14. December 2012 · Comments Off on Holiday Organization – 6 Tips For Keeping Your Sanity Through the Season · Categories: Home And Family · Tags: , ,

We all love the idea of the holiday season, right? We love the lights and the colors, the parties and the visits with family, the events and the ceremonies, heck – even the shopping and cards have their own flavor of nostalgia. But there’s just so MUCH!! Most of us pack an entire year’s worth of activity into a single month, leaving us frustrated and burnt out, instead of renewed and uplifted. Surviving the season doesn’t have to be a challenge worthy of reality TV. All you need are these six simple tips to save your sanity:

1. Prioritize. Make a list of the most important events, places, activities, and people that you absolutely cannot do without. Some examples might be picking out the tree, going caroling, the Johnson’s New Year’s Eve party, a sleigh ride with the kids, Christmas mass, or shopping on “Black Friday.” Put these items on your calendar FIRST, to avoid conflict. Now you can schedule around them, but make sure not to overbook yourself! Try to find ways to consolidate if possible. If several of your friends in the same circle are having soirees, attend one instead of all of them.

2. When it comes to decorating, open your decorations a week before you start, to review what you have and what you need. (Every year, I leave myself a note telling me what I need the following season – it’s absolutely priceless!) This is the time to test your lights! Make a plan for your decorating – how do you want it to look when it’s done? This will keep your home and yard looking fun and classy, instead of like a hoard of crazed elves descended upon your house! NOW go shopping, armed with your list of necessities to meet that plan. The major benefits are two-fold: First, you’ll get in and out of the store faster, and with more money left in your pocket, since there was no need for browsing / impulse buying. Second, on decorating day, putting up the seasonal trimmings will be the fun family activity you anticipated, and NOT a migraine inducing Rubik’s Cube.

3. Don’t make gift shopping a bigger hassle than it needs to be. I think we all have a tendency to blow this WAY out of proportion. Here are some great ways to simplify:

· Many credit cards offer double bonuses for shopping on their affiliated sites. You get everything done in the comfort of your home, plus you get a little something in return. · I’m a huge fan of theme gifts – in fact, I do it almost every year. This just means that you give everyone on your list the same thing, or some variation of it. It’s a great way to control your budget (which we’ll get to in a second), and there is no sense of “competition” between gift recipients! · Remember that the purpose of the gift (beyond religious symbolism) is to show your loved ones your appreciation… not how much money you have. · Decide whether you really need to get a gift for everyone you know. If you have a large family or circle of friends, consider drawing names instead of buying for everyone.
4. Make a budget… and stick to it. BEFORE you start purchasing, determine what funds you have available. As you find appropriate gifts, write down the price and subtract from your budget. Once you have a list of gifts that fits your allowance, THEN go shopping. (Note: If you’re buying online, don’t forget to include the shipping!) If you love the thrill of the hunt and the chaos of the malls (!), you can have your cake and eat it too, but you must resist the temptation to whip out the wallet on the spot. Carry a pad of paper and write down the gifts you find, then circle back to purchase when your list is complete. This also eliminates the problem of having to skimp on the last gifts you purchase because you’ve run out of money!

5. If you are hosting an event, one of the biggest hurdles is the always the food. Decide on a menu: formal or informal, catered or cooking? If you are catering, call at least three restaurants / services to get pricing and availability – there’s a lot of gouging that goes on this time of year, and you’ll want a guarantee that the food will be ready when you need it, especially if your event is ON a holiday. If there is one restaurant you prefer, but it’s not the one with the best price, don’t be afraid to ask if they will meet their competitor’s price (as long as you are comparing apples to apples, of course) – the worst they can say is “no.” If you are cooking, make a list of all ingredients for all the recipes. Cross off what you already have on hand, then take the remaining list with you when you go grocery shopping. This will eliminate the crisis of missing ingredients on cooking day!

6. Holiday cards are a staple of the season, and are truly a great way to keep outlying friends and family at least a little in the loop. Many people shy away from sending cards because the store-bought ones are too generic, and personalized messages seem like too much effort. Truly, sending a warm greeting does not have to take hours or cost a fortune! If you’d like to include a newsletter (always a nice touch!), make bullet points for each event you want to talk about – three to six points is plenty. Now just flesh out each point with two or three sentences, and just like that, you’re done! If writing isn’t your thing, you can certainly snap a photo of yourself or your family, or heck, even the dog! Then just use any of the huge number of online photo services available to create an instant card with a simple personalized message like, “Sending you all the warmth and love of the season from Bob, Cindy, Mike, Julie, and Barky!” I’m sure there’s no need for the trite reminder about keeping the spirit of the season rather than getting swept up in the commercial chaos, so just follow these guidelines, and you’ll find yourself sailing through the season with all the joy and gratitude that you’ve previously only seen in made-for-TV movies. Happy Holidays!
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18. August 2012 · Comments Off on Ordinary Souls, Extraordinary Acts · Categories: Home And Family · Tags: , ,

Their silent wounds have speech

More eloquent than men;

Their tones can deeper reach

Than human voice or pen.

~William Woodman

While I stand on the sidewalk during our town’s Memorial Day parade, I will fix my thoughts on the extraordinary acts performed by ordinary men and women on my behalf. I stand in awe at their bravery and wonder how they were able to stir up such courage in order to put their lives on the line for the ideals which they held so dear. They did it for me. They did it for you. William Woodman said it well: “their tones reach deeper than human voice or pen.” Words cannot convey —nor can the mind fully comprehend—the generosity and unadulterated self-sacrifice bestowed on us by ordinary people throughout the ages.

I urge you to pray for the men and women in our Armed Forces who are this day putting their lives on the line in far corners around the globe in order to protect our personal freedoms and to defend the liberties which we hold so dear. Pray for the families who are fervently praying and awaiting their loved ones’ safe returns.

“Are they dead that yet speak louder than we can speak, and a more universal language? Are they dead that yet act? Are they dead that yet move upon society and inspire the people with nobler motives and more heroic patriotism?” ~Henry Ward Beecher

03. June 2012 · Comments Off on Making a Mother’s Day Memory · Categories: Home And Family · Tags: , ,

“Of all the rights of women, the greatest is to be a mother.” Lin Yutang

When Anna Jarvis stood at her mother’s gravesite nearly one hundred years ago, she vowed to establish a day to honor not only the mother in her own life—but to honor mothers everywhere. The activism she observed firsthand in her mother’s fight to improve the living conditions of those battling poverty motivated her to carry on an activist project of her own: celebrating mothers who had come before her, mothers in her own lifetime, and mothers whose times had not yet come.

The tradition of giving white carnations to mothers was started just a couple years later, and within nine years—with the U.S. Congress passing a joint resolution—Mother’s Day was officially established to celebrate a woman’s role in the family.

The holiday was never to have been made into a commercial brouhaha. Indeed, Anna Jarvis would be rolling over in her grave with the success of Hallmark’s Mother’s Day revenues alone. For she desired that the day be celebrated with sentiment rather than with profit; that flowers and hand-written notes of appreciation be given away.

So just how can we celebrate Mother’s Day as a holiday with those we love—and yet honor the wishes of its founder? How can we encourage others to express loving sentiments to us—rather than encourage them to purchase loving sentiments? And where does chocolate fit into the Mother’s Day equation for crying out loud?!?

Get started:

Encourage handmade. I have saved every one of the handmade cards my children have ever made me. Cute as they are upon presentation, they are downright priceless a decade later. Call me a sentimental schmuck: the same hand that wrote my first Mother’s Day card is now filling out college applications. Don’t ever let your kids buy commercial Mother’s Day cards. Make sure they know where the stamps, ink pads, stickers, glitter (I know I know), glue, colored markers, art pencils, and blank stationery are stored in your home. And encourage their creativity.

Encourage home baked. There is, after all, nothing quite like breakfast in bed. Especially on Mother’s Day. It reads: “I adore you, my love. Stay in bed awhile. Relax. You’ve worked so hard.” Or something like that. You get the idea. Encourage your entourage to treat you with home baked coffeecake, cinnamon rolls, biscuits, or buttered toast; they’ll be special because your hubby and children made them just for you. Even if they whacked the can against the kitchen counter to produce those little tasties, go with it and relish the moment.

Encourage home cooked. But only if he can do it. I mean, seriously, if the guy can’t boil water, don’t expect him to produce a gourmet six-course dinner. Much better to go to your local diner. But if he becomes inspired to cook for you—as mine did only once in twenty-two years—then go for it. Relax on your favorite upholstered chair and let him go crazy in your kitchen, if just for a day.

Encourage hand picked. Ok. It’s a stretch. But expensive roses are not for everybody, you know. While a bouquet of hand-picked wild flowers may or may not cut it for me, a bunch of daffodils would. As would a single lovely hyacinth. If the scent of spring flowers wafting through your home arouses your aesthetic sensibilities, then tell hubby that this year, you’d prefer sprouted bulbs.

Get brilliant:

For those of us too addicted to our society’s conceived notions of the proper care and feeding of mother on Mother’s Day, here are a few more options.

Go fancy. Leave the kids at home and let hubby treat his queen to the most exquisite restaurant he can afford. Mother’s Day comes but once a year, after all. Get gussied up, dressed up, and psyched up for a night out on the town. Splurge big-time. No holds barred. It’ll fill your tank for months.

Go custom. Encourage hubby to treat you to something that you really really want. Granted, the elm wood Venetian easel with a lovely oil finish that I’ve asked for might not turn you on, but it is what I really really want for Mother’s Day this year. My oil paintings have taken over our major living areas and I need another easel. But the survey would say: you could probably care less for that. What do you dearly desire? Put a bug in hubby’s ear and encourage him to surprise you on Mother’s Day. A spring outfit? Cute handbag? New perfume? Pedicure? It’s easy. Just let your kids figure it out and they’ll pass it on to the wallet-holder in no time.

Go chocolate. It’s always the answer. I don’t care what the question is. The predilection for chocolate is nearly universally human—as proven by at least seventeen university studies—and carries back, by some estimates, to more than 75,000 years. Early explorers in South America used it as currency and sold it in solid bars. My favorite is as bitter and dark as you’ll ever find, with 85% cocoa. Yours might be sweet milk chocolate. Indulge. But be careful. You don’t want to die from chocolate-induced coma on Mother’s Day.

Go easy. Most of all, you need a break on Mother’s Day. Put your feet up. Get comfortable. Relax with a book. Or a magazine. Allow yourself the dizzying liberation of being downright lazy for just one day.

Most importantly, love the ones you’re with. My guess is they are the very ones who made you a mommy in the first place.

Happy, happy Mother’s Day!
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14. April 2012 · Comments Off on Fighting March Madness Fully-Armed · Categories: Home And Family · Tags: , ,

“I hope that while so many people are out smelling the flowers, someone is taking the time to plant some.” Herbert Rappaport

The first official day of spring doesn’t exactly bring with it the same anticipation as does, say, Christmas, or one of my kid’s birthdays. It’s not as though gifts need to arrive on time or one has cultural expectations or deadlines to meet. But a palpable angst about greeting it fully prepared meets me most every year. And this year was no different. I felt an overwhelming need to have all of my little duckies in a row before today. I wanted closets weeded, drawers re-organized, kitchen cabinets swiped. Winter stuff boxed up. And spring’s cheer to pervade each and every one of my living spaces.

I wanted fresh air, literally and metaphorically, to invade my mind, my family and my home. I longed to roll up my sleeves and wipe away cobwebs and crumbs. To donate outgrown clothing to a local charity. To go through my medicines and check expiration dates. Go though my business invoices and put them in chronological order. Clear out my files and discard un-interesting material. Delete months-old emails from my inbox, for crying out loud!

And all that my husband wanted was to see Kentucky beat UConn. He longed to lounge on the sofa in front of the tube—chips and salsa within immediate, easy reach—all weekend long, while I faced the daunting task of cleaning up my entire life.

Add to that the news that my mom was having some health concerns, and I felt particularly guided to drive the 150 mile trek to her home and spend all day Saturday visiting with her.

Motherhood brings with it a near-constant feeling of unsettled-ness. Of never really feeling like you’ve truly got it all together. Because just when you finally make it past one hurdle you’ve got another one staring you in the face. You watch your teen sail successfully through mid-terms only to sit through an unpleasant parent-teacher conference discussing her deficiencies. Or you get your whole family safely through flu season only to deal with each member contracting that dreaded stomach virus. You shovel out from underneath one last snowstorm only to get hit with high winds and hail. Or you finally breathe a sigh of relief that you’ve successfully battled the winter blahs only to find yourself emotionally unprepared for the perpetual cheerfulness of spring.

March madness.

I woke up Sunday morning feeling particularly unsettled. Having just returned home from a long day out-of-state visiting my mother and other family and friends, I looked around at my house and felt an overwhelming need to get my act together. Perhaps it was from dealing so personally with the realities of old age. Perhaps it was the lunchtime banter of aches and pains amongst the seventysomething set. Perhaps it was the long drive home giving me far too much time for introspection. But I returned feeling compelled to infuse a “Lysol moment” into my life. I craved cleanliness and orderliness. Freshness and vitality. Spring cheer.

Perhaps your circumstances are dissimilar to mine but your goal is the same. Perhaps you, too, desire to greet spring with enthusiasm. With a fresh start. With energized focus. Here, then, is my formula for fighting March Madness fully-armed:

Be well-rested.

It’s hard to face organizational and creative challenges, not to mention a whole new season, deprived of sleep. Research tells us we need at least 6-7 hours a night. You should find yourself generally able to conquer the world if you get this one thing right.

Be strong.

Get plenty of aerobic exercise and strength training. Gliding through spring requires you to be in fighting shape. You need to be sure that the endorphins are swirling through your body, so make sure that you’re moving, lifting and sweating. Whether you’re already biking and hiking, or you’re inside swimming or doing Pilates, keep at it. You want to shed those extra seven pounds that winter inevitably brings (I picked them up, too) and get down to your best shape. (And bathing suit season is just around the corner.)

Be disciplined.

Be mindful of what you’re eating, what you’re reading and what you’re watching. Spring brings with it too many chores to allow sloppiness or laziness into your days. That can wait ‘til summer. There are gardens to tend, decorating projects to undertake and end-of-year school events to plan. Leave the self-indulgence for later, after spring’s demands are fully met head-on. Attack closets and cabinets with a vengeance now so that you might enjoy summer’s own rewards later.

Be helpful.

The sure-fire way to settle any feelings of unsettled-ness is to do something nice for someone else. My own quick trip to visit my family this weekend brought me deep-seated feelings of satisfaction. It did my heart good to see my mother looking as well as she did; it calmed any anxieties I faced about possible health concerns for her. The fastest lift out of the doldrums is service to others. So look around and see where you might fit in community service. Or of simply providing a meal to a neighbor or friend in need.

Be optimistic.

No other season spells optimism as does spring. New life bursts through both grass and eggs. The sun shines. Clouds disappear. Allow yourself to be liberated by its uplifting, energizing days. Take a walk around your neighborhood or a quick spin through your nearest mall. Enjoy the visual delights of spring: the yellows, purples, pinks and greens. Pick a flower. Grow wheatgrass for your kids’ Easter baskets. Plant some herbs. Think of ways in which you might introduce new life into this world.

I confess to not having met all of my goals for this first day of spring. There are still a few messy cabinets and sticky floors begging for attention. But I am focused on fighting this madness before the day is over. Fully-armed. And ever so thankful that spring is finally here!

Yahoo!
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23. February 2012 · Comments Off on Choose Your Favorite Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle Halloween Costume For This Holiday Season · Categories: Home And Family · Tags: , ,

To help you select your favorite Ninja Hero costume, I’ve provided is a little backround history on the Ninja Turtles.

The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are a fictional team of four mutant turtles, who are trained by their sensei, Master Splinter, in the art of Ninjutsu. From their home in the storm sewers of Manhattan, they battle nasty criminals, evil grandiose performers, and alien invaders, all the while remaining isolated from society at large. The characters originally appeared in comic books before being licensed for toys, cartoons and film adaptations.

During the height of its popularity in the late 1980s through early 1990s, the franchise reached considerable worldwide success and fame.Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird, are the creators of the Turtles. They started the black and white comic book with just $1,200 in 1984. With a lot of work and and massive good fortune, they have seen the Turtles go from an underground hit to a world-wide wonder. “When we created the Turtles, we wanted to spoof the world of super hero characters and poke good natured fun at the heroic, but not so funny, characters that dominated the business,” said Peter. “The Turtles are fun heroes with an attitude! Basically, they act and think like average teenagers.”

Choose your favorite mutant ninja turtle, which Hero do you want to be for Halloween Holiday?

#Leonardo (Blue bandanna and ninjato) – The brave leader and loyal student of martial arts. He is the oldest of the four Ninjas. Did you know that he was originally characterized by four large horns protruding from his head? Leonardo is named after the an Italian, painter, architect, inventor, scientist, mathematician, engineer, sculptor, botanist, musician and writer: Leonardo Da Vinci.

# Donatello (Purple bandanna and bo) – The brilliant scientist, genius inventor, extraordinary engineer, and technological giant. He is probably the least violent Ninja Turtle, he prefers to use his intellect to solve conflicts. He wears a purple mask and weilds the bostaff. He is the second oldest of the four. He is named after Donatello the sculptor.

# Raphael (Red bandanna and sai) – The team’s bad boy, he has a fierce nature and rarely hesitates to throw the first punch. He is an intense fighter. His personality can be alternately fierce and sarcastic, and he frequently delivers deadpan humor. Still, he is deeply loyal to his brothers and sensei. Raphael wears a red mask and wields a pair of sai. He is the third oldest of the four. He is named after Raphael Sanzio.

# Michelangelo (Orange bandanna and nunchaku) – He is easy-going and free-spirited. He provides much of the comic relief. Even though he loves to relax, this Turtle also has an adventurous and creative side. He wears an orange mask anwield the nunchaku. He is the youngest of the four and is named after Michelangelo Buonarroti. Michelangelo’s sense of humor has been callous at times and has toned down considerably, since Leonardo had warned his brother about his sometimes insensitive behavior.

I hope you enjoyed this bit of history on one of my most favorite Heroes!

10. February 2012 · Comments Off on Valentine’s Day is Almost Here-But Should We Even Bother? · Categories: Home And Family · Tags: , ,

One of the flower-candy-greeting card-industry holidays is almost upon us. Aside from lining their coffers with millions of dollars, your lover practically relies on it for getting attention, romance and sentimental gifts. But should we, as consumers, even bother?

Absolutely. The beauty of the holiday is that it presents
wonderful opportunities to send love messages to all those people who bless your life.

Traditional Valentine’s messages were simply that: simple messages. Chocolate, flowers, expensive dinners out, and extravagant gifts have evolved over time with loads of encouragement by the marketing giants in the hospitality and confectionary industries more interested in making a strong bottom line than preserving heartfelt and time-honored traditions.

That said, Rocket Mom’s Valentine’s Day recommendations:

. Do coffee in bed. A favorite love act–or at least one of them–of connoisseurs and regular folks alike.

. Send handmade love messages–from silly to sincere–to every member of your family. All artistic levels will be welcomed.

. Create heart-shaped food of any kind: pancakes, muffins, French toast, waffles, cookies, brownies….they all work.

. Treat family and friends to small treats. From handmade heart stationery to a heart-shaped box stuffed with money to a care package for your favorite college student: anything that reads: “I love you” will be treasured.

. Do something unexpected. Anyone can order flowers for special delivery. Can you stir up those creative juices? How about treating your love to a special book, accessory for his favorite hobby. Does he fly-fish? Ski? Is he a gourmet cook? Can you tryst at an out-of-town country inn? Or splurge on a new piece of furniture? Or new window treatments? How about surprising her with a bathroom remodel?

. Scatter love notes throughout the house, with family member’s
names written on envelopes and marked “DO NOT OPEN UNTIL FEBRUARY 14.”

. Hide lunchbox–or wallet–love notes all week long.

. Cook your lover’s favorite dinner. Don’t forget the candles,
cloth napkins, silver, and china. Drink only red wine. Plan it such that the kids have long ago been sent to bed.

. Take a long soak with your honey. Or give him a massage. Use your favorite oils, light the candles and give yourself plenty of time…or all night long.

. Compose a love poem. Love poems are a Valentine’s Day tradition!

. Roses remain the Valentine flower of choice. Rose re-spelled
spells Eros. Give one or give a dozen. Red.

. Chocolate. Very dark. And plenty of it.

In the end, being a faithful Valentine means looking out for the
needs and affections of those you love-and the willingness to
show it. See what small acts of kindness you can do today–and all week long–to celebrate the tradition of Valentine’s Day. The tradition of expressing your love.
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21. January 2012 · Comments Off on PG Rating Isn’t What It Used To Be · Categories: Home And Family · Tags: , ,

If there are any parents reading this who are thinking of taking their under-10 year olds to see the PG rated Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, please read the following from a ScreenIt.com review:

Rated PG, the film contains a handful of mild expletives; some non-explicit, but sexually related dialogue; one teen who sexually pursues her soccer coach nonstop until he finally can’t resist anymore and they apparently have sex (off-camera, after some making out, and she feels empty afterwards)…

I have not read the books this movie is based on, nor am I likely to see the film (I’m not the target audience), but I did read in an interview with the author of the book series (Ann Brashares) that she made an effort to allude to any sexual issues in the books in the most oblique way possible.

It doesn’t sound like it will be all that subtle in the movie version, which would be fine if it was rated PG-13 (The target audience for these books is 13-16 year old girls).

Gone are the days when you could just assume that a PG-rated movie is OK without doing any further research. I really believe that at some point parents will have to screen even G-rated movies before taking their kids to see them.

And whose fault is this? No, I don’t just lay the blame at the foot of the studios, but it rests with the film ratings board. From FilmRatings.com:

Who gives movies their ratings?

Parents give the movies their ratings-men and women just like you. They are part of a specially designed committee called the film rating board of the Classification and Rating Administration. As a group they view each film and, after a group discussion, vote on its rating, making an educated estimate as to which rating most American parents would consider the most appropriate.

Ok, fine. Sounds good so far… although I still don’t understand how the envelope continues to be pushed first on PG-13 films, and now apparently on PG films as well.

After further investigation:

The ratings are decided by a full-time Rating Board located in Los Angeles. There are 8-13 members of the Board who serve for periods of varying length.

Oh! Now it all makes sense! With apologies to parents in the state of California who are trying to raise their kids right, could the MPAA find a location from which to select a group of parents that could be less in touch with the rest of the country?

I suppose they could have assembled a group from the San Francisco Bay area…

Here’s a suggestion: How about a group assembled from parents across the country? Figure out a way to do it… just send out screeners and then do a conference call. IMO that would get you a more representative cross section of parents countrywide.

Something needs to be changed, because the ratings system is obviously not working any more.

16. January 2012 · Comments Off on Going the Distance · Categories: Home And Family · Tags: , ,

Without a doubt, the last few weeks of school are amongst the busiest in the calendar year. Graduations, recitals, concerts, sporting competitions and final exams all exert undue influence over the time and energy of students and parents alike. Most days find me traveling across the county shuffling kids to one event or another; May and June find me barely able to navigate the logistical gymnastics required for all of the above.

This weekend was no different. Batting clinics, lacrosse games and a year-end orchestra concert in which three of our kids played, took up most of our time. Thankfully, a quick visit (and fun May ritual) from my oldest friend from out-of-town provided just the fresh spark I needed to keep my enthusiasm level high throughout. It was a happy, happy weekend, filled with family, friends and fun.

Anecdotes throughout the weekend presented a resounding theme: going the distance is worth it. It’s worth the time. It’s worth the energy. It’s worth the driving around. It’s worth the work.

A visit to an antiques shop in Connecticut—and a wonderfully long chat with the owner—convinced me of the need to counter our “fixed in a flash” modus operandi with a longer term perspective on life. The antiques dealer winced at the notion that young people today desire their homes to be instantly furnished and decorated, using a few clicks of the mouse on eBay to supply them with everything from linens to lamps to dining room tables. Few young people today are willing to take the time and energy to wisely shop for their homes anymore. To scour antiques shops in faraway towns. To put in the time for adventure. To find thrill in “the hunt.” The pursuit, which used to take center stage, has been replaced in these bustling days of ours with “the catch.” We become satisfied with second-rate, because hunting for “wonderful” is just too cumbersome.

Friendships, too, take years and years to develop. They blossom eventually, through years of coffees and lunches, movies and trips, phone calls and postcards. They start as budding relationships, and grow and grow and grow if well-watered. Surviving a few inevitable bumps in the middle, like acne on our teens’ faces, they eventually develop into beautiful models of faith and trust and love. Like our children, friendships require years of nurturing. Of time and energy and good old-fashioned hard work.

Some of the most talented kids in our town performed in the end-of-year concert for the youth orchestra this weekend. My husband and I got lumps in our throats watching our own children play a Beethoven symphony in its entirety. No “fixed in a flash” model there. Obtainable only through years of lessons. Of weekly practices. Of discipline. Persistence. Vision. Determination.
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04. November 2011 · Comments Off on Family Gatherings – How to Deal With Tension and Uncomfortable Situations · Categories: Home And Family · Tags: , ,

Family. We love them, but there’s a reason we leave the nest, right? No one knows how to press your hot buttons and make you feel like an awkward kid again, quite the way family does. For some it’s judgmental in-laws, and for others it’s a well-meaning mom telling you how to raise your kids, Aunt Mary letting the skeletons out of the closets, cousin Julie’s horrible children, or the men’s constant game of one-up-manship. Whatever your situation, it can turn your gathering into a tinderbox ready to be ignited by the smallest spark. Don’t let your familial bonds render you powerless.

1. The emotional downer: When asked about yourself by someone who is typically looking for an opportunity to bring you down, stay as neutral and superficial as possible, so as not to create an opening for competition and judgment.

“Has your business recovered from that incident last year?”
“Oh we’re doing fine, thank you. How are things going for you?”

Avoid offering any details, and turn the subject back to them immediately.

2. The judge: If you do find yourself in a scenario of being confronted with judgment, stay positive and confident – remember that they are looking for a reaction!

“Guess you learned your lesson from that bad decision, huh?”
“Every day is a lesson, and we all have them to learn! Have you tried these stuffed mushrooms?”

Let them know, as subtly as possible, that they are not in a position to emotionally affect you.

3. The One-Uppers: For those who engage in constant one-up-manship, realize that all they want is attention, and just give it to them! Congratulate them, compliment them, and keep the conversation focused on them. They can’t top you if you’re busy agreeing with how wonderful they are. This is also an easy one to escape. When they’ve recounted their latest, greatest achievement, grab Uncle Joe and say, “Joe, you have got to hear what Cathy did last week!” Thus allowing you to slide gracefully out of the picture.

4. The Skeleton Releasers: This can put you in the hot-seat faster than falling on a bonfire. The key is to keep your cool, and change the subject as fast as possible.

“I’m so glad you and Dan are happy! I always wondered if you’d made the wrong decision in breaking up with his brother Jim.”
“We are extremely happy, and building a better FUTURE every day! Where did you get that bracelet? It’s absolutely stunning!”

DO NOT return the favor by pulling out more skeletons! Make a point of putting the past in the past. If you then turn the focus on them, they will be forced to flow with the change of subject, in order to answer your question.

5. Let’s face it though, you can’t plan for every contingency. If things do get uncomfortable, simply excuse yourself from the conversation: go to the restroom, change conversation groups, or fake a phone call. Don’t worry about what the other person thinks. Under the circumstances, that individual should be viewed as a bully, and given the same amount of consideration. When you are calm, weigh the options, and determine whether it would be best to leave.

6. When you’re going to a gathering where you KNOW there’s going to be trouble, just make it quick. Consider attending for appetizers or dessert only (appetizers if you know that alcohol will escalate the drama later, dessert if things usually calm down after dinner)!

7. One more tip: If there are particular people with whom you routinely have issues, but it seems to be JUST you, take a look in the mirror. How are you contributing to the tension in these “confrontations?” Take a step back and try to see things from their perspective.

Ultimately, remember that every person in your life, family or not, is there for a reason, and with some gift to contribute to your individual growth. Look for this, and the light that shines on each of them will suddenly be much kinder.

22. September 2011 · Comments Off on Mean Girls – What Parents Can Do When BFF’s Become Enemies · Categories: Home And Family · Tags: , ,

For girls, friends mean connection and validation and when a girl wants to hurt another, the deepest wound she can cause is to cut off that friendship. The technical term is called relational aggression more popularly known as “mean girls.” Often though, the mean girl was a best friend just yesterday! Relational aggression is behavior that is intended to isolate or exclude through refusing to speak, spreading gossip, starting rumors, aggressive body language, eye rolling, and mean stares. If you daughter is the victim, here are five ways you can support her:

Avoid minimizing. Parents often underestimate the depth of pain losing a friendship can cause. They respond with minimizing comments like, “Just ignore her,” or “Girls will be girls.” These empty platitudes do not help your daughter solve her problem and make her feel you don’t understand, resulting in her keeping things from you. Coach, don’t solve. You may be tempted to step in and save your daughter by calling the other girl’s parents or visiting the school. But, every time you solve a problem your daughter should be handling, you rob her of the opportunity to learn valuable social skills. You also convey that you don’t believe she’s capable, eroding self-confidence. Instead, ask what she wants to do and coach her in the skills she needs to do it. Role play. If your daughter wants to talk to the other girl, offer to role play the conversation. Don’t tell her what to say, just allow her to think through the conversation. Give her feedback on how she’s coming across and encourage her to think through the worst-case scenario. Remind her all conversations need to be face-to-face (no texting!) and in private. Encourage personal development. Girls who define themselves only by their friends fall hard if those relationships falter. Help girls pursue personal interests and hobbies that they can use to build confidence. Require one hour (at least) of technology-free time daily so that she’s not tempted to become consumed with online gossip and is forced to do something else. Teach social skills. Assertive communication and conflict resolution are skills that need to be taught. Eye contact, posture, voice tone, word choice, and listening skills are all necessary to build healthy friendships. If you need help teaching your daughter, seek a counselor who specializes in social skills for girls. Or encourage her to participate in a group like Circle of F.R.I.E.N.D.S. that teaches positive skills in a small group environment. Learn more about the program and facilitator guide by visiting http://www.susanfee.com