The Campaign’s Over; What Did We Tell the Kids?

During lunch yesterday (Tue., 11/6/2012), we were talking about how glad we were that election season was almost over.  I’m delighted that I don’t have to watch the mud-slinging between candidates for several offices.  On many recent evenings, we’ve found that a negative ad for one candidate was followed by one for his/her opponent, over and over.

To me, the least attractive aspect of these ads is the message they send to our children.   Once again, what children see on TV doesn’t demonstrate the values that parents’ want to teach to their children.

One of these values is respect.  Those of us who believe human beings are worthwhile are appalled.  I believe we need to teach children to be kind and caring.  These “He’s used his office to better only himself”  and “She’s a cheater” ads are the opposite of how I want my children to speak of others.

Another value is integrity.  With the contradictory statements made by opponents, it’s hard to believe both sides could possibly be telling the truth, statistical spins aside.  We’ve heard a lot about fact checking in this election year.  I want my children to do their research, check the facts and be accurate as well as honest.

Along with freedom, these are the kind of values upon which the US was founded.  I believe in freedom of speech, but wish we would speak the truth.  I wish we would use politeness and be cordial with one another.  I wish we would listen before we strike out at the speaker.

One of my lunch mates noted that she wished each candidate would simply draft a statement of where s/he stands on issues and ignore the opponent.   It sure would make it easier for people like me to choose a candidate and to choose one I could be proud to support!

I read the following quote on election day morning.  It’s from William Ewart Gladstone, a British Statesman in the 19th Century (Prime Minister four times and Chancellor of the Exchecquer) AND one who spoke of dreams similar to my own. His statement is this:

“We look forward to the time when the power of love will replace the love of power.  Then will our world know the blessings of peace.”

I’m raising children who understand the power of love, respect, and integrity.  I’m helping others to do the same.  Join me.

Live Inspired:  think boldly; dare greatly; love unconditionally; forgive easily; laugh frequently; act deliberately, kindly, justly, mercifully and humbly!

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My Essential Parenting Wisdom: “Instead”

(following was presented at the global conference Parenting 2.0 Talks, on August 17, 2012)

In 1991, my son Chris was almost 8; Kate (then insisting she was KaTIE) was 5. Armed with my Master of Social Work degree, I was helping to administer a community mental health agency.

Social Service professionals often don’t like to consider ‘the filthy lucre’ so I did the fund raising.  In March, I was deep into the planning of our annual fund raising event.  It always included an auction, so I’d pick up the children early and we’d collect the donations given to the agency.

One lovely day, as I arrived at the day care center to get the children, I was greeted by KaTIE who handed me a colorful, abstract drawing on card stock.  “Here Mama,” she said “It’s for the auction!”    Well, the art may not have been Picasso, but it certainly touched me.

And then a shoe dropped as I thought,  “How can we sell this at the auction?”  Katie needs to know this is valued!

I blithely went to a local framer and asked for something inexpensive, yet classy, as a donation.  She laughed and was happy to comply.  I picked it up a week later.  It was charming!  And on the back, my darling wrote “Hope you like it!”  and signed it in CURSIVE “Katie 4.4.91”

How many of you in the audience have more than one child – raise your hand if you do.  (Melissa raises her hand to model)  Uhuh.  How many of you would NOT have a dilemma on your hand if one child spontaneously gave something and the other hadn’t even considered it?

Yes, Chris was disappointed that he hadn’t thought of it first,  “I want to give something too, but I’m not a good artist!”

“Well, Sweet Heart, let’s think about what you ARE good at doing, INSTEAD?”

I don’t recall whether or not it was his first idea… often it’s about the 2nd or 3rd or 27th idea!  Here’s what he decided: his best skill/talent at the time was reading.  He would read a book into a recorder and then the book and recording would be the auction lot.

I approached the local independent bookstore and asked if they’d be willing to donate a children’s book.  Asbolutely, up to $10 value.

Chris got to choose the book and selected Caps for Sale, written By Esphyr Slobodkina (the name is pronounced ess-FEER sloh-BOD-kee-nah).   We had some technical challenges, like how to let the reader/auditor who was following along know when the page was turned (I think we found a bell), and the book & recording were finally packaged the ready for the night of the event.

I could tell you more of the story but let’s stop there.   My essential wisdom, my gift to you today is “INSTEAD”.   This panel is about communication yet I believe “INSTEAD” is a revolutionary concept to have in your trick bag that leads children to have amazing ability.  There are truly very few limits to the human spirit; and thoughtful, deliberate parents can lead their children to stretch those limits.

Raising children with excellent life skills, to me, is all about plan B…  sometimes all the way to plan X.  Thomas Alva Edison, who the Americans credit as the discoverer of the way to harness electricity said “I haven’t failed; I’ve found 10,000 ways that don’t work.”  My next sentence is almost always “OK, then, what can we do instead?

When I was invited to address this group, I knew I wanted to talk about “Instead” because, to me, it’s the basis for teaching ALL Life Skills.  And I couldn’t come up with a thing that I hadn’t already posted in a P20 Discussion.  So, “instead,” I dropped an email to my children, now 29 and 26.  Who would know better than they what the philosophy is all about and how it guides children?  I reached Kate by phone.  She said she’d been thinking about this ever since I dropped her the note.  She had two stories.  I chose this one.

She said it illustrates for her what can come of guiding our children while allowing them to be who they are.  It brings out the best in them.

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One Sick Puppy…

Have you needed to talk with your children about death?  How have you handled these types of situations?  What’s worked and what hasn’t?

Mr. Magoo (one of our dogs, aka Googoo) needed to be put down this morning.  When I got home, our neighbors Chloe (9) and Ryan (6) were in the back yard with their mother, Andrea.   They listened carefully as I explained kidney failure and the process of putting an animal ‘down’.

I’ve learned from books and experience that honest communication with children, in words they understand, is best.  That’s no surprise, right?   Our conversation went just about like this:

me:              Hi Andrea and Ryan; how are you?

Andrea:       Fine Ms. Lissa how are you?

me:              Not good.  <sniff>

Andrea:       What’s wrong?

me:              Mr. Steve and I just came home from the Animal House (Note:  honest, that’s our vet’s practice’ name).

Andrea:        Oh no!  What happened?

me:              It seems Googoo had been keeping his age from us (note:  he was found at an adult age).  He’d been very sick the last few days and the doctor couldn’t make him well again.

Ryan:            What was wrong?

me:              There are these things in your body called kidneys.  It’s their job to keep your blood cleaned out.  When you go to the bathroom, you get rid of the junk the kidneys cleaned out.  Goo’s kidneys weren’t working any more and the junk couldn’t get cleaned out.  We decided with the doctor that since Goo wasn’t ever going to feel well again, we should put him down; put him to sleep.

Chloe:           So what did you do?

me:               Mr. Steve and I went to say good-bye, because we loved him so much. The doctor came in and gave him a sedative so he was really sleepy.  Then she waited a little while longer and gave him enough sedative to stop his heart.

Ryan:              Where is he now?

me:                  In heaven, that’s what I want to think.  His body got left at the vet’s office and they’ll take care of it.

Chloe:              I loved Googoo.  He was my favorite.

me:                   Mine too, but don’t tell Daisy or Buddy!

Chloe:              I won’t!

me:                  Ryan, what book were you reading?

and we went on with the conversation about our days.

I think this went pretty well and the children seemed satisfied.  I’m not sure why I said he’s in heaven, except that playing with dogs is my definition of a heavenly time.   I’m eager to know what you think.

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Was it My Eyes that Were Examined?


“We will always learn what we have chosen to teach.  ‘Ideas leave not their source’ which is why we are always a part of God, and why our ideas are always a part of us.”  ~ Marianne Williamson

Yesterday, I drove from gentle Geneva to chagrinning Chicago.  I’ve probably been to ten optometrists during my 51 years of wearing prescriptive lenses.  I drive the 45 miles to see Michael Ciszek, OD, the best optometrist I’ve met and one of my very best friends.  Seriously, he’s been honored with awards and is very talented!

I had last trekked to Clark Street and Foster Ave. in 2010; lately I’ve been hurting my neck trying to get my eyes to the proper level to read the computer screen.  It was time!

Since marrying Steve-o (if I’ve not introduced him, he’s the spouse in my house, and I love him dearly), I’ve headed in to see Michael as half of our pair; two of us in the car, talking or not as couples do.  This year, Steve was busy and didn’t want/need to have his eyes checked.

Yesterday, I went alone.

As is my way when I’m alone, the car is my monastery.  During the drive, I visually focus on the road and psychologically focus on all things spiritual.  I talk a little bit (inside my head) and listen for inspiration.  I was having a wonderful mystical time, praying for those God brought to my mind and thanking God for remembrances triggered by the sights.

Then I exited the Kennedy at Lawrence Ave. and at the top of the ramp as I stopped, I glided past a woman with a folded up piece of cardboard under her arm.

PSYCHIC JOLT:  I remember this!  When I lived in the city, my budget included five dollars ($5) per week for those working harder than I do by darting in traffic, holding a pithy explanation and a pitiful plea. Some weeks the first beggar got all five singles (kept in glove compartment in an envelope); sometimes less was given.  This was one of my ways of fueling the economy; some merchant must have made a sale due to my tiny ‘largesse’, and I chose not to be the judge of which, the liquor store or grocery store of the closes fast-food establishment.  (Once I even happened to come into one who was in MacDonald’s and one of my regulars.  He told me he had made enough money the previous day to sleep in a sleazy motel the night before.  He had luxuriated in the shower the morning I saw him!)

If I carry more cash, I spend more.  Therefore, I usually only am ‘loaded’ if I know I will need.

So “short story long”, I serenely stopped at the light, pushed the power window-down button and said in my least threatening voice “Hey, whatcha doin’?”

“Trying to survive!  I’m waiting for my disability to come through for two years,” she replied.

(Nota bene:  I am liberal, you need not agree with me, gentle reader.  Besides, I seldom have the opportunity these days.)

I told her I used to carry cash all the time for these occasions when I lived in the city, and haven’t needed to do so for several years. reached in my purse, cleverly concealed between the captain seats in my ‘mommy-van’, and found I had three singles…  nothing more.  I handed these to her and told her I’m hopeful that all will be well for her.  She thanked me and I continued on my way.

At ‘Visionary Eyecare’, Michael’s business, my eyes and vision were carefully examined, a new prescription was provided and I made plans to collect my new correction in a few weeks.

I headed home, encountered a man in worse shape than the previous woman on the streets and fished .53 from the well between the cup holders.  He admired my 13-year old Buddy (I’ll tell you about Buddy another time, if you remind me.).


As I sit here this morning, in my warm home with my fabulous new-to-me iMac (thank you Christopher, you’re the best son a mother could want), and a reheated cup of coffee, God brought these two street people back to my mind.

Comment yourselves silly, if you disagree with my action.  I know I live in a conservative area now.  I’m blessed with clean streets and little need to see those who for whatever reason are less fortunate than I.

Jesus (whose way I try to follow) chided his disciples for not listening to him once, we’re told, by saying “The poor will always be with you.”  Sorry “Jeez” (as I called him at age four walking into church); that’s not very hopeful.  So I not have made a difference for the universe yesterday; but as for the woman (and the man) I encountered…  made a difference for that one.

I believe my vision was corrected yesterday, perhaps even more than my eyesight.

Live inspired!

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Helping your child develop self-discipline

Many experts debate whether or not to discipline or punish children.  I wish more parents were equally concerned with raising a child who has integrated self-discipline.

Here’s the thing, I’m overweight (we won’t go into numbers, now, will we?) and somehow I cannot discipline myself about what food (or how much of it) I put in my mouth.  I’m not still blaming my parents, I’ve managed to become disciplined in other areas.  I think if I’d learned to discipline myself by the time I was nine or ten years old, I’d not need to continually struggle over weight.

As another example, I’m punctual, but only because it’s really important to my husband and I feel it respectful to be on-time for clients and friends.

So, enough self-disclosure, let’s think about how to help a child develop internal discipline.

Consistency and normalcy are key

There are many children who believe what happens in their nuclear family happens everywhere…  because they’ve only ever lived in that familial culture.

“Five rules followed 100% of the time beats ten rules followed 50% of the time.”

Consider whether or not it matters

If lights out at 8:00 p.m. is critical for your child’s mood the following day, so be it.  If you have a child with a low sleep need, this may not be one of your rules…

Expect a normal child (i.e., don’t expect more than your child can deliver)

A child’s social development to follow ‘rules’ starts at approximately the age of three-years old.  If your child is developing quickly, your child may internalize or learn rules earlier.  Chances are the rules you care most about are the last to be learned.

Assume good intentions 

At least for the first time, chances are your child DOESN’T know better.  Eventually the child will know better, but by then s/he could be away at college.  (See above)

Emotions often muddy the issue:  stay calm

You wanted your child to do x, your child did y or the opposite of x.  You’re disappointed; You’re angry;You’ve gone over this 27,000,000,000 times before and that kid STILL doesn’t do as you’ve asked.

If you act out your emotions, all the child learns is how to be emotional.

Use a time out — together

Ask the child to take time WITH you and focus on this.  And take the time needed to calm your child, sit together to talk, get the child oriented to this subject.

Even though they remember what you forgot to put on the grocery list, it’s hard for them (yes really) before the age of seven- or eight-years old to practice self-control and internalize all the rules.

Avoid punishment unless it’s necessary

When you explain and guide – even if that means YOU do the bulk of whatever it is that’s needed, the importance of the task is stressed.  The more routine it becomes, the easier it will be for your child.  Ultimately this becomes internalized and your child will practice self-discipline.

If you don’t want your child to hurt others physically, eliminate physical punishment.

If you believe punishment must be used, the ‘sentence’ should suit the ‘crime’.  If your emotions might be getting the best of you, check yourself.

Now, do you think I never lay hands on my children?  Ask me about the time my 2 year old son darted between cars into the street.  He was so excited to be going!  He wiggled away from me and headed for our car — across the street.  Thank goodness, he was not hit by a car.  However, when it became clear that reasoning wasn’t going to make any impact, I calmly told him I would demonstrate what a car could do to him.  He got a very hard smack to his posterior.  Oh, did that get through to him!

Feel free to talk to the experts about punishing a child or disciplining your offspring and whether or not these are useful.  I’ll be over here, trying to teach children how to grow up to become self-disciplined adults.

Live inspired!

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The Charles Schulz Philosophy

(Disclaimer:  I took this from an email I received; I did NOT write it.  However, I like it so much that I want to share it with you and this is the only way I know to do it.)

The following is the philosophy of Charles Schulz, the creator of the ‘Peanuts’ comic strip.

You don’t have to actually answer the questions. Just ponder them.
Just read the straight through, and you’ll get the point.

1. Name the five wealthiest people in the world.
2. Name the last five Heisman trophy winners.
3. Name the last five winners of the Miss America pageant.
4. Name ten people who have won the Nobel or Pulitzer Prize.
5. Name the last half dozen Academy Award winners for best actor and actress.
6. Name the last decade’s worth of World Series winners.

How did you do?

None of us remember the headliners of yesterday.   Now, these are not second-rate achievers.  They are the best in their fields.  But the applause dies; awards tarnish; achievements are forgotten; accolades and certificates are buried with their owners.

Here’s another quiz. See how you do on this one:

1. List a few teachers who aided your journey through school.
2. Name three friends who have helped you through a difficult time.
3. Name five people who have taught you something worthwhile.
4. Think of a few people who have made you feel appreciated and special.
5. Think of five people with whom you enjoy spending time.


The lesson:

The people who make a difference in your life are not the ones with the most credentials, the most money, or the most awards.

They simply are the ones who care the most.  Pass this on to those people who have either made a difference in your life,
or whom you keep close in your heart.

”Be Yourself. Everyone Else Is Taken!” ~ Oscar Wilde

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Children, families and holidays — a musing

Yesterday, I baked traditional Christmas cookies.  My sister invites everyone in my family.  I was joined by my sister, her daughter, my daughter and her beloved, two of my brothers, one sister-in-law and nieces/nephews.

Baking these cookies is something I love doing.  We make several recipes from the Scandinavian Cookbook, published in 1955.  I have my mother’s original copy.  My sister found one as an adult that is in much better shape than mine.

Mandelspritsar (almond spritz cookies), pepparkakor (ginger cookies), and pecan crescents dusted with powdered sugar come from this cookbook.  We also make “Mrs. Price’s Cutout Cookies”.  These have cream of tartar that makes them taste what I’ve always called ‘ashy’; if a cutout cookie tastes ‘ashy’, it reminds me of my childhood!

My niece and sister-in-law laughed about how the cookies need to be placed neatly and evenly spaced on the baking sheets.  They call it “the Pazen way” — we always want to make things just a little bit better.  We were raised in the “continuous improvement model.”

*  *  *

On Saturday, my friend Nae-Nae planned a ‘footie pajama parade’.  This started when she & her kids went to see The Muppets Movie in footie-pajamas.  Then it grew to a parade wearing jams and bringing jams for a child.   There IS a Santa Claus for the children who’ll get the footie-pajamas.

Last night, Sixty Minutes commented on a a story they had broadcast two weeks ago on homeless children in Central Florida.  These children lived in cars and campers.  They cleaned up in gas station bathrooms before school.  Their parents were out of work and the shelters were at capacity.

The follow up is that viewers had donated more than $1,000,000 toward solving this problem.  People offered work for the parents, all of whom now have jobs.  Housing for them has been secured, using the donated money.  Colleges have given scholarships to the children. There IS a Santa Claus for these children.

*  *  *

This morning, my friend Mary told me she, her daughter & niece had taken the children ‘essentially abandoned’ by her nephew to the Lincoln Park Zoo Lights.  They’d gone out to dinner and she’d bought the three children winter coats and boots.  She managed to extract Christmas wish lists from the children and will fulfill the requests.  There IS a Santa Claus, where Mary’s concerned!  There IS a Santa Claus for her three great-nephews.

The pathos of these children touches my heart.  Their mother isn’t stable, but has total custody of these three children, by default.  She does well enough with them that she will continue.

*  *  *

I remember the words of The Rock Will Wear Away, written by Holly Near:

Can we be like drops of water falling on the stone
Splashing, breaking, dispersing in air
Weaker than the stone by far but be aware
That as time goes by the rock will wear away
And the water comes again

This holiday season, I pray for joy for all children.  I pray that every will know that s/he is loved beyond the wildest imagining — no hunger, no exposure to extreme cold without proper clothing, a secure and acceptable place to live.

Let us be the drops of water, as are the people who paraded, those who buy coats, boots & Christmas presents for family in need, those who responded to Sixty Minutes.   And let us do it throughout the year.  It should be much more than just “the Pazen way”; it should be “everybody’s way”.

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