and a myriad of other kid activities then this book is for you. If you want to be reminded that though you are a middle-aged mommy, your expiration date has NOT come up then jump into this book with abandon, take a deep breath, make your own plunge and remember who you are. Reading Running Away To Home will definitely inspire urges you long thought dead...

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Friday, January 27, 2012

It's About Numbers by Robin Gorman Newman

Tax season is upon us, and I’m not a happy camper.

My husband, a CPA, burns the midnight oil, including Saturdays, this time of year, and it’s not easy for any of us.

I feel for him.  And, for us.  Seth and I miss him when he’s not home, and don’t like to see him stressed and over extended.

We have much on our personal plates now, with my father in rehab (for a stroke), and Marc and I both getting PT (me for my injured knee), and Marc for his hips (in an effort to postpone the need for hip replacement).

What is it about numbers that can be so challenging?

My husband is great at them, though it often consumes his life.

My son, who is in third grade, is hugely challenged by mathematics.  And, when I spoke to a potential math tutor the other day, she commented how kids are introduced to math at a younger age, and really it's in fourth grade that kids are expected to do it.

I don't recall when I learned math as a kid, but it pains me to see Seth have such a hard time with it.  And, it impacts our home life by causing added stress.

The teacher claims he does okay in the classroom, but when it comes to homework, he says it's too hard.  She commented that kids often act differently with their parents.  No doubt that is true, but still, he knows he needs to do the homework, and that if he wants computer play time and television time, it has to get done. 

The homework battle is one many parents experience.  My friend Debbie and I were discussing it one day.  Her son is older, and she said she's sick of getting sick about his lack of motivation when it comes to homework.  She's read him the riot act, including explaining how he needs to step up to the plate if he wants to do well in school and get into a good college.  He acts indifferent. 

I'd hate for this to become a pattern with Seth.

What's a parent to do?
Should we hire a math tutor?  My concern is that it might feel like more pressure to Seth.
Kids do deserve downtime.
Is the homework just too much?

Children can't excel at everything even though it's expected of them.

Math wasn't my forte in school.  In fact, there were some mathematical subjects I despised.

To this day, I don't love even having to balance the check book.  In that sense, comes in handy that I married an accountant.  Though I wish there was some alternative to tax season.

There's gotta be a better way for him...and for my numbers-challenged son!

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Thursday, January 26, 2012

Intuitive Eating Isn't a Diet...by Liimu

As many of you know, I made the decision late last year to chronicle my journey back to my pre-pregnancy weight here on this blog. At the same time, I realized that I was completely fed up with diets and punishing exercise and I began to get immersed in the world of Intuitive Eating, including reading Geneen Roth and others. What was frustrating is that rather than settling on my ideal weight, as the books and articles promised would eventually happen, I watched the scale go up and up. I was already 50 pounds over what I consider to be my ideal weight, so this was totally not sitting well with me.

I combed the internet to see if I was doing something wrong. Every fiber of my being screamed out for me to go on a diet and yet, the truth is I'm done with dieting. I just am. I sort of wish I weren't, but I totally am. So, I prayed. I prayed for the answer because I was sick and tired of being at that jumping off point of being ready to let go of my old way of doing things but not knowing yet how to do things the new way.

And then the answer came to me like a smack in the forehead:

Intuitive eating isn't a diet...

...but it's not NOT a diet.

The wikipedia definition of a diet (the noun, that is, not the verb), is "the sum of the food consumed by an organism or group." That doesn't say anything about restricting or starving or controlling. In fact, it's only when diet is used as a verb that even any mention is made of how dieting relates to weight loss.

I realized that what I had been doing was still just sort of eating whatever I wanted. Intuitive eating for maintenance, I guess, when what I want is to lose weight. I'm not ashamed or afraid to admit it. I. Want. To. Lose. Weight. So, I need to adjust my diet so that it supports that goal. Simple as that.

So for the past week, that's what I've been doing and by gum, I think it's working. I can tell you, it's working inside my head. I'm no longer worried about whether or not I'm doing this right. I just wake up every morning and pray for the willingness to do it right. Because I know what to do, I just need to do it.

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Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Is it Okay to Lie to Your Child? - by Cara Potapshyn Meyers

My husband and I have to break the news to my son that we are getting a divorce. Since my husband still refuses to disclose to anyone why he wants a divorce, we had to go to a Pediatric Psychologist to see how we could go about telling our son. After a migraine, round-about conversation, it was concluded by the Psychologist that we basically have to lie to our son. Lie. Lie about something that is going to greatly impact my son's entire life. This does NOT sit well with me.
I have never lied to my son about anything that was significant. I may have left out what I thought would be confusing to him and allowed him to ask questions until the information I presented made sense. But I have never outright lied to him.  
When I inquired about this from my son's Law Guardian, I received, a curt, unconcerned response stating that she was not a Child Psychologist and that if that was what the Child Psychologist felt was in my son's best interest, then we should oblige with what the Child Psychologist recommends. I got the feeling from her that she wanted to hurry up and get this done with already. As I've said before, courts are not very considerate nor empathetic. Everyone has an agenda.
I decided to refer to the divorce books I have to get some other perspectives. "Divorce for Dummies," by John Ventura, Esq. and Mary Reed states, "Be honest with your children about why you're getting divorced, but don't reveal too much. Then give them the opportunity to ask questions. "Your Divorce Advisor," by Diana Mercer, J.D. and Marsha, Kline Pruett, Ph.D., M.S.L., concurs, "Do not lie. It will come back to haunt you. Also, do not give them more information than they are ready to hear."
Then why are we planning to lie to our child?? Because it would take too long to get the real reason out of my husband, if at all? Because courts are on a "schedule" and we should just "move along" with things?? Don't they realize that in a couple years my son is going to realize that he was lied to and is going to be exceedingly angry and resentful?? Who the hell is this really benefitting? My husband, the coward? It definitely is not going to benefit my son. My son will eventually realize once my husband moves out, it is my husband who didn't want to stay in our family. It is certainly not benefitting me. I'm just as dazed and confused as I've been over the past two years. At best it is benefitting the court system.
If courts are supposedly trying to do what is in the best interest of the child, where does lying fall into the child's best interest? No one seems to care. If they did, they would mandate my husband to find a way to come clean with what ever he is covering up and allow us as two adults to find a way to break the news of divorce in a neutral, and mutual way. The way the Child Psychologist is suggesting we tell our child makes me boil with rage. It makes me even more angry at my husband and also at the court "system." How dare I be put into a position where I am "forced" to tell my son something that is completely untrue! No, I do NOT still love my husband!! And no Mommy and Daddy are NOT in agreement of our family breaking apart!! These are both absolute lies! And don't you think my son is going to sense my facade of "joy" once my husband leaves. He is an intelligent boy. He is also very sensitive. He his going to pick up on these issues immediately. Heck, even the dog has been depressed lately.
So here I am. In a predicament that goes against every cell of my body. I have decided to try to see whether my husband will agree to telling our son, in our own home, that firstly, our son is our world. Both of us love him to pieces and will both be there for him no matter what. We can then say that sometimes Mommies and Daddies, who care about one another, just can't live together. We will then answer any and all questions he may have. If my husband refuses, I will have my husband speak on both of our behalves at the Psychologist's. I will try to acknowledge as little as possible without upsetting my son. And I know my son will bury himself in my arms for comfort. At least I will be exceedingly genuine in my comforting of him.
And who will comfort me? This is a loss for me too. I have exceptional therapists who I can call the minute I am able. They will comfort me and help me through all of my conflicting and hurtful emotions. In turn, I will be there for my son. I am truly the only one he comes to when he needs someone to confide in. I will answer whatever questions he has as truthfully and with as much love and compassion that I can. 
I will get through this. No matter how painful. No matter how unfair. No matter how distasteful. I will get through this as I've done in the past. And I am the best role model to show how my son can get through this also.
It's just a shame that the court system sees innocent children as part of a file, rather than the delicate victims of unfortunate situations that they are.

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Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Am I Over-scheduling my Child? - by Margaret Hart

Sometimes I wonder if I'm at risk of becoming one of those mothers who over-schedules her children.   
My son currently has after-school activities Monday through Thursday, and plays in a basketball league on the weekend.  So far that schedule is working for him, and for our family, and he's having a great time.  So why am I questioning his schedule? Well, for one thing, I worry a lot. But don't all moms? 
My son is super social, very athletic, and has a seemingly unending supply of energy and interests. He likes to talk and he likes to move. He's not a couch potato.  And he's not one to just sit and contemplate his navel. So I keep him active by enrolling him in activities that I know he enjoys, and that I hope will enrich his mind and body.  And he likes it that way.
I also believe in allowing for down time in his schedule, so I try to ensure he has at least one afternoon a week for a play date, or time to just come home from school and do whatever he wants.  The thing is, when you are an only child, sometimes doing whatever you want isn't as much fun as having something scheduled. (Especially when mom isn't' good at Twister!)
So I spend a good deal of time crafting and managing my son's social calendar and activity schedule.  I guess you could say I'm like his manager.  I handle his sports, arts, and academic activities, schedule all his play dates, and RSVP to all the birthday parties.   As crazy as it sometimes gets, I'd rather have him at a play date, taking guitar lessons, participating in chess club, or dancing in hip hop class, then sitting at home every afternoon and complaining that he needs more than 30 minutes of screen time.  
I'm not the kind of parent that pushes activities on my child. But I present the opportunity and suggest that he try new things. If there is an activity he's unsure about, I always tell  him that he doesn't have to continue if he doesn't like it.  Nowadays, most businesses that cater to children let you have a trial class to decide. That's just smart. Less paperwork for everyone. And satisfies parents.
Besides scheduling challenges, our only real issue has been finding the time to fit in all the activities in which my son wants to participate–and the budget to pay for them!  Getting everything organized is always a challenge:  finding a day that works, a time, getting the right class, the teacher you want, coordinating with friends. It's all a juggling act. 
Add to the mix, school breaks and early dismissal days. Take, for example, the upcoming February winter break.  Ordinarily, I'd schedule play dates and maybe arrange a field trip for a group of his friends to a local museum.  Or, if we were lucky, we might take a vacation to the Caribbean.  Yeah, right.
This year, however, because I'll be caring for my mother, who is having knee replacement surgery, I decided it would be a good idea to enroll my son in a winter break camp.  I registered him for a morning sports camp until 12:30pm, and an afternoon chess camp from 12:00 to 3:00pm. He is excited about both.  But you can see my problem? The schedules overlap .  Why don't these camps get this? 
To make it all work, I'm going to pick him up 30 minutes early from sports camp, and have him eat his lunch in the car while we drive to chess camp, fifteen minutes away.  And this is exactly the type of scheduling scenario that makes me ask myself if I'm over scheduling my son.  I rationalize by saying that this is a special week and if my mom weren't here, I would only have signed him up for sports camp. No guilt.
As long as my Outlook Calendar doesn't crash, and my son continues to be happy and healthy, I guess I will continue to keep him busy and his schedule buzzing.  After all, it's not that busy.  : )

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Monday, January 23, 2012

Much-Needed Time Off—by Jamie Levine

Ahhhh…vacation. In my dreams, my vacation is spent lounging on a tropical island (either with, or without my daughter, as my dreams vacillate between the two options, depending on my mood); in reality, my winter break from grad school was one measly week spent at home in cold New York. But you know what? I appreciated every moment of it.

My first day of “vacation” was Martin Luther King Day, a day whose importance my daughter acknowledged by telling me, “I feel bad for Martin Luther King because he wasn’t allowed in the ice cream store like everyone else.” And that evening, while my parents tucked my darling little daughter into bed, I was wined and dined in New York City, "grown up" style, in anticipation of my upcoming birthday—a great kick-start to the rest of the week.

I can’t say I did or went anywhere extraordinary, but after an intense cycle of classes (culminating in a 20-page research paper and an 18-page term project, as well as a 4.0 average), it was nice for me to not have to think about anything school-oriented for a few days. I went to the gym every morning, leisurely ran errands afterwards, met good friends for lunch, caught up with some long distance pals online and over the phone, went on a couple of dates, drank my fair share of good wine, and even took care of a few doctor’s appointments (allowing myself to thumb through a magazine rather than my requisite text book, while I sat in waiting room). Most importantly, I tried to focus on me for a change—and tried to start taking better care of myself emotionally.

Ever since my long-ago break-up with Library Guy, I’ve been unsure of what I want, romantically, in my life. I’ve floundered between not being ready to date to wanting tons of attention from guys and dating like mad just to “have fun,” to wanting something serious and not being able to let my guard down, to simply being the confused mess I am now. And as an amazing friend of mine wisely pointed out to me this week, what I really need to do is work on giving myself everything I want a man to give me and to “be the love that I wish to receive.” She assured me that “the universe gives you what you want,” so I need to “put out what I want to get in return.” And while I generally roll my eyes at “new agey" stuff like that, some of what she told me rang true. Especially when the following day I heard from (and bumped into) a few former love interests, and realized I was emanating true self-confidence and happiness.

It’s been an interesting week. And I won’t even speculate on what the next few weeks will bring. But as I return to school, and start to focus on my studies again, I intend to keep at least some of my focus on myself and what I really want. Hopefully I'll come up with something wonderful...and the universe will make sure I get it.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

GUEST BLOG POST: Creating a Life That REALLY Works by Vickie Milazzo

A Wickedly Successful New Year: Nine Strategies to Help You Stop Enduring and Start Creating a Life That REALLY Works
Looking for something with more impact (and sticking power) than the usual doomed-to-fail resolutions? I want you to make 2012 the year you finally buck up and start living the life YOU want to live—recession be damned!

            2011 is over, and for many recession-wracked American women, it feels like just another mile marker in an endurance race going nowhere. Depressing, but true. We trudge through the week at a dreary job, drive home fretting about money, and spend our evenings robot-walking through the usual haze of homework battles and half-finished chores.  Passion and fulfillment? Nope, just sheer survival. And the worst part is, most of us have meekly accepted that this is how it has to be right now.
            Buck up, girlfriend! You can do a lot more than (barely) get by—and 2012 can be the year you actually start living your life again.
            I’m not talking about the kind of New Year’s resolution that’s just wishful thinking pasted on top of your old lifestyle. I’m talking about truly changing the way you think about things, breaking old habits, putting some real boundaries in place and tapping into your determination.
            I’m talking about taking responsibility for your own happiness. Don’t you think if someone was going to swoop in and rescue you it would already have happened?
            I have earned the right to be a tough talker. In 1982 I faced the reality that I was unhappy with the direction her life had taken. I was a registered nurse with a bachelor’s and master’s degree. But after six short years of hospital experience, I felt like I was in a dead-end job. I still wanted to be a nurse, but on my own terms. Today I am the founder and CEO of a multi-million dollar legal nurse consulting education company.
            It is possible to create a life that excites and energizes you. But first you have to make a conscious choice to step out of your old, unfulfilling one.  And it’s a choice you have to make over and over again—if you don’t your old patterns will suck you back in.
            To achieve what I call “Wicked Success” you have to cultivate a new, wickedly resourceful mindset. Here are nine strategies that can help you do exactly that in 2012:
Break the feel-good addiction. Remember, where you focus is where you’ll yield results. And because we like to feel good, we gravitate toward what’s easy instead of what’s productive. We major in minor accomplishments, wasting time surfing the Internet, watching TV, hanging out on Facebook, trying to beat our high score on Angry Birds.

Here’s a news flash: There’s no real life prize for being great at Angry Birds. It’s time to let go of time-sucking distractions. The more superficial things you engage in the more superficial your life and accomplishments will be. So the next time you have a break at work or the next time all the kids are out of the house, instead of checking your email, Facebook or texts, use the time to take a step toward achieving one of your goals.

Stop being the Chief Everything Officer – don’t say “Yes” by default. It’s a hard lesson to learn but in order to be wickedly successful, you have to understand that by saying “no” to some things you will have the time and energy to say “yes” to the right things. If you’re feeling overwhelmed and pulled in every direction you won’t be able to lead yourself, much less anyone else.  

Stop committing your energy to every person or situation that demands it. You need to set your own expectations of what you want to accomplish. Don’t let your career or life take a backseat to everyone else’s. Yes, you have responsibilities to others. But you’ve also got a responsibility to yourself.

Do something big every day. You eat a whale the same way you eat an apple – one bite at a time. The wickedly successful understand that to accomplish any project you can’t expect to do it all at once.

This is often why our New Year’s resolutions don’t work out. You say, “I am going to lose 20 pounds!” And then you implement a new exercise regimen—or heck, just start actually exercising—and after two days of no weight loss you get discouraged. You aren’t going to achieve your goals over night. You have to work at it every day. Commit to doing something big every day towards that project or goal and you’ll reach it. Keep working out regularly and slowly but surely you’ll see the results. Find something you can improve and start improving it – one bite, one step, one day at a time.

Stop hanging with the biggest losers. When you choose to participate in negative behaviors they rub off on you. Think about it this way: If you’re struggling to achieve a goal, you shouldn’t hang out with someone else who is struggling to achieve that same goal. If you want to be great at golf, you don’t hang out with a bad golfer.

Successful people tend to hang out with other successful people, not with losers who whine about someone else’s success. Stick with the winners. The view from the top is meant to be shared. Find someone who’s already there to share it with, not someone who’s never seen it.

Expand what you’re willing to believe about yourself. Studies show that women will underestimate their own abilities, judging themselves lower than their skills prove, while men overestimate their abilities, judging themselves more competent. If you see yourself as powerless that’s what you will be. Anytime you find yourself entertaining doubts or trying to limit what you think is possible, remind yourself of your past successes. Let them infuse you with confidence and bolster your resolve.

Believing you can do it—whatever ‘it’ is—is 90 percent of the win. When I walked into my first meeting with a potential client, my legs were literally shaking. I forced myself to remember that this attorney needed specialized knowledge that only I—a critical care nurse—could give him. That reminder didn’t banish all of my nervousness, but it did enable me to make the points I wanted with my first client. I learned that when you expand what you’re willing to believe about yourself, you can transform who you are and what your life looks like.

Don’t wait for conditions to be perfect. Along the way to becoming wickedly successful, you may have to redefine what success looks like for you. Conditions will never be perfect – there will always be something muddying the water, even if it’s just a little muddy.

The real challenge is accepting that you have to keep on giving your best even when things aren’t perfect. Misguided perfectionism can keep you from stepping out and going for what you want. Perfectionism can also rob you of the enjoyment of experiences. Distinguishing what does and doesn’t require perfection is the hallmark of wickedly successful women.

Surround yourself with as many successful mentors as possible. Inept coaches don’t fail to help you – they help you to fail. Look around you for others whose work you admire and model yourself after them instead.

Get out of the rut of your own habits. Take your advice from people with a proven positive track record. Accepting the leadership of others does not make you less capable of achieving your goals. It actually boosts your abilities. Don’t be afraid to ask for advice. And when you get good advice, don’t be too proud to follow it.

Regenerate your passion for work. Do you remember why you wanted the career you have? There aren’t many jobs that offer easy hours and easy money, so that probably wasn’t it. It was probably the love you had for the profession whether you get to help people everyday, use your creativity, crunch numbers or whatever your passion is. Tap back into the frame of mind you had when you were just starting out. Ask yourself, What can I do to become passionate about work again?

When you take this inward look, it is entirely possible you’ll see the path ahead going in an unexpected direction. Your passion might lead you somewhere else. That’s what happened to me when I started my business. I was a registered nurse and I realized I wanted more passion, more joy in the part of my life that sucked up 10 hours every day. That journey led me to pioneer the profession of legal nurse consulting. You’ll know passion when you’ve found it because you’ll feel amazingly engaged and energetic. Desire will become energy and you’ll have plenty of it to create your new life—your real life.

Take care of yourself first. If you stepped back and looked at your daily routine objectively, as if it were happening to your best friend, what would be your advice? Slow down? Take a few deep breaths? Spend a few moments enjoying one day before another day crashes in with new demands?

We need to give ourselves such loving advice—and listen to it. We need to thrive, not just survive. To have healthy, exciting and fulfilling relationships with others, we must first have a healthy, exciting and fulfilling relationship with ourselves. Don’t be so busy taking care of others that you forget to take care of yourself. You can’t be your best self if you’re not your own self.
            There’s no reason why 2012 can’t be your biggest, boldest, most wickedly successful year yet. But for that to happen you have to match your big goals with some real changes. You have to take on a wickedly successful mindset that doesn’t take “no” or “I can’t” or “I’m too tired” for an answer.

Vickie Milazzo, RN, MSN, JD, is the author of the New York Times bestseller Wicked Success Is Inside Every Woman (Wiley, 2011, ISBN: 978-1-1181-0052-3, $21.95, www.WickedSuccess.com). From a shotgun house in New Orleans to owner of a $16-million business, Milazzo shares the innovative suc­cess strategies that earned her a place on the Inc. list of Top 10 Entrepre­neurs and Inc. Top 5000 Fastest-Growing Companies in America.

Vickie has been featured or profiled in numerous publications, including the New York Times, Entrepreneur, Houston Chronicle, Ladies’ Home Journal, Texas Bar Journal, Los Angeles Times, Philadelphia Inquirer, and in more than 220 newspapers. Vickie has appeared on national radio and TV, including the National Public Radio program This I Believe and more than 200 national and local radio stations.

She is the author of the Wall Street Journal bestseller Inside Every Woman: Using the 10 Strengths You Didn’t Know You Had to Get the Career and Life You Want Now. Vickie is recognized as a trusted mentor and dynamic role model by tens of thousands of women, a distinction that led to her national recognition as the Stevie Awards’ Mentor of the Year. 


Saturday, January 21, 2012

The Role of Grammar in a Marriage by Sharon O'Donnell

I was watching a game show the other day and was perturbed when the host laughed at one of the contestant’s Southern accent. This has always bothered me. I remember watching game shows when I was a kid, like Match Game & $10,000 Pyramid. It seemed every time there was a contestant with a Southern accent on the show, they were teased and mocked – all in good fun I’m sure. Nonetheless, it used to irritate me because contestants with other accents or dialects were left alone, perceived, I guess, as normal. I went to broadcasting school at UNC-Chapel Hill and did my best to achieve the recommended ‘mid-western sound’ of no accent at all. But my Southern accent still lingers, and that’s okay. It’s part of my heritage.

There have been a few times in the past, though, that my accent has caused me some embarrassment. When I was a freshman in college, I dated a Duke student who was from upstate New York. I’ll never forget the time I told him our football seats were under the cement overhang so we’d be protected from the forecasted rain. I pronounced the word ‘cement’ as ‘sea-ment’ with emphasis on the first syllable, the way I’d grown up hearing it. He said, “Pardon?” and then paused, trying to decipher my meaning. Then he smiled and said, “Oh, you mean cement,” saying the word without the long ‘e’ sound and stressing the last syllable. He seemed amused. I wanted to yell, “Haven’t you ever seen The Beverly Hillbillies? It’s the ‘seament pond’, not the cement pond!” I refrained, however, realizing that the Beverly Hillbillies were not exactly authorities on proper pronunciation.

Then there was the time I was at a staff holiday party at one of my first jobs when I asked a co-worker, “Are you going to put the record on?” Everybody started laughing because I had said ‘own’ instead of ‘on’. I knew the difference of course and in a public speech I would have used the correct pronunciation; but, this was in a supposedly relaxed setting when I could let my guard down.

Even our grammar usage has some of its roots in where we were brought up. My husband and I used to bicker about his use of the words 'take' and 'bring'. He would say to me while sitting in our family room, "I need to bring the car in tomorrow to have the tires rotated."

"You need to take the car," I would say to him, relying on the grammar courses I took as a journalism major at Carolina.

"That's what I said. We need to bring the car to the tire place." He saw no difference in the usage of these two words, that 'bring' indicates motion toward the speaker and 'take' indicates motion away from the speaker. Not a big deal, I know, but just one of those petty things that drove me up the wall. Besides since he was in business and gave speeches regularly, I thought it would benefit him to know the proper usage. I finally dug through my old college books and found my usage and style textbook, flipped to the bring-take rule, and showed it to my husband.

He was not impressed. Saying “bring” was what he was used to saying, therefore it sounded fine to him. The book even explained that people from the northern part of the United States are more prone to saying “bring” for “take”, and my husband’s family is originally from New England. It was then I understood why he insisted on saying ‘bring’; it was a part of his own heritage. I decided to give up and try not to let it bother me anymore; I’ll let him say ‘bring’ as long as I can say ‘seament’. Yet, when I hear one of my sons doing this because they hear their dad doing it, well, then it becomes a problem again. I want to try to make sure my boys have some basic good grammar skills. Even when they were young, I was aware of the need for this; it’s never too early to start gearing up for the SAT.

Once Jason threw a basketball at Billy and hit him in the face, accidentally of
course. They came inside with five-year-old Jason yelling, “Mom, I throwed a basketball and hit Billy right in the face!”

Being the concerned mom that I am, I said calmly, “It’s ‘threw’, not ‘throwed’.”

Billy replied, “Ah, mom, I don’t think that’s the main point of what he’s saying here.”

Another time my boys’ grammar just above drove me insane was when Billy, a big Carolina Hurricanes hockey fan, wrote on the car windshield during play-off season, “Lets go Canes!” That’s ‘lets’ with no apostrophe as it should be in the contraction for ‘let us’. I couldn’t stand driving around town with everybody thinking I didn’t know better. What really got me was that Billy and David are both honor students, but when they write stuff on car windshields it’s like they forget every bit of correct grammar they ever knew. I know it shouldn’t bother me the way it does, but I can’t help myself. Something comes over me when I see signs on a door that say, “Employee’s Only”.

I think I must get this from my mother. A number of years ago she was in the hospital for major surgery. Since she was 80, the doctors had said her recuperation period would be slow, and she might be kind of out of it for a while. As she lay ‘napping’ in her hospital bed, my siblings and I were discussing what visitors she’d had that day. One of us said something about ‘a lady from church and her daughter-in-laws came over’. Suddenly, my mother’s eyes flew open, and she said, “daughters-in-law”.

We turned to her, surprised. “What?” we asked.

“Daughters-in-law,” she repeated. “That’s the way you say the plural of daughter-in-law.” We all just looked at each other and smiled. We knew Mama would be well in no time, which she was.

In our household, the misuse of lay and lie still is a problem, and no matter how much I explain the difference to my guys, they revert to using the words incorrectly. I still remember the time when Sesame Street’s Elmo was so popular, and we had one of those talking stuffed Bed Time Elmos who said various remarks about going to sleep when you squeezed his hand. I noticed right away that one of the remarks used lie and lay incorrectly and was glad that soon after there was coverage in the media about this and how bad it was that cute little innocent Elmo was leading the youth of America grammatically astray. “See,” I told my family, “other people are bothered by this too.” Of course, Jason still played with the furry, red toy, but every time Elmo said something like, “I’m tired. Let’s lay down,” I’d add, “That should be lie down, Jason.” As if Jason gave a damn.

A few years ago, Kevin and I attended his cousin’s son’s wedding. At the reception, when the handsome groom was making a speech, he thanked everyone for coming and said, “It means a lot to Jennifer and I.” He suddenly stopped, a look of horror on his face, and turned to his beautiful bride who was getting ready to say something to him. He held up his hand to stop her, and said, “I mean, to Jennifer and me.” Then he laughed and added, “I still have to work on that.” Everyone else laughed, too, but I reveled in it and looked around for Kevin because the me/I thing was one of our most hotly-debated grammar questions. Actually, ‘debated’ is the wrong word choice because ‘debate’ implies he had an opinion on the topic and argued it, when really he just didn’t care whether he said it correctly or not. I wondered if in twenty years the groom would still be so concerned about using the proper grammar that obviously his new bride had encouraged him to do. I hoped so. But I doubted it. He would probably still be saying I instead of me, and it would be driving her out of her mind. She’d say, “Remember, honey, at our reception when . . .”

So in our study is a fine assortment of grammar books I’ve collected over the years for the guys, such as Painless Grammar, Grammar Smart, and Grammar for Dummies. My hope has been that when they’re doing their homework and have a question about word usage or run-on sentences, that they, with their thirst for knowledge, will grab one of these books and look up the correct answer. But the books remain on the shelf in pristine condition, unopened since the day I got them.

One time 15-year-old David said he was going to bring his baseball pitching net over to a friend’s house. “You’re going to take it over to a friend’s house,” I told him.

“Yeah, that’s what I said.” And with that he was out the door.

I’ve got to learn there are some battles I’m never going to win. I doubt grammar problems are one of the leading reasons for divorce, but then again, couldn’t that be part of ‘irreconcilable differences’?


Friday, January 20, 2012

Seth...My Son the Supporter by Robin Gorman Newman

Seth has proven to be such a source of support to me, at the tender age of 8.
My father, age 93, has had a gazillion health challenges since Seth was born, and more than once, we’ve made emergency visits to various local hospitals.

Last week, my beloved dad suffered a series of strokes, and has been at St. Francis Hospital.

When I became a later in life mother, I was somewhat conscious of the fact that I was living the “sandwich generation”….caring for a young child and senior dad.  But, that has taken on  heightened meaning as my father’s health challenges have become more acute in recent times.

I’m finding it essential to do my best to practice good self care, though the stress gets to me more than I’d like.  I’ve had bouts with tears, headaches and sleepless nights, but I want to be strong.  I don’t see anything wrong with crying, but I don’t know what Seth might be thinking or feeling deep down, and I’m trying to stay as upbeat as possible for him.  It’s not that I’m not thinking positive, I’m just drained with all the uncertainty, questions, decisions, etc.  I’ve come to understand….if not accept….that essentially this is what life is.  None of us has a crystal ball.  But, I do prefer it when I feel as if I’m coasting along and in a “safe” place, whatever that means for me. 

I am so proud of Seth when I witness his behavior in the hospital.  He is very patient, plays with his 3D DS and even involves himself in ways to be helpful that interest him.  For example, keeping an eye on the equipment that monitors my dad’s heart rate…..figuring out how to operate the lights, television, phone, etc. in his room…..fetching the nurse when we have a question, etc.  He’s become my little helper, and his spirit and energy help lift me up when I need it.  He’s like a little ray of sunshine, and I’m so very grateful for his presence in my life…and not just at this difficult time.

On the flip side…Seth is very high energy, and after a day at the hospital, I need to chill, and can’t do that with a young child.  There is dinner to be made, homework, bath time, toy clean up, after school programs, etc.  We have an agenda, and do our best to continue the daily routine as we know it, despite extenuating circumstances.   I’m so grateful to my husband who is totally there for us and helpful in every way he can be and more. 

There is the saying “It takes a village….” (to raise a child), and when difficult times arise in life, this feels especially true. 

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Thursday, January 19, 2012

What if... by Liimu

Last week, after my anticlimactic weigh in, I called a friend to vent my frustration.

What if this doesn't work?

What if intuitive eating will leave me fat?

What if I'm intuitively eating too much?

What if I'm wasting valuable dieting time?

What if I'm too old to lose weight intuitively?

She gave me a simple solution: "What if you said "what if" in a way that would serve you?"

What if it does work?

What if intuitive eating will get you to your ideal weight and keep you there?

What if you're intuitively eating just the right amount for your body?

What if you never have to diet again?

What if this whole process will leave you feeling and looking younger than ever?

What if the only things you have to eliminate from your life are the thoughts that don't serve you?

What if, indeed.

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Wednesday, January 18, 2012

My Son...The Treasurer? - by Cara Potapshyn Meyers

My son is a natural born leader. I don’t say this just to puff myself up. In fact, I envy his innate abilities. I’ve witnessed his talents since he was a toddler. The kid just has what it takes. You can spot it a mile away.
His elementary school decided to form a Student Government. Two children from the 3rd, 4th and 5th grades were chosen to form the committee. I asked my son’s teacher how it came to be that my son was chosen. She said that first each 3rd grade class had to nominate one person. Then the individual class nominees were up for democratic voting by all of their 3rd grade peers. My son won! What an incredible honor! I can’t even think of two kids I was even close to when I was in 3rd grade!
It didn’t surprise me that my son was chosen. The kid can make friends with a tree. What did surprise me was that my son has learning disorders and the school administration is still allowing my son to participate. I give the school kudos. Especially since it took two agonizing years to get special services for my son.
My son is beyond elated! He was dressed and ready to go to his first meeting last week an hour ahead of schedule. He nagged us to go to the school before it was even open! He glowed when he told us how his first meeting went. A plethora of creative ideas for various goals were spewing out of my son’s mouth so fast, I thought he would pass out from not taking a breath! Now the Student Government must decide on a President, Secretary and Treasurer. Only fifth graders are allowed to run for President; fourth graders for Secretary and third graders for Treasurer. Guess who wants to run for Treasurer?
My son has no problems with math or money comprehension. Thankfully, math is one area he excels at. My only fear for him is that he has to write a speech to present to his peers explaining why he should be chosen as Treasurer. A speech. Something you have to write. An area where all of his deficits lie.
We engaged his tutor to help him with his speech. It is basic. Not terribly convincing. However, I can visualize my son making this rather dry speech into something completely engaging. He has that “gift.”
I, the “Free Range Mom” who practically throws my son out of the nest, shouting, “Go for it!” am a little apprehensive for my son. He is getting better at dealing with failure. Yet, he is so convinced that he will be chosen as Treasurer, that if he is not chosen, I will be wondering whether it was because of his learning deficits. I would never relay these fears of mine to him. But I will be thinking of it. A lot.
I should, and am so grateful that my son was nominated and chosen to represent his class. He has myriad ideas about fundraising, raising money for charities, inspiring more “school spirit,” etc. He will be a perfect asset to the Student Government regardless whether he wins as Treasurer or not. Still, that nagging doubt will remain in the back of my head if he does not get chosen.
I want my son to win as Treasurer. I want him to win because I know he can carry out his responsibilities and be a highly enthusiastic part of the team. I want him to win because even though his writing and reading are sub-par, he can still show the world that he can accomplish what he sets his mind to regardless of his deficits. I want the school to see that regardless of “disabilities,” there are many ways a child can prove their value and worthiness. I want him to continue to nurture his amazing, innate characteristics! They have gotten him quite far in his short life. I want them to take him to the moon and back. And just possibly, to the Presidency!
I’ll be keeping my fingers crossed. Toes too! You go, kid!!

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Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Mr. Fluffers , Patches, Vanilla Chocolate Bar, Pussycat — by Margaret Hart

We recently expanded our family, and I am now outnumbered three-to-one in my household by males. But that's okay with me, especially because the newest member is a soft, fluffy, cuddly, and oh-so-sweet little Ragdoll kitten. Officially, he is my son's kitten, and our new family pet, and after only 72 hours he has carved a permanent place in our hearts.  I just wish we could decide on his name.
I'm looking forward to the journey of watching my son love and care for his new friend; a journey that I first began when I was about the same age.  We will teach him about the responsibility of owning a pet and what it means to care for another living soul. So far he's doing very well. He's poured water and food into the bowls, and spent countless hours playing and soothing the normal cries of our new little baby. He's been willing to jump in and do whatever is necessary to help out. To a point. He drew the line at litter box duty! 
As anyone knows who has introduced a kitten or puppy to young children, you have to continuously explain the circumstances and reinforce the rules.  At age seven, my son is smart enough to understand, but still not always patient enough to implement what's necessary.  It's hard for an excited little boy to not want to shriek with delight when playing with the kitten or to run loudly into a room only to find the kitten has ducked for cover under the bed.  It's hard to remember to always lower your voice, and always make slow movements -- the antithesis of little human boys! But we're getting there. 
Our new kitten seems to know that he belongs to a little boy. He follows my son around and is at his ankles so often that we really have to look down all the time to make sure we don't trip over him--or step on his paw (ouch).   Ragdolls characteristically greet you at the door, follow you around,  and "flop" in your arms just like a "ragdoll" when you hold them. They are very sweet and loving cats and make great pet s for children.
For the moment, our kitten is called Pussycat or whatever seems to come to mind.  But we really need to make a decision on his name soon. With previous pets, names seemed to evolve the same way, with the exception of one:  there was our black and white cat who looked like he was wearing a tuxedo. He became Tuxy.  Before him there was our grey and black tabby, who we adopted as a kitten. He started out with a fancy French name that we made up as joke, Varment, and simply became Vern.  It fit him perfectly.  And before Tuxy and Vern, there was Mouser. She started off as Maxine, and developed the nickname of Mouser.
So here we are again.  We started out with a list of names off the top of our heads for our new kitty that included Mr. Fluffers,  because his has long, fluffy white fur.  Patches, because he has grey-blue fur circles or "patches" around his eyes. Vanilla Chocolate Bar was another cute name, but a bit cumbersome.    
In the hopes of finding a name that we could all agree on, and one that my son would feel like he chose, I asked him a few questions:  what are some of your favorite things?  Who are some of your favorite characters (please, not Luigi). What do you think of when you look at the kitten?  
The questions didn't really help because we only got one answer: "Macaroni, because I love macaroni and cheese." So for now we're testing out "Mac" as one name and "Benny" as another. Benny is short for Bennington, the name of our street. It was my suggestion, and I thought it was fitting because it sounded "upper crusty."  You see, our kitten's parents have won awards at cat shows, and they both have fancy names. So I thought our little man needed to have a name befitting his pedigree. But Benny would be his everyday name; his nickname. And it seems to suit him.
Speaking of nicknames, they can come in very handy. One time on a particularly turbulent airline flight, I started writing down all of Vern's nicknames to distract myself from the terror I was feeling. I came up with 75.  Thank God for Vern's nicknames, and for my husband's arm and hand, which I grasped so hard that it literally started to turn white from lack of circulation.
So here's to you, Mac or Benny.  We welcome you warmly and lovingly, and we look forward to many years of fun and laughter with you as part of our family. 

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Sunday, January 15, 2012

GUEST BLOG POST: Creating Emotional Safety by Ilene Val-Essen, Ph. D.

Parents don’t agree on everything, and they certainly don’t need to. But one dream that we all share is that our children enjoy emotional safety. I’m a parent and a grandparent and an author of a parenting book, yet I’ve never let these words roll off my tongue. Still if I describe emotional safety, I think we’ll all agree that this is exactly what we want for our children.

What is emotional safety? It’s when our children feel free to be themselves. They can comfortably express their feelings and concerns, thoughts and interests. And they do this with awareness and respect for others.

Our children gain emotional safety through their experiences with others. When they feel loved, accepted, heard, and trust that their needs will be met, they develop a deep internal experience of safety.

How do we create this rich inner experience for our children?

After working with parents as a consultant and psychotherapist for almost four decades, I’m certain of one thing: Parent’s attitudes—how we think about our children—is even more important than what we say to them. In my book, Bring Out the Best in Your Child and Your Self, I identify two key attitudes. The first:

Children have an innate drive to express their best selves—to develop their highest potential.

Like all living things, children have a natural yearning to grow and mature, to develop their full potential. It’s a part of being human. We all have that inner force that compels us to evolve, to grow not only physically, but to develop all of our unique potential—mental, emotional, social and spiritual. Children and parents want to respect themselves, to be contributing members of the family and society. We all want to find and express our best selves—to become all that we can be.

The fact that we often fall short—that children and adults can easily slip into unproductive behavior—doesn’t mean we don’t have that innate drive! It isn’t easy to express our full potential; we need all the help we can get. And that leads us to the second attitude:

Children depend on us to help them.

They can’t do it alone. Children need us to recognize their yearning and to help them fulfill it. By definition, children are immature—works in progress—still learning how to handle their feelings, develop strength of will and self-control. To support their natural unfolding, they need an environment based on mutual respect.

How can we create this environment? Let me count the ways:

1. Water the flowers, not the weeds. Notice and acknowledge our children’s finest qualities and behaviors. Give attention to that which we want to grow.

2. Hold high, age-appropriate expectations. Strengthen our children’s self-esteem by asking them to live up to their own capabilities. 

3. Follow through. Teach children that we mean what we say and help them to become more cooperative and responsible.

4. Show respect. Help children develop empathy by demonstrating respect for their feelings and thoughts, bodies and belongings.

5. Respect self, others and life. Model sensitivity and care for yourself, others, and our planet and teach children to internalize these values as a normal part of life.

6. Provide positive values. Expose children to those values you want them to adopt, emphasizing the best in human nature and minimizing the excesses in our culture.

7. Teach skills that support emotional safety. Help our children to learn to work through frustration and disappointment, to assert themselves respectfully, to problem solve, and to develop qualities such as courage and persistence.

The bottom line is known to us all: the best formula for creating emotional safety is for our children to see love in our eyes, experience it through our touch, and hear it in our voice.  
Ilene Val-Essen, Ph.D., is the author of Bring Out the Best in Your Child and Your Self and creator of the Quality Parenting programs. She is a featured speaker at national and international conferences and recently was quoted in Parents magazine. Visit Quality Parenting http://www.qualityparenting.com and http://www.bringoutthebest.com.

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