Monday, June 30, 2008

Think with your heart

I am back home after a few days in the beautiful high country, with rivers full of water from the snow melt. Some snow still persisted as we increased elevations on the trails. The nights were cold and the days were glorious. I really value time away, time to leave my routines behind and live in the moment. When I got home, I kept myself "on vacation"for several more days, avoiding phones and meetings.

While catching up with my life and working my way through a stack of papers, I came upon some suggestions about how to take good care of ourselves. Many of these are obvious things that we know and still find difficult to actually do:
1. Have more fun.
2. Remember to get some sun (just enough and not too much).
3. Enjoy good, healthy foods.
4. Get plenty of rest.
5. Move your body.
6. Focus renewing energy on your relationships.
7. Think with your heart.

Number seven is the one that gave me pause. Of course, all of the other things are important, but if we don't think with our hearts, we may be missing a critical essence for a full, healthy life. Thinking with the heart is about considering: What do you love? What really brings you joy? What do you care about? Studies have shown that when our positive emotions are "in charge", guiding our daily choices, our immune system is strengthened. We have more energy to sustain us through difficult times. Our outlook continues to focus on the possibilities and we are motivated to get things done. We are willing to try new things. Our attitude is more hopeful.

What a gift this can be for children! When we think with the heart, we are more likely to consider all of a child's needs, not only physical needs, but emotional ones as well. We don't focus only on what they are doing, but how they might be feeling. The goal isn't to get the best grades, but to feel energized by learning, especially learning about those things that excite.... dinosaurs, space travel, computers, friendships, writing stories, whatever. Yes, we want children to be kind, cooperative, and respectful. But sometimes we ignore the inner child as we focus on behavior. Children seem to think with the heart automatically, and yet we do our best to make them unlearn this. Stop! A person's EQ - emotional quotient - is at least as important as their IQ, maybe even more so.

The world would be better served if more of our leaders, if we all would think with our hearts!

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Into the wild

I'm leaving tomorrow for 5 days in Tuolumne Meadows in the high country of Yosemite National Park. When I was a kid, our family went camping at least once during most summers. I loved it then, the hiking, and playing in streams, and campfires and the STARS! Oh those stars! I loved sleeping right out under them, so if I woke up in the night, they were right there. When our own kids were little, we did lots of camping, too. Until our youngest started to complain. He was never an outdoors kind of guy. Where did he come from?

Many kids today are raised indoors. T.V. and computers are their friends and the source of information about wildlife. They might even be surprised when they have an outdoor experience of the real thing. Summer is a good time to get out and explore, even if just checking for bugs under a rock at the local park.

I love hiking, watching the birds, seeing deer grazing just feet away from the path, putting my feet into an icy stream, and the Stars! So, I am off to commune with nature.

I hope you have a chance to get away and explore a corner of this beautiful planet.

The way to peace is love

As I "grow up" and learn more about myself and how I relate to family and friends, I continually work on letting go of shame, blame and guilt. These attitudes don't serve me, and they don't get me anywhere but down. The way to peace - whether peace of mind or world peace - is love. So simple, and yet so difficult.

A common theme for me is about remembering what I can influence, what kind of power I have in my world. The only power I truly have is to deal with my own feelings. I do not have any power to control other people or events. The best I can do is work on my own issues and how I respond to the people and events that come my way. When I view my life through the lens of love, I feel much more peace. I feel stronger connections to the people I care about... and to those I don't even know.

When we let love guide us, we are kinder. We are more patient. Children and teens need love and kindness and patience. So do our own parents. A woman shared today about her relationship with her mom. For a long time she focused on the difficult parts of their relationship and felt like "she done me wrong." Even though her mother died several years ago, she is learning to love her now. She believes she has a much better relationship with her mom today because she is letting more love into her life. It is never too late, but oh, it is so much better when we can strengthen our relationships with love and reap the benefits in the here and now.

Love - it's not all we need, but it goes a long way to lead us to a life with more peace.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

"Summer time and the living is easy"

I always loved summer vacation when my kids were little. I was fortunate. As a teacher, my work schedule also relaxed for these few months, so my sons and I were able to have pretty flexible routines. I am not a hot weather person, so it was mostly about staying cool. Most summer mornings the guys could sleep in and play with their friends in the neighborhood during the day. We also visited local parks and did some swimming a few times a week.

It was pretty dramatic the way the day to day hassles would just about disappear. This was a reminder that the main thing that contributed to our typical challenges was our "too busy" schedule. We didn't need to get out of the house early and "on time." House chores were still there, but there was more time to do them. There was no homework to cloud our evenings. And there was less of a push for a consistent bedtime because the mornings were less demanding.

Summer time was family time for us. I know, not everyone has this luxury. Many parents have to work year round and their children must keep up many of the daily routines. With longer daylight, I hope you are able to have some relaxing evenings.

What helps you live more easily in the summer?

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Let's talk

I would love to hear from you. What are your challenges with kids? What are your joys? I am hoping to blog more regularly during the summer. And I would like this to be a dialogue. Kids, life, stresses, community concerns?

Just click on the comments and go through the steps to add yours.

We are all in this together. It definitely takes the whole village to look out for us all.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Cranky time

When is the classic worst time of day, the time when we all find ourselves on the verge of melt down? From about 4pm until the kids' bedtime. We are tired after a busy day. Blood sugar is low as we scramble to prepare dinner. Kids want our attention when we have very little energy to give and no creativity. Homework still lies ahead for school agers.

Since this is an every day occurrence, we might as well accept the challenge and move into this time with reasonable expectations.

Kids need to eat more often than we do. They are often more energetic than we are, so they are burning those calories much more quickly. Having a snack before dinner is a good thing to restore energy and lower crankiness. If they aren't able to eat a full dinner, that's okay too. A pleasant evening is our goal, not a food fight.

Television is a distraction, as are computer and video games. If we can set limits with these, a few minutes of Media time can give us a chance to get the rest of the evening on track. A few minutes! Have these off during meals. Talk together. Check in about the day. And keep them off until everyone's homework is done. TV-time is not family time. We can play games together or go for a walk to the park. Throw the ball around outside now that it's light until about 9pm.

Bedtime routines help smooth the evening wind down process. Kids often like being with us and don't want to miss out. If we are rushing kids off to bed so we can relax, we may find ourselves pulled back over and over again with their requests for attention - water, "he's laughing at me!", trips to the bathroom. Instead, do all of these things as part of the routine and talk or read together.

As with so many things, our attitude influences how this challenging time will pass. We can let our grumpiness make for increased frustration for everyone. Or we can make sure we have reasonable expectations and give kids the attention they crave.