Let’s Do it Together

There are some things only you can do, and we all have our own responsibilities.  However, I don’t believe that we’re here to conquer life alone, and there’s no reason to try to do it alone when we’ve got lots of other people who could be supporting us if only we would ask.  I believe one of the biggest reasons that some relationships succeed and others don’t and some families are so healthy and others aren’t is because they choose to do life together.

It’s the choice of a true partnership, a commitment to work together, to confide in each other, to trust each other to do what each of us do best, to help each other when we’re down, to cry together, to laugh together, to try together, to be there through thick and thin, to recognize that there will be changes and we will grow, and to commit to learning to love each other through every step of the journey.

Of course, for this to be a true partnership, a true commitment from both/all parties, it means that everyone is committed to doing good for each other, being there for each other, and not tearing each other down.  Yes, there will be some fights and disagreements, that’s normal, but no violence or hate.

Can it be a forever thing? Yes, I believe we can make a commitment to each other and have it be forever, that you’ll commit to working through anything and everything together until death do you part.  For others it can be a rock solid commitment for whatever time you choose to spend together, and when the time comes that it’s best for both of you to separate, you’ll do that knowing that you both fulfilled your commitment to each other.

Commitment is a choice, but if you choose to commit you really need to follow through on that commitment.  I encourage you to sit down with your partner and/or family and consider the commitment that you’ve made to each other, if there is one, and how you want things to be going forward.  Are you in this together?

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New This Spring

Spring seems to be taking its sweet time showing up where I am this year, which is a little frustrating. We’ve had a few tastes of it and then it goes back to being like winter. This week looks like we might more firmly move towards spring but I won’t hold my breath. Instead I’ll focus on the other things that spring brings, and that’s new life. Just like the New Year inspires us to make changes in our lives, spring inspires us to think new, fresh and alive. So today I thought I’d share a few thoughts on bringing new life to your family and relationship.

Spring is a great time to get organized and purge your belongings. It’s a great time to work together as a family, especially on rainy spring days when you’re stuck inside anyway, and go through all of your clothes and get rid of those that are too worn or don’t fit anymore. You can also take this time to pack away clothes that you all don’t use for the warmer months if that’s something you do. It’s a great time to go through all the items in your kitchen and bathroom and get rid of things that are expired or you don’t use anymore. Finally, you can go through all the other stuff and gear you’ve got (sporting, books, toys, gear etc.), and get rid of what you don’t use any more. All of the stuff you’ve decided not to keep can be great for a spring or summer garage or yard sale, or are great to donate to charities (as long as they’re not broken or ripped and the food isn’t outdated).

Spring is also a great time to try a new hobby or try out some of the new stores, restaurants and venues that have set up shop over the late fall and winter. Lots of towns and cities have evening courses at local community schools and other locations that you can take to try something new or learn about something you’ve always been curious about from business to food to languages to arts and crafts. I don’t know about you but I don’t enjoy seeing the local stores empty, so if we want them to stay occupied we have to shop from them. As we get out of winter and are more interested in being outside and doing things, it’s a great time to visit some of those new places and at least check them out and recommend them to a friend who we know might have more interest in them than you do.

Why do something new or make room in your life? Because sometimes our lives get stagnant and there’s a reason why the statement ‘out with the old, in with the new’ is so popular. It’s not about old being bad (it’s not), or about trying every new thing (not possible), but about being open in life, being willing to try new things, and especially about accepting growth and new life in your journey. New can be good, especially as a tool to keep your family, relationships, work and health thriving. What new will you try this spring?

The Wealth of Knowledge

One of the things that I love most about the day and age that we live in is the ease of education.  Now you can pull out your phone, turn on the computer, visit a library or Skype with someone and get answers to just about every question you have.  Technology also empowers the people around the world who are trying to answer the questions we don’t have answers to like cancer and Alzheimers.  When you have an education or when you can learn something you’re much better off than if you just are given something.  Your knowledge is far more valuable in most cases than anything anyone else can give you.

As a parent one of the biggest gifts you can give your kids is an education, and I’m not just talking about sending them to school each week.  Learning happens inside and outside the school, and many of the things I learned weren’t taught in a traditional classroom setting or about English, math or science.  What you teach your kids about relationships, communication, driving, money, how you handle problems, and how to see the world are usually more important than what they’ll learn in school.

When kids have an education or know how to solve their own problems and answer their own questions you’ve given them a more valuable legacy than just handing over a large fortune to them.  What will you teach your kids today?

Be careful to leave your sons well instructed rather than rich, for the hopes of the instructed are better than the wealth of the ignorant.” Epictetus

Spring Alive Together

There is nothing that says “alive” more than spring. The whole world bursts into life and color in the matter of a few short weeks. I don’t know about you, but I fully believe life is better when we live it with others. There’s so much we can learn from others, and I can’t imagine trying to do all that everyone else does around me while doing all of my stuff (like fixing cars, picking up trash, policing the area, and running hospitals). The good news is that there is plenty of life to go around.

The thing about spring that’s very evident in much of the new life is that it’s about multiplication and family. All of the new animal lives and seed growth are small representations of what should be happening in our lives too. Yet over and over we shy away from contact with other people, or at least the deep and full contact that is seen in the new life of spring.

I wonder what it will take for people to start building the relationships that it will take to make a difference in the lives of the next generation? How long it will take us to learn that together we are more than we ever could be apart? To learn that hatred and violence do not make the world go ‘round?

The more I see, read, learn and discover, the more I realize that we’re all connected whether we want to be or not. We’re connected to the earth by what we eat and use. We’re connected to each other through the thousands of invisible threads of the internet. We’re connected to the past and the future by the choices they have made and we will make. Even fully isolated from human contact we’re still connected to the earth by how we live and eat.

Maybe it’s time to stop fighting the connection and start working on how we can coexist together. Let’s work on making this spring a time of growth and health for all of us.

Time for Explanations

Explanations are tough. There are many funny stories and explanations that people have come up with for kids with regards to the typically titled ‘birds and the bees’ discussion, but that’s only one of the many things that parents have to explain to their kids throughout their lifetimes. Sometimes those discussions are hard when they have to talk about things like Alzheimer’s or violent/racial incidents. Others are just part of the course of life like sex and Santa. There’s definitely a wrong way to have discussions, one of the worst things can be refusing to have any discussion at all.

One of the hardest things is not having a good explanation, there are some things that you just can’t explain, and some things that the truth is very hard to accept or believe. A really simple example would be some of those cop/investigation shows where they get to the end of the investigation and it seems like 3 random things happened and as a result someone’s dead. It sounds kind of logical, but at the same time really doesn’t seem like it, and it’s even harder to accept that that’s actually something that happened in real life.

But explanations are important to us, regardless of the age we are. We like knowing how things work, how they’re connected or what leads/led to what. Explanations are great because so often we’re able to get one, with as much investigating as we’ve done over the years and as connected as we are in this day and age thanks to technology. But as I said, sometimes the explanation doesn’t make sense. Sometimes you can investigate further and find out how it does make sense, but other times you’re left at a loss and unable to make heads or tails of it.

In the case of the extreme flooding parts of the world have seen over the past year, several serious shooting incidents including the one in Christchurch a day or so ago, there really isn’t a good answer to give your children, or yourself. Sometimes bad things just happen. So in response you can teach your kids to be smarter, more caring, more considerate and to always do the research. You can’t protect those you love from harm, but you can give them the tools to make the world a better place, and give them the best chance possible to have a life filled with less hurt and loss.

Let’s Go Places

I’ve read quite a few children’s books, both as a child and in my years of caring for children and working with families, and most of them are either fun to read, share about an experience, relate history, or teach a lesson. Some are just annoying and you never want to read again, but many are those you want to read again and again, even as an adult. One of my favorite authors who delves into lessons for adults and kids is Dr. Seuss. While I sometimes have trouble reading all the tongue-twisting words he used in his books, I still enjoy them and believe they will remain in our literary circles for generations to come.

In one of his famous books, “Oh, The Places You’ll Go!”, Dr. Seuss wrote: “You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You’re on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the one who’ll decide where to go…”

As leaders of and examples to children, one of the greatest gifts we can give them is the encouragement to use their brains. This includes knowing how to make decisions, being confident in making decisions, putting actions to decisions, and making decisions for yourself (not strictly based on what others say or do). Both thinking and acting are important to learn, especially knowing how to think, work through and act on complex situations.

What I love about this Dr. Seuss quote is that it makes thinking and acting sound fun! Sometimes we can get overwhelmed by situations and it certainly doesn’t look or feel fun to think or act, and that’s what the kids in our lives see. I’m not saying it’s wrong to show the overwhelm, just that we also have to show how to work through the overwhelm and not get defeated by it.

We all could use a little more fun in our lives, especially as adults. It shouldn’t feel like we’re escaping life or skipping out on our responsibilities or being un-adult. Fun is something we enjoy regularly as a kid, as an adult we just have to learn to balance the fun with the responsibilities. It’s important to show the next generation that there’s room in our lives for both fun and responsibility. Teaching them this can help them embrace their responsibilities sooner, as well as encourage them to never give up on fun.

So how do you balance responsibility and fun in your life?

I’m Not Tired of Love

As we close this month of love this coming week I wanted to share one more thought about love as it has to do with families, communities and relationships. Love comes with challenges and there’s always the potential to be hurt by love. But I believe that it’s worth the risk. Love should teach us many things, it should make our lives richer and more fulfilling, it should give us support and encouragement through life’s challenges, and should create rewarding opportunities and relationships.

The one thing love should not do is make us bitter, unhappy, or tired. Yes, sometimes we’ll feel that way because of other aspects of our lives, but love itself should not make us feel that way. If you really feel bitter or unhappy about a relationship that you thought was love, it probably wasn’t love, or isn’t love anymore. Love, like many other things in our lives often changes and grows and goes through seasons, some of which will be more challenging or less invigorating, but generally it should be one of the more consistently positive aspects of your life.

Overall you should be sustained through the more difficult times both regarding your love life as well as the rest of your life. Love should make us want to share the good with the world, to help others have what we have, to turn the tide from the negative to the positive. Love should inspire us to live full lives, lives that make a positive impact on each of us and the world around us.

If you’re not feeling inspired, maybe it’s time for a talk with your significant other and family. Maybe you need to get serious about what’s going on with you personally and relationally.  Maybe it’s time for some changes.  Life shouldn’t consistently drag us down, and when it does we should have the support in our lives to get back on our feet.

On the other side of that, if you’re doing well or even thriving, it’s your turn to be a support for someone else and give them a helping hand.  Everyone needs a little helping hand from time to time, and a reminder that there’s still love in the world.

Let’s Talk about Organization

One of the things that a lot of people do in the beginning of the year is get organized! The new year is a great time to evaluate what you’ve got and how what you got over the holidays works in with all of that.  It’s a great time to donate what you don’t use anymore and throw out what isn’t good anymore, donating to some of the needy communities who can really benefit from it during the winter months.

It’s also a great time to get organized and help your kids get organized.  Teaching your kids about organization at a young age is important because it helps them start thinking in ways of organization, which will benefit them in many ways throughout their adulthood. Organization also helps to keep the clutter down and make cleanup easier because everything has a home.

So how do you organize?  When you’re organizing think about what works for the people who are using it. Don’t forget to make lots of storage available at kid level for the kid’s daily use, and higher for more permanent/seasonal storage. Don’t force your partner into a storage system that doesn’t work for them (there are lots of storage options out there than can easily be changed around to accommodate lots of different needs and styles).

There are tons of great companies that have come up with lots of products that make it easier for us to be organized, but if you’re just looking for something simple that is versatile, just start with putting up shelves, shelves that can have their height adjusted so that they grow and move with all of you.

It doesn’t have to be a new year’s resolution, but I would encourage you to take the time to get organized this year because it will make your life easier and make everyone happier.

The Legacy You’re Creating

The new year is here!   Are you looking forward to the year ahead?  This year I’ve got some great topics planned to support you, your significant other and your family.  Today I thought we’d start the year off by talking about the topic of legacy.

We each leave a legacy when we leave this world and the legacy we create leaves an impact on those who personally knew us as well as everyone else directly or indirectly who are influenced by the choices we made, which comes down to basically everyone.  Each day the choices we make add to or take away from that legacy.  Our choices influence the choices others make too, especially when it comes to those we’re in relationship with or are considered to be our family.  Tina Turner said:

“My legacy is that I stayed on course… from the beginning to the end, because I believed in something inside of me.”  

Will you choose to make this the year that you stand up for yourself, your partner, your kids or other family members and finish what you’ve started?  Or will you let another year go by without making the decisions that need to be made and taking the actions that are needed to free you from the baggage holding you back?  I encourage you to choose to start and finish this year stronger than you ever have before.

A Family Christmas

One of the things I love most about this time of year is how much we focus on family, whether you define family as those who share the same blood as you, those who you’ve known your whole life, or those you’ve met along your life journey that have become as or more important to you than those who you share blood with. Something about Christmas brings out the need to be with family in all of us. We desire to spend time with those who are important to us, we enjoy giving them gifts and showing them small tokens of our appreciation for being in our lives, and we talk about memories of those we love.

The stories of Christmas are also all about family, both by birth and by choice. Santa and the elves are a family by choice, they work together at the North Pole and are often thought of as a package deal. The Bible stories surrounding Christmas are all about family, both by birth (Mary and Elizabeth) as well as through marriage (Joseph and Mary). Even the story of Scrooge talks about family by birth (nephew Fred) and by choice (the Cratchit family).

Family should be the people that you want to spend the special occasions with, that you want to create lasting memories with, that you want to build a future with. They should be the people that you would miss if you never saw them again, think of when you want to share something with someone, and can do big activities as well as absolutely nothing with. Family are the people who see you through thick and thin, who you can rely on to give you an honest but loving opinion, and who will support you through the changes and challenges of life. Those are lots of great reasons to celebrate family this Christmas.

So whomever you’re gathering with in the coming days, I encourage you to make it merry and celebrate the people who matter most in your life.  Learn from the stories of Scrooge, Santa, Mary and Joseph, and put family first this Christmas.