Category Archives: Uncategorized

Truth, Family, and Super Heroes

Woman, Gal Gadot, starts out the Warner Brothers 2017 film directed by Patty Jenkins pondering her life lessons. She profoundly states, “What one does when faced with the truth is more difficult than you think.”

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The first prominent figure in her life, her mother is the first to struggle with this.  Hippolyta does a great job teaching Diana, “Fighting does not make you a hero.” And explaining, “Why war is nothing to hope for.”  But she struggles in what most parent do: preparing their beloved children for the worst this world has to offer, letting them go to experience it, and becoming who they are destined to become.

Antiope, Hipployta’s sister, however, isn’t afraid of these.  Rather, this best warrior of the Amazon’s is true to her title.  She doesn’t cower of the worst and believes the best way to deal with it is to face it and to prepare for it. Since Hipployta refuses to agree, Antiope trains Diana in secret.  Antiope knows she is right and accepts no shame for her decision when Hipployta confronts her after finding them training.  She successfully convinces Hipployta that its best to prepare Diana and finally receives her blessings to continue.

But Hipployta still desires to hide and protect Diana when Captain Trevor’s arrival disrupts their peace and Diana feels called to go with him.  At first Diana complies, but she had spoken with Steve Trevor.  He shared that his dad said, “When you see something wrong in the world you can either do something or nothing.”  He had tried nothing and it didn’t work, so he had to go back and try.

That profound statement and conviction had to grip Diana.  She grew up believing her mother’s tale that she and the other Amazons were created to protect mankind.  This purpose far surpassed the selfishness of living on Paradise Island problem free. So she resolved, “I am willing to fight for those who can’t fight for themselves.  So by night she scaled the tower wall, secured her divine provisions for battle, recruits Steve, and made way to leave.

Hippolyta with full guard on horseback approached Diana and Steve on the beach.  But this time instead of forcing Diana to return to the palace she laid the guilt trip on her that she couldn’t stop her and that she was breaking her heart.

Guilt trips manipulate so many.  And parents are some of the experts at laying them.  Thankfully for Diana, she chose to leave with the consequence of never returning.  But too many never find such courage and continue to stay close to mama.

Diana went on to experience the conflict her mother tried to protect her from.  She learned that men are easily corrupted and that they often fight without honor.  That they can incite “an endless war where men would destroy themselves. ” But she also learned that “it’s not about what one deserves.  It’s about what one believes.” She concludes, “But then I glimpsed the darkness that lives within their light and learned that inside everyone of them there will always be both.  A choice that each must make for themselves something no hero will ever defeat. And now I know only love can save the world.”  Love, not guilt, fear, or justice is what saves.  What do you believe? What choices are you making?

Hope Mucklow is the author of Rojo The Baby Red Panda at the Zoo, a Children’s Illustrated book for kids and adults. https://redpandanetwork.org/red-panda-wisdom-from-a-cub-called-rojo/

 

Tips for Veterans with Disabilities Looking to Start Their Own Business

Guest article by Erica Francis from http://readyjob.org/

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Photo credit: Hope Mucklow

For people with disabilities – especially veterans returning home to civilian life – traditional jobs can be much tougher than you could even imagine. Not only are there physical barriers to some traditional work (if you have mobility issues or a visual impairment, for instance), but the inflexibility of some careers can end up putting a strain on you and your family. For many in this situation, business ownership is a way to be your own boss, make the rules, and give yourself ultimate flexibility. Here are some tips.

Consider starting your own at-home business

A long time ago, when the internet wasn’t helping people from all over the world connect in seconds, the idea of running a successful business from home would’ve seemed ludicrous. But now, the concept is not only possible but it’s highly feasible. For those dealing with a disability who still wish to jump into the world of business ownership, creating a business that you can manage from home may be the smartest decision.

If you have professional skills, you can start up businesses in fields like graphic design, tax preparation, writing (grants, articles, technical), and public relations, and language translation. Low-stress jobs that could help you ease back into civilian life include transcription, life coach, travel agent, online tutoring, and technical support/advice.  The following are more for you to read and consider:     http://www.therichest.com/rich-list/world/10-richest-work-from-home-jobs/ http://www.bankrate.com/finance/personal-finance/10-best-and-real-work-at-home-jobs-1.aspx http://www.womansday.com/life/work-money/g934/best-work-at-home-jobs/

The power of email, telepresence (Skype, Google Hangouts), and social media can make careers that were once done only in offices and stores, face-to-face, available for you to do at home.

Know how to stay relaxed, healthy, and grounded.  Avoid drugs, alcohol, and other self destructive behaviors. http://www.drugrehab.org/addiction-suicide-veterans/

Starting a business is a stressful process. It’s counterproductive to work yourself to the point of exhaustion on a new small business idea. Sure, you want to work hard, but if you don’t take time to take care of yourself your efforts will be in vain. Stress, especially in veterans with disabilities that may suffer from depression, anxiety, PTSD, or another mental problem, can lead to unhealthy behaviors (for more on vets and addiction,  click http://www.drugrehab.org/addiction-suicide-veterans/.

If there’s one tip that sits above all else on the importance scale, it’s probably to make sure you get enough quality sleep. Lack of sleep or poor quality, interrupted sleep is a silent killer that trickles down into nearly every aspect of your daily life. Don’t be tempted to “add more hours” to the day by sacrificing sleep.

While the US government no longer gives out grants to disabled persons to finance their small businesses, there are organization dedicated to helping people with disabilities and veterans get started. It may not be financial help, but it can point you in the right direction and help you learn the basic steps to achieving your goal.

This site  https://www.sba.gov/starting-business/how-start-business/business-types/veteran-owned-businesses discusses laws and programs concerning disabled veteran-owned businesses, such as the Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business Concern Procurement Program. This site offers a toolkit full of links for vets, like info on how to write a business plan, how to estimate business costs, and how to find a business mentor. This site, SCORE, offers more info on mentors. This site offers tips and resources for any disabled person hoping to launch a small business.

 

 

Shopping Therapy

Earlier this week I experienced the most delightful shopping experience that I now share with you.  I felt genuinely respected and valued by the manager and her assistant.

It all started when we were waiting to yield onto Route 1.  My daughter sighted Safespace Foundation, Inc’s Thrift Store.  I hesitated to ask her if she wanted to stop, because I was tired and had a lot to do at home.  But recalling from past positive experiences when my daughter would do this, I decided to step out in faith. Maybe some provisions were waiting for us to purchase as we squealed in delight at our bargains.

I parked the car and we sauntered along the sidewalk towards the door. How strange, the door was locked and space empty.  Elise noticed that the space next to looked like the store we used to know.  So we proceeded around the building in search of another door.

We stepped inside and saw a young man busy organizing A LOT of stuff.  The place was jammed full of clothing hanging on racks with barely adequate space to breathe, much less move. Items on shelving lining the walls. This place was definitely under renovation!  Could it possibly be open for business?  I asked. The pleasant reply said,”Yes, mam! Come on in.”

I replied, “It looks like you’re moving.” The manager said, “Yes we are.  The space adjacent to us got rented out by someone else.  But we still have this area and the room in the back.”  “Room in the back? What’s that?” I asked. “Furniture.  Are you looking for any furniture?” “No.  Just a bookcase.  Do you have any over there?” I asked.  She answered, “Just the one next to you.” “But you need this one.  It’s holding all the stuff your selling” I replied.

“That’s not important. We can move that stuff” she said.  “But it’s really full of stuff!” I argued. “He’ll take care of it” she assured.  He happily lifted his head from the box he was processing and said, “Yes, Mam! There’s no problem with that. ” “Well, alright.  Let me see if it’ll fit in the car first.  Can I use this broom as a measuring standard?” “Oh, I have a measuring tape over here.”

That courteous guy walked out with me to see my car.  Putting the back seat down wasn’t going to be enough.  So I turned to return to the store.  He gently said, “Mam, it’ll fit if you put down the front seat too.”  “Good point.  Let me think about it while I shop.” “Take your time, Mam.  I’m here to help you when you are ready.

Well, we didn’t waste a minute.  We started digging for those treasures.  On the side hung a skirt that would add nicely to my wardrobe. But would it fit? And how about those pants? My daughter entertained herself by clomping around in the Liz Claiborne high heels that she found.  I moved onto the CDs. I found The Best of the Gypsy Kings and many other gems!

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I found a couple other pieces of clothing, but I questioned if they would fit.  Just like their other space, they had a small one person restroom utilized as a changing room too.  I opened the door to artistically painted walls that welcomed far warmer than those cold changing rooms at most clothing stores. The bathroom part of it sparkled with a clean shine and a large mirror allowed for me to view how the clothes fit. I felt respected and worthy!

Now that I had found my treasures,  it was time to pay and get that bookcase in the hatchback.  That young man continued to impress us with his outstanding customer service.  He gingerly nudged it inch by inch into my car cautious ensuring that no damage would occur.

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We’ve been home now for a couple of days.  We’re absolutely thrilled with our bookshelf and shopping experience!  We don’t have an ounce of buyers remorse or bad feelings from this retail excursion.  In fact, it stands out as one of my finest topping the days when I shopped at Lord & Taylor and Nordstroms for business attire.

What I love most is how well these two individuals treated us.  It exemplifies that what matters most is how people are treated.  It’s not really about what the store looks like.  The best atmosphere is one created by an attitude of gratitude, respect, and willingness to serve. To top it off, we feel great knowing that proceeds from our purchases are going to

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Endangered Species Day Grades 4-6 Lesson with Reading Strategies

Teachers, home school parents, and youth leaders are you looking for a great activity that boost reading comprehension and aligns with Endangered Species Day 2017?  Click RojoEndangeredSpeciesDay2015 to download a PDF file to print, copy, and use of all of the following.  In addition you will find a teacher’s note page and page 4 in Spanish.

Reading warm-up: Read the questions below. Answer the questions as best as you can.  The read the passage.

  1. What is extinction?________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
  2. What does “native” mean? ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
  3. What is an endangered species? ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
  4. Is hunting bad?_________ Explain why or why not. ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Endangered Species

by Hope Mucklow Edited by Nancy Whelan

Native plants or animals whose current population numbers are so low that the species faces the threat of extinction (no longer existing anywhere on Earth).   Various levels of this status start with least concerned (LC0, near threatened (NT), vulnerable (VU),endangered (EN), critically endangered (CR), extinct in the wild (EW), and extinct (EX).  Possible causes of this threat are loss of habitat, drought, climate change, competition for resources from invasive species, and poaching.

Certain species if not preyed upon or hunted will multiply to high numbers that will consume too many resources or develop diseases and other problems that will ultimately lead to death anyway.  Natural predators are nature’s way of keeping balance.

Poaching (sounds like coaching with a “p”) differs from hunting, because the hunter violates the governing laws that exist that determine what may be hunted and when.  These laws help keep the population numbers in balance allowing adequate time for reproduction and survival of the animal, while ensuring that human interest and safety are protected as well.

Too often these laws are broken, because humans create demand for animal parts and products, for various reasons.  For example, the red panda’s adorable striped tail is still used in the Yunnan province of China.  Here it is used to create hats worn by newlyweds who consider the tail to be a lucky charm and the perfect gift for a new bride.  Therefore, red panda fur “pelts”continue to be illegally sold on the black market.

Habitat loss due to deforestation explains one of the reasons why both the giant panda and red panda are endangered species.  Both pandas rely mainly on bamboo for their #1 food source.  Recent research finds that based on the structure of their skulls, the two species are unable to eat the same thing.  Because they eat different parts of the bamboo, the red panda and giant panda coexist without problem.

The good news is, if people work together, some species on the endangered list can rebound in population to the point where they’re numbers are no longer considered to be endangered.  This is the story of The American Bald Eagle.

Learning about, teaching others, preserving habitat, conserving water, and adopting a species through a conservation program like The Red Panda Network are effective ways to make a positive difference.  Special days like Endangered Species Day” are designated to increase awareness and understanding of how humans can better care for their shared environment with a multitude of different species.

Review Questions:

  1. What do some people in Asia think a red panda tail is for? ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
  2. Which species classification means in most danger?________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
  3. Which species classification means in least danger?____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
  4. What is the difference between hunting and poaching? ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
  5. List and describe three activities you can do to make a difference in the status of an endangered species. ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Additional Activities:IMG_1734[1]

  1. Read Rojo, The Baby Red Panda at the Zoo. Identify 3-5 difference between giant pandas and red pandas.  Use page 4 in the PDF file listed above to record these differences.  Then color the pandas.
    Rojo the Baby Red Panda at the Zoo

    2. Here’s a short online quiz about endangered species in North America that would project nicely on a Smart/Promethean Board. https://www.nature.org/newsfeatures/specialfeatures/animals/endangered-species-quiz.xml

3. Visit https://www.thoughtco.com/what-are-endangered-species-129927 to learn more about the US Endangered Species Act and to view the types of animals listed.

4. If you are interested in adopting a red panda as a class or as an individual, do so through the https://redpandanetwork.org/

 

Lessons about growing up from “The Princess and the Frog”

Movies may sell more than books, but they only do because they’re a story told visually through the work of many artists.  Stories are the best teaching tool.  Ask any student what they remember best about their favorite teacher.  It’s never the lessons they gave.  It’s the way they related to the students and the stories they told.

This is what Disney does best.  They bring age old tales to modern life through the silver screen.  Any observant parent or teacher can utilize many a movie as great forums for teaching their kids.  Here I will focus on The Princess and the Frog.

Early in the movie Tiana placed her faith in the wish upon a star and the other tale of you have to kiss a frog to get your prince.  Both betrayed her as all lies will.

Too many of us place our faith in faulty places.  Then we regret the devastating repercussions that ensue.  But for the emotionally teachable, it serves as a great spring board into character development of which this movie is all about.

Tiana, Naveen, and Charlotte all had common character flaws that many of us have.  Tiana characterizes the typical workaholic.   It’s admirable that she’s willing to work so hard, but she’s out of balance with no time to relax and love.  She believes hard work will solve her problems and falls into despair when it doesn’t.

Naveen falls on the other end of the spectrum is too selfish and lazy to work.  He feels entitled because he is special.  He is a prince, narcissistic one! Everyone else is supposed to solve his problems.

Charlotte believes the lie that marrying a prince will guarantee her a life of forever happiness.   How many girls are raised to think that this will solve their problems?

These characters set a great stage for teaching our children about the challenges of growing up.

First,  consider fantasy verse real.  Dreams are great, but one needs to go about fulfilling them through realistic means.  Fairy godmothers or Mama Oddie in this tale may play with magic, but in real life one needs to create their own magic by developing their gifts and talents in emotionally healthy ways.  Those who sit around waiting to be rescued usually miss the train. Or they succumb to kissing frogs.

Secondly, immature love doesn’t understand the value of honesty in relationships.  Those struggling with childish ways hide behind lies, distract, and manipulate others to get what they want.  Little do they understand that truth is what will set them free and enable them to experience the joy of living.  But truth hurts, especially when it reveals one’s own character flaw or poor choices.  One must muster up the courage to face the truth.  This is the first step towards maturity. But it is tough for many if they fear rejection from their peers and believe that the truth will alienate them.

Then dark lessons present. The shadow man entices Naveen with Voodoo magic, but he believes the real power in this world isn’t Voodoo, it is money.  How many people ruin their lives pursuing money at all costs?  Isn’t this what happened early in the movie, the greedy businessmen broke their contract with Tiana for a better deal?   Not all business people operate this way, but way too many do.

Another challenging lessons presents as both Tiana and Naveen need to over come their fear of asking for help from someone they were taught not to trust, Louis, the alligator.   How often is it that people are taught to fear the very people who are most likely to provide genuine help?

Next the little are dismissed as insignificant.  But where would they have been without Ray, the firefly? He might have been small, but numbers can make a meaningful difference.  He also represents light. And how often that light might be very small in the midst of darkness.  Demons hate light and cannot remain in its presence.

Mamma Oddie’s sings great wisdom, but it takes more journey for Naveen and Tiana to understand.

“When you find out who you are, you’ll find out what you need.”

Prince Froggy is a rich little boy You wanna be rich again That ain’t gonna make you happy now Did it make you happy then? No Money ain’t got no soul Money ain’t got no heart All you need is some self-control Make yourself a brand new start You gotta dig a little deeper Don’t have far to go You gotta dig a little deeper Tell the people Mama told you so Can’t tell you what you’ll find Maybe love or grant you a piece of mind Dig a little deeper and you’ll know…”

Often one hears what one needs, but more time is needed for one to meander through their personal odyssey.  They also must stand up and implement what they have learned.  Tiana had to overcome her fear and stay strong in the presence of the Shadow man.  Naveen had to find courage when his convictions of his selfishness made him feel unworthy of Tiana’s friendship and love.   It is only then that both of them are released from the curse of being frogs and freed to be human again.

Hope Mucklow is the author of Rojo, The Baby Red Panda at the Zoo available at most online retailers and published by https://mascotbooks.com/mascot-marketplace/buy-books/childrens/picture-books/rojo-the-baby-red-panda-at-the-zoo/

“Verruckt” “Insane” is that what we are?

“Verruckt’ means “insane” in German and therefore was used in the naming of the “world’s tallest waterslide.” However,  instead of being acclaimed in the Guinness Book of World Record’s it is shamed with a recent tragic story involving the death of a 10 year old boy. 
This is what we have gotten in our stubborn insistence of deriving self-worth from what we’ve done or accomplished. Professional sports have driven their athletes to ridiculous abusive diets and exercise schedules. NFL players leave brain damaged from concussions. And what about the famous musicians and actors? Do their managers treat them any better?
Parents, please, stop pushing your children in their sports and arts. I understand some of you have dreams of scholarships and beyond. Scholarships are helpful but they also make it hard to study if they’re sports related. They end up on the 5+ year plan. I know because I learned right along with the stars of the 1989 WVU football team in freshman English. I graduated in 1990 and they graduated in 1991 if at all.  If I remember correctly Major Harris left early to turn pro.  Do any of you even know who he is? 
I dated a recipient of a full ride track scholarship for 3/4 years of my undergraduate time.  The friends I made through him on the women’s track team all struggled with eating disorders.  One of my friends on the women’s tennis team reported the same of her team mates. In addition to struggling with her own eating disorder she struggled with her coursework  because of the pressure, practice and travel schedule. 
 
We would all do our children a better service if we did what Ben Carson’s mom did. When Ben’s grades were the worst in his 5th grade class she decided to take him and his brother to the library each week to get a book to read.  She didn’t listen to the complaints.  She insisted. Do you think Ben and his brother wanted to read if they were struggling at school? I’m sure they would have preferred their electronics too. But reading a book every week was the very answer to their academic salvation and many academic college scholarships offers for Ben.
So scale back the running to rehearsals and practices and add in a trip to the library.  Relax at the game, concert, or show when they fumble and/or someone else’s kids get the accolades instead.  Challenge them to do the best they can, but within reason.  Help them to be good sports and happy for others.  And by all means turn off the electronics including your own.  Take time instead to slow down and listen to your kids instead.

 

How the context of TV and home life affect learning

In the last post I wrote this week, I mentioned that my mom taught me to read a chapter in the book of Proverbs everyday when I was in Third Grade.    With 31 chapters that works nicely to blow through the book each month.

Some of these words of wisdom were easy for a young girl, pre-teen, teen, and young woman to understand.  But within the proper context?  Oh no.  I grew up in the 1970’s and ’80’s in small town Pennsylvania.

Passages like, A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest– that gets repeated 8 chapters later in Proverbs chapter 24 came in handy growing up.  I distinctly remember laying down for a nap after school and not being able to fall asleep because these words were playing in my head.  I got up and completed my home work.  But then words like a quarrelsome wife disturbed me because that pretty much describe the very woman who taught me to read this book.

To add to this confusion I read the epilogue of the excellent wife with the context of my TV experience of watching Bewitched, I Dream of Jeannie, The Bionic Woman in addition to Wonder Woman sponsored by the Enjoli commercials.

October 31, 2017 will mark the 500th Anniversary of  Martin Luther’s nailing of the 95 Theses on to the door of the Wittenberg Castle Church door.   This even often marks the beginning of the Protestant Reformation that explains why so many different types of Christian churches exist today.  What most of these descending churches emphasizes is to read the Bible, just like my mom taught me.

But if we are all reading out of context like I, are we in need of yet another reformation?  If one of the genuine reasons why the Catholic Church resisted placing the Bible into the hands of the general public was that they couldn’t read, well we need to be concerned in 2016 too.  If programs like The Children’s Trust Read To Learn are needed because the reading statistics are that bad,  then I’m sympathetic to the Catholics who were concerned of misinterpretations and misuse.

I love the advances and conveniences of technology.  In some ways it’s improving our ability to read and write.  But in others its making it worse.  But let me lighten up a bit and finish with a recent story that refers back to my point about how our personal experiences often define the context by which we interpret and experience learning and life overall.  Perhaps you can identify with a similar decision you made based on your personal experiences prior to.

My daughter and I recently visited Disney in Orlando.  We had two full days to enjoy the parks.   We had purchased a Water Park Fun and More Option which gave us not one but two days to enjoy their water parks.  Well we only had two days and maybe 2 hours of a third.  Given the first we chose to spend at Epcot, we had to choose between Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach.

I had never been to either water park.  But since I had moved to South Florida for the warm humid climate because I developed such bad chronic sinusitis up North, I couldn’t quite fathom being able to enjoy Blizzard Beach. So, I opted for Typhoon Lagoon instead.

We soaked in an exciting day at Typhoon Lagoon.  We marveled at all the great Disney Decor and landscaping we saw as we sauntered down the paths and hiked up the stairwells to feel the adrenal rushes as we zoomed down the various slides.

I also overheard the conversations.  Some complained that Blizzard Beach was better.  Really?  Hmm. We have that second day privilege and a few hours we could maybe squeeze a trip in there before we hit the road…

Being brainwashed to think, “I can do it all and have it all” by the TV programming in the 1970’s, I couldn’t be left behind not knowing for myself.  So, I planned a crazy day that kicked off with a morning visit at Blizzard Beach.

I’m so glad we did.  I felt foolish that I thought the decor would translate into cold dry air.  I was completely wrong.  In fact, it was the exact environment that I needed to be able to introduce my daughter on how to use a ski lift and what to expect (kind of) when she finally gets an opportunity to go skiing up North (without me of course).  And gee, that ski lift sure made my life a lot easier from pushing  my family tube up the stairs as I climbed.

So don’t let your valid fears based on YOUR past childhood and life keep you from experiencing more fun in life.  And don’t allow your limited context of knowledge growing up in the 20th Century and living in the fast paced craziness of the 21st Century keep you from reading great ancient texts properly within context.  Slow down take the time to “Listen and Learn.”

 

Too busy and therefore stressed out?

I accepted invitations to several fantastic events in an 8 day period. Quite honestly, it was ridiculous how much I crammed in.  My motive was selfish like it usually is.  I grew up watching Wonder Woman advertised by Enjoli.

“I can bring home the bacon.  Fry it up in the pan.  And make you never forget that you’re a man.  ‘Cause I’m a woman…Enjoli.” 

There you have it.  I’m growing  up in the 1970’s with my female role models on television Lynda Carter, the actress for Wonder Woman and the actress for Enjoli .  The breaks from the show burned into my head the message that I can do it all and have it all by a jingle powerfully set to the master of learning: music and visual screen.

Is it a wonder that Gordon Dahl wrote this critique of American work and worship more than thirty-six years ago (1972)?

“Most middle-class Americans tend to worship their work; work at their play; and play at their worship. That which we worship, we serve, and that which we serve we will give our all–heart, soul, mind and body.”

Reflecting this morning makes me think that maybe the loss of the middle class might not be such a bad thing if we were that brainwashed and misled.

I witness too many well intended parents signing their children up for this and that.  Driving here and there in horrible traffic.  And therefore stressing themselves and their children out.

What happens when we are too busy?  We don’t have time to listen to others and to mind our manners.  I’m so rushed to get done what I need to accomplish that I skip “How are you?” and just jump to what I want.  When was the last time you asked this question you were willing to hear the answer?

It’s an American cultural embarrassment that we really don’t want people to answer this question.  We have lost our manners and therefore lost the respect of those around the world who do mean what they say.

Isn’t that what irritates me the most about some?  They can sit around all day to talk.  There’s no question I want you to hear what I have to say.  I’m a woman, a recovering misguided religious zealot, and a writer.  Of course I have too much to say!  But do I care enough about you to hear about what you have to say?  Now that’s humbling.

And then we wonder why we are so lonely.  We have destroyed the very fabric of relationships.  Relationships don’t work when ego rules.  I believe this is why its such a hot topic these days to call your partner, boss, or parent  narcissists.  The biggest problem is that we all narcissists to some degree.  Have you observed how we behave right out of the womb? Feed me, hold me, cloth me, xyz me. It’s part of our human nature.  This is why the sea bird scene in Finding Nemo is so funny  and therefore outside of the ride at Epcot. img_7427

The wise words to be slow to speak but quick to understand are what the late Stephen R. Covey built his 5th Habit from for a reason. It just good manners.  Of which we have become to busy to practice.

The resulting consequences are disastrous.  In our misguided beliefs that we can do it all and have it all, we have raised privileged self-centered children who often need therapy due to their resulting anxiety and depression issues.   Students who lack respect of teachers and authority.  Workers who lack respect for bosses.  Residents who disrespect governing leaders.  People who kill cops.  And presidential candidates who name call and bully their opponents.

Thankfully, I had a mother who taught me to read a chapter in the book of Proverbs every day.

Parents, what you teach your children when they are young may not defeat the culture, but it will instill a consciousness and a basis for a heart in your child.  Let’s get back to being great parents, because our mainstream technological culture lacks a soul.  But remember to first practice what you preach.   Slow down.  Practice saying, “No thank you.” Choose your commitments wisely.  Change them when you realize it’s too much.  And most of all grow up yourself by healing the broken hurting child inside of you.

-author of Rojo, The Baby Red Panda at the Zoo

 

 

International Red Panda Day (aka Special Days)

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No, it wasn’t “Labrador Day.”  That was “Labor Day.”  Yes, I still love you,  but you aren’t an endangered species.  Special days like International Red Panda Day are set aside to draw awareness to issues that have been overlooked or need attention.  Ok, yes then there are days, like Mother’s Day,  Father’s Day, and Grandparent’s Day that have been named in order to make money.

Speaking of such, don’t be like the mothers, fathers, and grandparents who get easily get their feelings hurt on those days because a card didn’t arrive.  That’s not the point.  In fact that’s one of the messages  I wrote about in Rojo and why The Red Panda Network gave it a rave review.

The point is we have the privilege to celebrate special days for special individuals who have made great contributions to history, like Martin Luther King Jr.(MLK Jr.) Day, living organisms who are endangered, or special issues like Bully Prevention Month (which is next month by the way). These are days were we can learn more about why we “should” care or try to make a difference.

So that’s what we’re doing to do!  First learn more ourselves, share that learning with others, and most importantly have a great time doing it.

First stop is today at The Girl Scout Family Festival Miami-Dade North at Palm Springs United Methodist 5700 W 12th Ave., Hialeah, FL 33012 from 5:00-8:00 PM.  Thanks to Thrivent Financial we’ll be raffling off copies of Rojo, The Baby Red Panda at the Zoo and some t-shirts.

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Next stop is Saturday, September 17, 2016 from 1:00-5:30 PM at Metro Zoo Miami outside the new gift shop.  Which you don’t have to buy a ticket to enter the zoo to visit.  Its right outside the entrance where you can enjoy the new flamingo exhibit.

Lastly, try a more humble approach.  Be willing to listen and learn from others instead of wishing it were you getting all the attention. We love you more than you can imagine.  Don’t waste your time with low life attitudes like jealousy and resentment.  Channel your anger into a great cause like saving red pandas instead.

*4 photos in the collage depicted in the first image are compliments of Brian Heath.  A random dad who shared his photos with me the day I took most of the photos of the late Shama at the National Zoo that I used when illustrating Rojo.  You’re a better photographer than I Brian.  Thanks so much for sharing your talented hobby with me.  It was a pleasure to meet you and your family that day.

 

 

Things Usually Aren’t What They Seem

I may look on the outside like an incredibly healthy fit self-disciplined individual.  Some of this is true.  I am physically fit.  I wear size 4 clothing and love to eat healthy foods.  But my motive for being fit and eating well is just as selfish and self serving as the individual who is wearing plus sizes.

During the summer before my seventh grade year at school, I started falling when I did cart wheels in the back yard.  My mother evaluated my back.  The verdict was in. The genetic curse of adolescent idiopathic scoliosis had been passed onto me too.

One of my older sisters had received this diagnosis with a severity that warranted bracing when she went through puberty.  Having been well versed in her daily routine wearing a  Milwaukee Brace and frequent trips to Mercy Hospital in Pittsburgh, PA I wasn’t too concerned that my time had come too.

But looks were deceiving.  My condition deteriorated much worse than my sister’s.  In fact, the severity of my curve bordered on the line of where surgery was warranted.  Now that I wasn’t up for.

Having a metal rod surgically placed in my body next to my spine for the rest of my life wasn’t on my bucket list.  If this were done I would no longer be able perform flip turns at swim practice.  Would the rod rust and deteriorate in my body over time?  How long would I need to stay in the hospital and miss school?  Would I be stretched out with weights in traction prior to surgery?  How could I survive the cast when I passed out in the cast they molded on me in order to design a Milwaukee Back Brace for me?

The surgeon took the conservative approach to try bracing first. Whew!  But I knew that I had better comply with wearing it and completing the accompanying physical therapy if it was going to work in order to keep my out of the OR.

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Wearing the brace didn’t hurt once I got used to in ~48 hours later. However, there were discomforts like, if I ate too much food would back up my esophagus because there was no room for my stomach to swell.  And then others like sitting in a car cut off the circulation in my legs because of how the girdle fit so tightly.  Few understood what my needs were and even less bothered to listen to learn and find out.  Many projected their fears onto me and jumped to conclusions.

Often feeling misunderstood felt painful and lonely.  But, I found strength because I heard a voice say,  “Everyone is on the outside of the brace.  But I am on the inside.  Because you gave your heart to me and asked me to come in as Lord.  I will be here with you and understand.”

This incredible comfort and odd brace also protected me from the many wiles of adolescent experimentation.  Boys feared me.  The popular girls could no longer be bothered.  The sweet girls who attended the community Bible church invited me to their youth group.  At least they would socialize with me and shared somewhat of the heart lordship business I had entered.  But as time wore on, those girls busied themselves in high school with their boyfriends.

I adapted. I busied myself with sports, music, leadership training, and a rigorous academic load.  I no longer needed the brace, but I noticed that pain re-appeared.  In my mind I replayed the advice my doctor gave at my last visit.  “Stay physically active and keep extra-weight off.”  So I returned to my daily physical therapy.

As I’ve aged I added more exercises to protect my elbows and knees from injuries due to sporadic tennis play.  The results?  I look and feel great. But my point is my motivation isn’t that wonderful, much less pure. It’s still self-serving or preserving.

We live in a culture that glorifies image.  Images can be empty and vain.  They usually aren’t what they seem at all.  Let’s stop judging books based on their covers and take time to “read” or get to know what’s really going on inside.  And most importantly when we do read, keep in mind that only the author knows exactly what he/she intended when he/she wrote.  Our interpretations  are simply ours.  Let’s own our responsibility for this and stop projecting onto others what we think or feel.