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February 11, 2013
A post I read this morning at C. Hope Clark’s blog entitled How We Treat Writers inspired this post.
Clark mentions the damage that can be caused when we underestimate or brush off writers’ abilities and aspirations, particularly in the case of young writers, and shares the story of 17-year-old Maureen, a writer who suffered from lack of support. In the post, Maureen writes:
“Without even meaning to, with a few words, my mother destroyed my drive to write for years at a time. There were plenty of other things I said; but the matter of writing, of how I had been harmed there, was a central issue. Writing is life to me, and I was still deeply bitter and insecure about it. Even as I hit the ‘post comment’ button I was bracing myself, imagining how stupid everyone would think me.”
This struck me so deeply. I was treated similarly as a teenager wanting to pursue a writing career. Words spoken by people I respected who probably meant well caused me to completely rethink what I should study after high school and what I should do “for a living.” The comment, “Oh, so you’re going to dye your hair purple and sit on the street begging for money when you’re not writing?” was particularly painful, but, in my case, it was lack of words from my mother that caused the most harm. The valuable “you can do it,” “you have talent,” or “you’re a writer, honey” type of supportive reinforcement never came. Added to the aforementioned hurtful comments, the reason behind becoming disillusioned enough to lose the desire or focus to write is quite clear.
I was fortunate enough to find my way back to the work that was always in my heart. It’s cliche but writing and working with words is, for me, like breathing. I need to do it. Period. That not only means I enjoy what I do, but it means I put my all into it and I care about the quality I provide, whether I’m doing work for a client, writing a personal blog post or writing fiction. It’s not just a job or something I’m doing – every bit of it is part of who I am.
But sometimes, those words – and lack of words – from way back when still pop into my mind. And when that happens, voices pop up that say things like, “Why are you writing fiction? The odds are so high, you’ll never get published.” I’ve trained myself to silence those pesky voices with other voices saying things like, “Why not?” and “Yes you will, you have great stories to share.” But sometimes, it takes a while for those positive voices to overtake the negative ones.
It is my belief that, even today with so many easily accessible resources, the “creative” talents in our world are too often stifled or pointed in other (inauthentic) directions, and that this needs to stop. Writers, artists, musicians, actors and similar sensitive and creative individuals deserve to be supported, appreciated and encouraged.
Care to share your own story of being supported or discouraged along your path? Please share in the comments, I would love to read about it!
Posted in Wordsworthy |
Tagged creative, encouragement, talent, writers, writing
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January 3, 2013
At this time of year, you’re probably tempted to make resolutions about what you’re going to do differently in the New Year. A question that always pops up in my chats with teens at this time of year is, “How can I make my resolutions stick?” My advice is always the same: don’t make any resolutions.
This response is usually met with some shock. But no matter what resolutions(s) you wanted to make, doing so is often a set up for failure. What happens that first day you do something that goes against the resolution you made? You feel bad, like you let yourself down, like you didn’t do well enough, that you didn’t succeed and have to start over again – but why should you? This just creates negative feelings and self-talk that can be extremely detrimental.
Instead of making resolutions, evaluate what you currently spend your time on, what you want to add, and the purpose for each commitment. Whether you want to resolve to study more, be more organized, take up a new activity or even to eat better, you can achieve the change you want to create by investing the time involved to make each idea work, while not sacrificing other important tasks or over-extending yourself.
Be realistic about the time, energy and other requirements involved with each item. For example, maybe you realize you need to do more volunteer work in order to meet your community service requirement to graduate. When selecting possible organizations with which to spend your volunteer hours, consider additional ways that time can support you. Will it be a positive addition to your resume and/or help with post-secondary and scholarship applications? When you evaluate all sides of the equation, you can create a valuable time investment that serves multiple purposes. By meeting more than one need in a single block of time, you open up extra time in your schedule to serve other purposes, such as time with friends and family or extra time to work on that ISP.
Take some time to sit with your schedule and list of commitments and consider where you want your time spent and how that time investment can be a stepping-stone toward accomplishing your goals.
If you need help figuring this out, click this link to find out how I can help you eliminate overwhelm and create your personal success priority action plan!
Posted in Dear Teenager |
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December 5, 2012
That’s right…despite the comments parents tend to make about how their teenager is “always” sleeping, my question to you, dear teenager, is: Are You Sleeping Enough?
With all the demands on your time and energy, getting enough sleep can become a challenge. But during the teen years, it’s more important than ever to get a good night’s sleep. Lack of sleep can result in lack of energy and focus, poor academic performance, mood and behaviour problems, and increases the risk of developing dependency issues regarding food, drugs or alcohol.
Avoid all of this with these three tips that will help you get the sleep you need.
- Create Comfort: Look around your bedroom. Does it seem like an area with the primary purpose of resting? Or is it a multimedia and study room full of books, papers, clothes, TV or computer screens, and music players? Consider organizing specific areas of your room that will support each activity you do there, and create a specific area on and around your bed that contribute solely to rest and sleep.
- No Caffeine: While it can be really tempting to guzzle some cola or sip on a coffee so you can get through that last hour of studying, caffeine can often have a longer lasting effect and end up keeping you awake longer than you planned. Don’t drink any caffeinated beverages after 6:00pm, and also consider any snacks you eat between dinner and when you head to bed. Excess sugar, whether from ‘junk’ food or other sources (such as fruits and crackers), can increase your energy and affect your ability to sleep.
- Free Your Mind: If you have a million things running through your mind, you’ll certainly have problems getting to sleep. Focus on calming your mind when you turn in for the night. Don’t take a device for texting or checking Facebook (charge the device instead, so you can catch up in the morning!), make sure computers or TVs are turned off and there aren’t any other distractions near your bed. Then, concentrate on how your head feels on the pillow and focus on breathing in and out at a slow and steady pace.
Now it’s your turn to share! In the comments below, please share your tips and tricks for getting the rest you need!
Posted in Dear Teenager |
Tagged sleep, teenagers, Teens, tips
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September 28, 2012
Do you feel like you don’t fit in? Starting high school or moving to a new school often cause a feeling of disconnection; sometimes it’s just a case of feeling like you’ve never found your place. The high school hallways can be an intimidating, confusing place. Amongst all those other people, how can you figure out where you fit in? Here are a few things you can try to help find your place.
GET INVOLVED: Consider being involved in one of the extra-curricular activities offered at your school. You can choose from sport teams (usually intramural or competitive), as well as academic and social clubs. Ask around and do a bit of research to find out which options exist and if they fit with your interests and time schedule. Being involved is an excellent way to meet new people and make new connections.
CREATE A GROUP: Study groups are an excellent way to be social while being responsible with your schoolwork. Find a few people who are either in the same class or taking the same course and decide on a time when you can all meet for a couple of hours to work on the course’s assignments and/or study for tests. Consider an off-school location and maybe rotate the spot, meeting at the home of one of the group members each time (parents will probably provide rides, if needed, and more importantly, snacks!).
If a study group involves too much of a link to the stresses of school, create a fun-focus group. Get creative with when and why you will meet. Will be it occasionally, say every-other month, or more often, like once a week? Will you hang out at a participant’s house, or go somewhere else? Will you watch movies? Make your own pizzas? Maybe you’ll have a monthly game night or any combination of activities you choose. The possibilities are as endless as your imagination.
STEP OUT OF YOUR COMFORT ZONE: A great way to find your own unique place during your time in high school is to move out of your comfort zone. Try joining a club that you’re interested in, even if no one you already know is involved. Start a conversation with the person who sits next to you in homeroom, or sit at a different table in the lunchroom. Accept invitations to events or get-togethers (as long as they fit with your schedule). When you have a question, regardless of what it is about, just ask it. Whether you think you need to ask a fellow student or a staff member, and whether or not you know them, just ask. You’ll likely be surprised by the connections, friendships and opportunities that can come from taking one step outside of that comfort zone!
A word of warning, however: be careful not to take on too much. If you overfill your schedule with clubs, sports and other commitments, you’ll suddenly find yourself wondering how you’ll ever fit it all in along with your schoolwork and other responsibilities. Be involved and be social, but be selective. Taking on too much is not what you want to achieve.
Finally, some words of advice for you as you figure out how your high school experience will fit you: Don’t be afraid to fail. Be afraid not to try.
How do you get involved or find your fit?
Posted in Dear Teenager |
Tagged High School, school, teenagers, Teens
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August 15, 2012
I subscribe to the newsletter of an individual who coaches others about business and marketing. On most occasions, there are typos or other errors in the copy of either the newsletter or the related blog post. I usually force myself to overlook them, but I did respond once to advise the sender about a particular error. They immediately sent out a corrected version to their subscribers (no, I didn’t get a ‘thank you’ message).
This individual recently sent out a newsletter and again, it contained errors. Enough was enough and, particularly because this newsletter was being used to promote the release of this person’s latest book, I responded to advise them of the errors. I was very friendly, personal and upbeat, and even used some of the jargon this person uses to promote their business in my message.
I expected a positive response. After all, this person sells their expertise on the foundation of the importance of building personal relationships and always providing exemplary service. And heck, they’ve written two books on the subject and surely had a relationship with at least one editor during that process, right?
What I received, however, was the “it makes me appear human” excuse, in a purposely error-filled sentence that also claimed that sending out something with errors in the copy made the person not appear “high and mighty.” The crux of this person’s claim was this:
“I’m a spaz, and rush to send things out without proofreading. Such is life, but it’s a fun one.”
They may as well have said, “I have no respect for what you do, even though I like to refer to myself as the author of two books, and claim to be an expert on business, marketing and building relationships.” They may as well have said, “My appointment calendar is filled with clients who pay me big bucks to coach them about their businesses, so I don’t care if my blog posts and newsletters are sub-par.”
Whether they care to admit it or not, there are two problems with their point of view:
1. They’re doing their clients a disservice by acting like it’s okay to do things halfway and not ensure high quality, no matter what the business is. (And they’re also failing to mention that errors in copy can cause businesses to lose up to 50% of existing or potential clients).
2. Their actions demonstrate the exact opposite of what they claim to stand for and the high standards they constantly expect from others.
And that certainly isn’t exemplary.
What do you think? Are errors in copy on websites, in blog posts and in newsletters not a big deal? Or do they make the owner, and the corresponding service and products, appear unprofessional and of reduced quality? If you expect quality from others, shouldn’t you do your best to provide it, too?
Posted in Wordsworthy |
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August 2, 2012
It’s the eve of the day that I hate.
I dread the arrival of this day every year. August 3. The day my dad died.
This year will mark 22 years since that day that derailed my life. Everything changed that day. And the people who know me as an optimist, as someone who believes that you can choose to be happy, choose (for the most part) to have a good day or a bad day, choose to be positive or negative, will perhaps wonder why I don’t practice what I preach when August 3 comes along.
You know what? I realize that I wouldn’t be where I am today were it not for the sudden and tragic loss of my father, when he was only 43 and I only 17 years old. I know that I am blessed. I appreciate where I am now; that I am able to help other teenagers who are facing an unfathomable loss (all losses are). I recognize how much more cognizant I am of special moments, special people and the ways my children offer an oh-so-welcome connection to my dad (I wrote about that and it was featured in Thrive in Life magazine). It’s not that I’m not grateful. I am, and very much so.
But guess what? Despite all that positivity, it sucks. It hurts. There are still days when I want to scream about it, cry about it, and when the depth of the loss of him – the moments never experienced, the talks never to happen, the relationships never begun or unfulfilled – is nothing short of overwhelming. And on the days that it “seems” okay, the days that are positive and full of joy and success, full of work and people I love, those days are still sorely missing a vital piece of who I was…of who I am.
I wasn’t the only one who was changed that day. I recognize how it changed the course of the lives of many other people: my mom, my grandparents (his parents), my uncle (his brother) and his wife (at the time), my cousins near and far, and some of my friends. And, certainly now, so many years later, my husband and my children, who all have to witness my emotion, my heartbreak and my references to someone they never knew; someone who must be like a distant character they have to try to imagine and can see only in photographs, without feeling any true connection.
I appreciate that I have been able to build a happy life; that my life is filled with so many blessings. I truly do.
But I miss him. I ache for him. Everyday. And August 3 is just the marker of how long I have lived this way; of how long he has been gone from me; of the memories, good and bad; of the memories that will never be.
How could I not be sad, emotional, and perhaps a bit distant? August 3 is the day I was uprooted and left to spin in a twister, trying desperately to find solid ground. It’s the day it all changed. Not one single thing. Everything.
Posted in Lyons Roars |
January 9, 2012
I write this post for Zack and his family, the Hamiltons. If you are not familiar with Zack’s story, check out the posts on his mom, Heather’s blog.
I have never met the Hamiltons and had never met Zack, their beautiful boy. In the way technology like the Internet, smart phones and social media have of creating opportunities that would never have otherwise existed, I came upon a tweet 10 months ago in which Heather indicated she was “preparing to say goodbye” to her son. As a mother of three boys myself, my heart broke. And I couldn’t help but follow as she so unselfishly shared her family’s story – the love, the pain, the sorrow, the Elmos, and more love – with the world.
I have known other parents who have lost their children, some from unexpected and shocking accidents and some from horrible, unspeakable illnesses. I’m always left to shake my head in disbelief and confusion, unable to comprehend any reasoning for such an event to take place. And I am caused, again, to think about how precious and fleeting life is. I squeeze my kids a little tighter when I hug them, and they furrow their brows a bit, wondering what is up with their mum.
But it was different with Zack. As I continued to read about his story and the Dream Room the family was creating in his honour at the hospital where he had spent so much of his short life, it somehow scratched into my heart in ways no other story had. And then it started. I started to see Zack’s face. Don’t worry; I’m going to explain.
As we take on the seemingly endless to-do lists in our lives as parents – work, home maintenance, laundry, meals, shopping, car maintenance, and on and on, who hasn’t had a moment of annoyance when their child asks for something? You know, they need a drink or a snack or a new movie, or “Mum, can’t you play this game, ONE more time?” When all we want is a moment to ourselves, or to be left alone to cook dinner, fold the laundry, finish up that one task for work. We sigh, we say, “Not right how, honey” or “In a minute, sweetie” and we think geeze, can’t I just get a break for a second?
As I set my work aside one day and followed my three-year-old son into the bathroom, to simply stand there while he did his business because he is quite capable on his own but just doesn’t like to be in the bathroom by himself, I was guilty of having one of those frustrated moments. I’m wasting time standing here, I thought to myself. And FLASH – a vision of Zack’s face popped into my mind. And my three-year-old, standing on his stool and washing his hands turned and said, “I love you mama.” And I sobbed. And I hugged my son like a maniac while I sobbed and kissed him and sobbed more and spoke words of thanks aloud that I have this boy, that he is with me, that I have the ability to stand and watch him do his business in the bathroom, or do any of the other million little things we are asked to do as parents.
My life, my children’s lives, my family’s daily experience changed that day. Because of Zack, I don’t get annoyed or frustrated when my kids ask me to do something that takes me away from something else. I don’t mind the time spent doing homework or playing Go Fish for the millionth time or helping them get dressed when they could easily accomplish that themselves. Don’t get me wrong – I’m not perfect, and when I sense that frazzled feeling coming on, I think, Zack. I envision his adorable face. It calms me instantly, I give thanks for whatever moment I’m in with my children and give them a bunch of love. Because I recognize so clearly that as parents, if we didn’t have those moments, wouldn’t we be wishing for them and wanting to give anything to have them?
So I find myself in a place of debt to Zack and the Hamilton family. How could I ever do anything to thank them enough? I can’t. There is nothing. But as they undertake the creation of a second room in Zack’s honour at York Central Hospital’s pediatric unit, I can at least help with that, by donating. The small amount of money I set aside each year to donate to a different cause in memory of my own parents is being used this year to help honour Zack in this way and bring some joy and comfort to other families facing an illness with their child. And, I can ask you to help, too, by choosing to start off your 2012 by donating to this special project. Please share this post and/or send the link to the donation site to your family, friends, colleagues – anyone you think could help to raise the impact of Zack’s legacy.
It hardly seems enough. It isn’t. But Heather says that Zack lived in her womb, in her home and now he lives in her heart. I also express my appreciation by stating the truth that Zack’s face and spirit live in my heart and in my home every single day, because of the difference his influence has made in my family.
To a family I have never met, and a boy I never knew: from the depths of my heart, I thank you.
To everyone else, I not only ask you to help by donating, I ask you to be more present and appreciative of the time you have with your own children. Or grandchildren. Or nieces and nephews, brothers and sisters. Enjoy and give thanks for every moment – the fun moments, the stressful moments, even the moments that seem mundane. Because what could be better than a moment like this?
Posted in Lyons Roars |
Tagged causes, children, death, death of a child, families, fundraising, grief, loss, Parenting, parents, Zack Hamilton, Zack's Dream Room
November 14, 2011
My 14-year old is in his first year of high school. Because of the work I do with and for teens, he gets a bit more bombarded with the messages I try to impart because he hears and reads my “stuff” – as he calls it – so regularly. He knows and, thanks in part to a recent issue with a hacked Facebook account, has a solid understanding of the impact that choices made in a heartbeat can have in the future. My husband and I have both seen the change in him over the past year or so as he has started to truly take on responsibility for his actions and, just as important, his reactions.
Despite the anti-bullying movements and Safe Schools programs in the school boards, Nathan attends a high school where physical fighting occurs between students on a regular basis. This occurs on the school yard, where students gather to watch, cheer and take sides, and it seems the teachers and administrators turn a blind eye.
Late in September, Nathan arrived home and told me some kids in the hallway invited him to go outside with them to watch a fight. As I held my breath waiting for the rest of the story, Nathan explained that he told the students no, and explained to them that he didn’t agree with fighting, so he refused to pretend that he did by going to watch.
I think I squeezed him so tight when I hugged him that I made him cough. And he told me that he simply thought about it, and knew in that moment he had an important choice to make.
Before he took The Pledge (which he now has done, along with the rest of our family) and before the related Upstanders movement, Nathan stood up. He wasn’t ashamed or afraid to do the right thing.
Can’t we all do the same? If we did, we could effectively end bullying. Now.
Posted in Lyons Roars |
Tagged Anti-Bullying, Bullying, Fighting, High School, Respect, Teens
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September 13, 2011
Do you ever find yourself doing something you perceive to be silly, pointless or strange?
There are a few things I do that cause me to shake my head in wonder. Actually, let’s face it, there are probably more than a few things. But a few things in particular make me shake my head and almost wonder aloud why I do them. In fact, I did one of these things last week and did say out loud, “why do you still do that?” I was in the midst of preparing dinner for my family and had opened a can of green beans. After dumping the contents in the pan, I placed the jagged-edged circle that had been removed by the can opener inside the can, then squished the can and set it on the counter. I asked the purpose aloud and then stopped and just stared at the deformed can.
Then, I smiled to myself.
I shook my head again and, still smiling, picked up the can and took it out to the recycle bin. I remembered how I started squishing the cans in my youth, after asking my dad why he did so each time he opened a can of something to go with our meals. (Yes, my dad was the cook in our family)! He had explained to me that with the edge of the cut-off lid being so sharp and dangerous, squishing the can caused the lid to be stuck inside. “That way, it can’t come out and hurt anyone by cutting them,” he had said. It made sense. And so I started to do the same thing. The habit stuck. When I caught myself doing it last week, I smiled at the memory; at the fact that I do something that caused me to recall so clearly a particular time spent in the kitchen with my dad.
And, for that very reason, I vowed to keep doing it.
It doesn’t matter that I take all cans I may open straight to the recycle bin and have no worries about the kids digging through the remnants in there and being hurt by jagged metal. It doesn’t matter that I assume – possibly incorrectly – that those who work at recycling establishments use appropriate equipment and wear personal protective items to prevent any such injuries from happening.
What matters is the memory. And the connection it invokes.
This caused me to start thinking about other things I do that are similar. Like the sprinkle of salt I add to the grounds in my coffee filter each morning. A quick Google search revealed that it is a practice that is known to reduce the bitterness in brewed coffee. That is exactly the reason my grandmother told me she added the sprinkle to the grounds she scooped into her percolator when I would help her make coffee and tea during family gatherings. I started to do it at home when I would prepare coffee for my parents after dinner or in the morning before they woke up. It is another habit that has stuck with me – and when I sprinkle that salt each day, I can almost smell the warm aroma of my grandparents’ kitchen.
I miss those people and those moments. And these small, seemingly-quirky habits bring them close to me, if only for a fleeting moment, and honours those moments that gained a specialness despite their everyday simplicity.
Do you have any similar habits? What different or unusual things do you do that reminds you of your loved ones, whether or not they are still physically present in your life?
If there is something, DON’T STOP DOING IT. If there isn’t something, is there something you can think of that you can start doing that would cause you to smile a knowing smile and honour a special person or moment?
Posted in Lyons Roars |
Tagged Food, Ramblings, Random Thoughts, remembrance
January 11, 2011
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I’m not a perfect parent. Nor have I claimed to be a perfect parent. Ditto for my husband. In fact, I don’t know any parents to whom I would apply a label of perfection, nor do we expect it of them. Isn’t parenting more of a process in which we grow and learn and just keep on keeping on while doing the best we can do?
Our two youngest kids have bedtime issues. They like to sit and cuddle with Mom and Dad (more specifically, Dad) when they should be in their beds in their rooms. By themselves. Falling asleep.
Our oldest is what you might refer to as high maintenance. He enjoys shopping, eating out and going to the chiropractor. He likes to “have things.” A massage and a pedicure (neither of which he has ever experienced) were both included on his Christmas wish list.
Are we terrible parents for sometimes indulging our kids in this way? They don’t constantly get their way or whatever item they have requested. But if our soon-to-be-three-year-old wants me to pick him up so he doesn’t have to walk up the stairs, is that really so terrible? If our five-year-old wants to snuggle under a blanket with his Dad instead of lying in his bed alone, is that horrible? Or is it positive that he recognizes where and with whom he feels safe and secure? If one of us is out shopping with our thirteen-year-old and we stop somewhere for lunch instead of coming home to eat, are we being over-indulgent?
Or are these “the moments” that get taken for granted far too often that we should all stop to recognize and appreciate?
Why do I ask?
Recently, a family from our local area lost their son. He was 20 years old. We know two men in their 40s who have been diagnosed with MS, causing their future physical abilities into question.
So here’s the way I see it. If my children want to be carried or cuddled, or to be treated to a restaurant lunch, or to run in the yard for an extra ten minutes – we should be more open to letting these things happen. Don’t get me wrong – I’m not advocating constant over-indulgence. But I consider the future – and really, when our children have grown and my husband and I have aged together – or God forbid, if an illness befalls any one of us – will it really matter that we cuddled them at night, or had a great conversation at that unexpected lunch, or that a child was carried up the stairs when he was quite capable of navigating the stairs all by himself?
Certainly, those things will matter. Because we will be grateful for having done it. Instead of regretting not having done it and wishing for the time back to do it differently.
Hug your kids. Spend special time talking with and just being with them. While they are still with you and you still have the ability.
As an imperfect parent, I think that is what matters the most.
Posted in Lyons Roars |
Tagged children, death, disease, illness, life, marriage, Parenting