Author: Kimberley

School Shootings – What Can We Do?

School Shootings – What Can We Do?

Despite the walkouts and protests and demonstrations and promises,  school shootings continue. Today’s was painfully close to home. As I write this post, we know that ten lives have been lost. Ten families have been changed irreparably. Why is this happening and how do we stop it?

I won’t pretend I have the answer, but here’s what’s been whispering in my ear, nagging me in my car, keeping me up at night.

First, let me be clear–I’m not against the conversations surrounding gun control. Those conversations need to occur, but with the appropriate knowledge and understanding of existing gun control laws, the second amendment, and history (both recent and distant). I confess that I’m not knowledgeable enough on those topics to have an intelligent conversation at this point, but I encourage people (including myself) to educate themselves so that we can talk not with vague ideas but practical suggestions. Guns and gun control are important pieces to this puzzle, but not the only ones.  Guns are a method, but not the message. With limited access to guns, other weapons will surface. Use your imagination, I’m sure you can think of a few.

So while the country sorts out the issues with gun control, is there something we can do to solve the root of this problem?

What are the other pieces? Video games? Mental illness? Bullying?

Video games? I have three girls. I don’t even feel qualified to discuss that topic.

Mental illness? I have some personal and professional experience with this, but let me be clear–the majority of people with a mental illness do not want to destroy other people’s lives. They want to survive their own. It’s a piece but not the whole picture, and not something that’s easily fixed.

Bullying. As I listen to the news, I can’t help but feel helpless. The violence is spinning out of control and becoming more than a sporadic occurrence. But there are ways that we CAN make a difference. Maybe we can’t stage a national campaign to end violence, but we can start a personal campaign to make a difference in the lives of people we encounter every day. And maybe that small difference will create a ripple that turns into something bigger.

Students–I had a conversation with one of my daughters last night. We talked about how hard it is to navigate the social landscape of middle and high school and how many kids (and sadly, adults) need to learn about treating others with kindness and respect.

Do kids trash each other? You bet. Adults, who should know better, do too. But are we teaching and encouraging our kids to shut down those destructive conversations? My daughter told me a story about Girl A who said something that could be construed as unkind about Girl B. Girl C, who overheard Girl A, ran to Girl B and relayed the whole conversation, causing anger and hurt feeling and a situation that spiraled out of control. Did Girl C help the situation in any way? I don’t think so. What should she have done?

There’s more than one answer or opinion. Mine would have been to stand up for Girl B and politely remind Girl A  that it’s not nice to talk that way about others. But, I’m an adult with years of experience and less concern about what others think of me. Kids don’t always have the courage and the self confidence to do that.

If you can’t confront someone about their gossip or unkind words, I understand, but don’t SPREAD that gossip and give it power–the power to scar or warp or crush another human being. Gossip loses its appeal if you don’t reward it with your attention.

Be a role model. Don’t say mean things about others. Think of something positive to say instead of malicious rumors or snarky comments. Maybe your positivity will inspire someone else to do the same. And don’t be discouraged if it feels like no one notices your considerate gestures or comments. They will. And you WILL make a difference.

Teachers–you have an extremely hard job that I could honestly never do. You have my utmost respect and you are not paid nearly enough for all the roles you play and the time you spend with our children. You are also in an extremely important and influential position. Please be a good role model.

I’ve heard stories about things teachers said to children that would make you cringe (or storm the school with torches). Words and insults that sound like they come from fellow students, not from people entrusted with teaching by good example.  Please remember that as a teacher, your words and actions can inspire or destroy your students. Be the person that students come to and confide in, not the one who makes them doubt their self worth. Not a ringleader who stirs up drama. Not a drama queen or king with teenage subjects.

Having said that, for every drama queen/king, there are twenty (or more) amazingly compassionate and energetic teachers/heroes. Thank you to those who look out for the loners, the outcasts, the unpopular. Thank you for befriending and encouraging them and being their cheerleader.

Parents–this role I know. It’s not an easy one. We need to be good examples too–we’re our kids first teachers. How do you talk about others? Kids, unlike myself, have excellent hearing. Even if you don’t think they’re paying attention to your conversations with others, I’m pretty sure they are. (I won’t digress into whether they pay attention to our conversations with them … ) Be careful what you say and how you say it. Kids learn from what they’re surrounded by. And … I’m not perfect. I have bad days. I mess up and word things differently than how I would if I were better rested or under less stress. (Let’s not even discuss the words and gestures that may or may not slip out in urban traffic.) But … I can admit my mistakes, apologize for them, explain to my kids why I was wrong, and strive to do better next time.

We can also do our best to build our children’s self esteem and confidence. Children who feel loved and respected at home are more resistant to the wounds inflicted at school. Love their friends too. You never know what their home life is like or what their parents are going through. Be compassionate. Be loving. Be kind.

Guns are one piece of a large puzzle. Try not to ignore or minimize the other pieces, and at the same time try not to let them overwhelm you. Do not let the news today immobilize you with hopelessness. Let it inspire you to make a statement, a change, a difference.

 

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Do More of What Makes You HAPPY

Do More of What Makes You HAPPY

Life is busy. Schoolwork, homework, work work. Cooking, cleaning, carpooling, eat, sleep, repeat. Sometimes I feel like a hamster chained to a wheel that never stops spinning. Of course, if I were, I’d far exceed my daily goal of 10,000 steps. Sadly, that doesn’t happen very often. Wait, does that mean I’m a sloth chained to my desk? No, I’m not that either, but I digress …

My point is, we can get so buried in the busy-ness of our days that we forget to make time for the things that bring us happiness. Or, in my case, we FORGET what makes us happy.

Some people reading this right now may be laughing (or shaking their head) because they know me. Grumpy Cat is my spirit animal … I might not be the most believable person to be writing a post about this topic.

Bear with me.

Suspend your disbelief, jump off that hamster wheel for a few seconds, and let’s talk about happiness.

Why is happiness important?

An article published online by the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley lists six specific ways that happiness is good for your health:

  1. Happiness protects your heart.
  2. Happiness strengthens your immune system.
  3. Happiness combats stress.
  4. Happy people have fewer aches and pains.
  5. Happiness combats disease and disability.
  6. Happiness lengthens our lives.

https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/six_ways_happiness_is_good_for_your_health

My wheel is spinning too fast to evaluate whether the studies they cite are solid, but even without scientific evidence, most people would say they feel better when they’re happy.

Prerequisites to happiness

Are there such things as “prerequisites to happiness”? If you ask anyone in my family, they’d say, “Duh!” My youngest gets hangry. And no one’s happy until she puts some food in that angry little stomach. Snickers Monster, anyone?

My weakness is sleep. I’ve been a grumpy, sleep-deprived, zombie for almost twenty years. Not good. But when I get a nap, we’re ALL in a much better mood. A clean house, doesn’t hurt either. Clean clothes that are magically put away and dirty laundry that finds its way off the floor and into the laundry basket are golden. But, that brings up an important point. Are all “prerequisites” valid or are some of them unnecessary hurdles?

I’m not a happiness expert (we already established that) or a psychiatric professional, but my thought is that there are some basic physiological needs that are essential (e.g. food, sleep, shelter) and some that are hurdles (e.g. that elusive clean house). Sounds a bit like Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, but again, not a psychologist. The key is finding ways to meet your valid happiness needs and to put the hurdles behind you. I’ll let you know when I figure out how to be content in spite of a messy house …

What makes YOU happy?

What makes ME happy may not make YOU happy. While I could blissfully wander the aisles of Hobby Lobby for hours, my husband would rather sail a ship through a tsunami. He likes challenges. I … get seasick. But that’s okay–I have daughters who will HAPPILY help me spend money there. It’s a win-win situation for all.

What surprised me as I’ve been writing this post, is that I’m not sure what truly makes me happy anymore. (Sad confessions of a busy mother.) I’ve been staring at the draft of this post for two months, because I haven’t had time to figure this out. I know … Sad. But, it’s something that we all need to consider, because life is too short to miss out on joy.

So, here’s OUR homework:

  1. Make a list of your prerequisites to happiness.
  2. Honestly appraise that list to make sure your prerequisites are realistic and truly required. (And, no, having a Ferrari is NOT a realistic prerequisite.)
  3. Make a list of what makes you happy (write it down)–it can be pretty and inspirational or just functional–whatever makes you happy 🙂
  4. Post that list where you’ll see it often.
  5. Find some time in your busy day to fit in a little happiness.
  6. OPTIONAL: Post a comment and tell me what makes you happy–I’ll try to do the same. Maybe we’ll inspire each other!
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Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas!

Wishing you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

My wish for you is a happy holiday season spent with loved ones, filled with laughter, blessed with peace. Thank you to all eight of my post subscribers 🙂 I’m grateful for your friendship and your support–each one of you holds a special place in my heart. May you always be blessed with family and friends and love. And may the knowledge of God’s gift to us–a baby born in Bethlehem–bring you comfort and joy.

Much love,

Kim

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Small but still significant

Small but still significant

Do you have to be a brain surgeon or a rocket scientist to make a difference? Do you have to be a super model or a movie star to be admired? Do you have to be a millionaire to be successful?

The world says yes, but God says no.

There are some who are meant to create wonderful inventions, make huge discoveries, solve grand mysteries. There are many more  who are meant to do smaller, but not less important, things.

Saint Therese was born Marie-Francoise-Therese Martin on January 2, 1873. Her life was short and small and sickly, but her life was significant. She saw herself as a small wildflower, unnoticed by most but treasured by God as he treasures even the smallest flowers in the field.

St Therese

“I understand how all the flowers God has created are beautiful, how the splendor of the rose and the whiteness of the lily do not take away the perfume of the violet or the delightful simplicity of the daisy. I understand that if all flowers wanted to be roses, nature would lose her springtime beauty, and the fields would no longer be decked out with little wild flowers. So it is in the world of souls, Jesus’ garden. He has created smaller ones and those must be content to be daisies or violets destined to give joy to God’s glances when He looks down at His feet. Perfection consists in doing His will, in being what He wills us to be.” – St. Therese

Just because you do not find the cure for cancer does not mean that you are insignificant …

… to the girl eating alone at the lunch table that you befriend—you are a rock star.

… to the patient who receives blood that you donate —you are a lifesaver.

… to the boy being bullied that you stand up for—you are a hero.

… to the person you lift from depression just by being her friend—you are an angel.

I remember one awful, premenstrual day when I was sixteen, working in an ice cream store on a quiet Sunday afternoon. I don’t remember WHY it was so terrible, just the hopeless, terrible way I felt. Like nothing was right. Like nothing would ever be right.

A man, maybe thirty years old, probably the only customer all afternoon, came in for ice cream. He must have sensed my inner teenage misery. After I gave him his ice cream and his change, he simply smiled and, with much compassion, said, “It’s going to be okay.”

My eyes blurred. Something within me shifted. I had never seen him before and never saw him again. I honestly thought he was an angel … maybe he was.

The kindness of a stranger.

It is in our everyday interactions with others and our simple acts of kindness that we make a difference.

Here are some suggestions:

  • Share a smile
  • Say hello
  • Listen instead of judging
  • Find the positive in a difficult situation
  • Choose kindness over popularity
  • Donate time, knowledge, labor, or blood

These are only a few. Leave me a comment with more suggestions.

And in this holiday season, remember the child who was born in the little town of Bethlehem. Not in a castle, but in a manger. Not to a wealthy king, but to a carpenter. Not to be insignificant, but to save the world.

May you and your family know the joy and peace of Jesus this Christmas and always.

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A Letter to Teenagers

A Letter to Teenagers

My dear teenager,

I remember the teenage years. Some of the details are fuzzy, but the emotions are still very clear.

You are at an amazing point in your life. Amazing, but at the same time, uncertain and stressful and scary. You’re not quite grown up yet, but you’re facing adult situations—career decisions, relationships, peer pressure, and more.

So. Much. More.

I drove my daughter and her friend to school this morning. When we got there, I couldn’t decide if I should let them out of the car or bring them back home with me.

Ambulances, police, fire engines, and a LifeFlight helicopter.

A child tried to end his life in the school stairway.

As a mother, my heart aches, cries, grieves.

I grieve for the mother and father. I can only imagine the shock, the fear, and the sorrow you are going through. My prayers are for your healing and for his, for your strength in the coming days, weeks, and months,  and for God’s peace that surpasses all understanding.

I grieve for his fellow students. Some of you wonder – why didn’t I see this coming? Don’t be hard on yourself, but do be there for this boy when he comes home. He’ll need your love and acceptance.

I grieve for the child who was in so much pain he could see no other way out.

The pain of growing up is real. Physical even. Anxiety and heartache can make your head, your heart, your chest, and your stomach hurt. You’re too young for a heart attack, but your pain can sometimes feel like one.

Breathe.

Breathe in and breath out.

And know that you are not alone.

This truly is a broken world, but that doesn’t mean that life is hopeless. We can pick up each other’s pieces. We can put them back together. We can make our corner of the world kinder and wiser and stronger.

Friends … be kind. Please don’t gossip. Don’t taunt or bully or belittle.

Parents … hug your children—even if they roll their eyes. Especially if they roll their eyes. Drop everything and listen when they want to talk to you. Be their biggest cheerleader. Love them unconditionally.

Teenagers … hug your parents. (Moms and dads need hugs too.) Talk to them. If they’re having their own difficulties and can’t be there for you, talk to someone else. Grandparents, friend’s parents, friend, teacher, pastor, God. YOU ARE NOT ALONE, even when you’re certain you are. And trust me. TRUST ME. There is nothing in this world that is worth leaving it before God says it’s time.

He has plans for you. Things for you to do. People for you to meet. Hands for you to hold. Things for you to see. He has sunrises and sunsets, the breeze in your hair, the sun on your back, the warmth of the earth, His grace and His love and His peace. He made you. He loves you. He has a purpose for you.

Don’t give up.

Hugs and much love … Kim

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A Thankful Heart

A Thankful Heart

Why is it so much easier to file a complaint than to give a compliment? I’m asking honestly, because I’ve been guilty of this enough times to make me feel, well, guilty.  If someone wrongs us—we (usually) let them know, right? Or if we don’t tell them, we tell their manager. (Or, if you’re a coward like me, you just tell your friends and family.) But what about if someone does something right?

When my girls used to ride the bus to school, if the bus driver was late getting to the stop, several calls were made to the transportation center to inquire about his/her whereabouts. Some callers were kinder than others. I’m not saying that the calls were necessarily unwarranted, but as eager as we were to complain, how many of us remembered to thank the bus driver at Christmas or at the end of the school year for their thankless (no pun intended) job? Confession: I’ve forgotten more times than I’ve remembered.  On one of my good years, I bought a gift card for the bus driver and asked my daughter to write him a short note of thanks. When she came home that afternoon, she told me that her bus driver was completely surprised by her gesture and that he didn’t usually get thank you notes.

How sad.

And the bus drivers aren’t the only people I’ve forgotten to thank. The ladies in the front office of the school that my three girls attended were fantastic—friendly, helpful, kind, hilarious—not every school can boast of a front office staff like that. Every year I planned to bring them breakfast or snacks to thank them for their truly exceptional kindness and service. Every year I ran out of time. In total, my kids were there for six years. SIX chances. (Twelve, if you count Christmas as an opportunity.) I need to post one of those dog-shaming pictures of myself with a sign around my neck “Lacks Organizational Skills.” But, according to my post last month, I need to forgive myself. So, I’ll forgo the sign and do better next time.

Some of you may be thinking to yourself, “I can’t afford to buy the bus driver a gift card. And snacks for the front office? When I win the lottery!” I hear you. I really, really do. A simple note or word of thanks can mean just as much or more. For certain occupations, good reviews or positive feedback  passed on to management can translate to better annual performance evaluations, promotions, or raises. And as much as I love donuts and breakfast kolaches, I love knowing that I’m doing a good job even more. (Although, I would never, ever turn away food offerings!)

Let’s go back to those complaints. What if someone doesn’t deserve thanks? What if their service was truly awful? What if the cashier just offered their very loud, very clueless commentary on your choice of underwear? (True story. Not mine, thankfully.) Some sort of response is in order, but not necessarily as rude and immature as the offense. Always strive to be the adult.

At work they taught us how to give a Compliment Sandwich—a more palatable way to deliver criticism. We spent quite a while learning and practicing the technique, but the short story is this: say something nice, followed by the criticism, followed by another nice comment. It works if you deliver the message with finesse. If you’re not polished with your delivery, you come off as insincere.

Hey, it’s impressive that you feel so comfortable with a complete stranger, but discussing my taste in underwear makes me want to put a bag over my head and run away. You seem like a smart guy, so I’m sure you understand.

Sandwiches don’t always work, but maturity usually does. My friend quietly took the manager aside and explained the situation, suggesting that he talk to the young cashier about appropriate versus inappropriate conversation topics.

My suggestion—buy your underwear online?

But, I digress … one last thought on thankfulness. Miss Manners may disagree, but I think it’s rarely too late to thank someone. Appreciation always feels nice, so be generous with your kind words and gestures, even if they’re overdue.

As for me, I might be bringing breakfast to a certain group of awesome office ladies this Christmas. (I hope they still remember who I am.)

Finally, thank YOU for visiting my website and reading my post. Let me know what you think!

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YOU matter … be kind to yourself

YOU matter … be kind to yourself

I have a dear friend who is truly WONDERFUL. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t love this amazing woman … except for, perhaps, herself.

And that KILLS me.

She loves her husband and her children—their pain is her pain. Their joy is hers, too. She volunteers at school, even though she has a thousand other things she could be doing. She creates fantastic memories for her family by organizing trips and playdates and sleepovers. She’s hilarious (and should probably have her own blog). She puts people at ease with her friendly personality. She has a HUGE heart.

Okay. Her house is not the cleanest one in the neighborhood, but in the grand scheme of things, how important is a picture-perfect house? What’s that phrase? Dirty kitchen, happy kids? Here’s an even better one: Happy mom, happy kids.

We need to be kind to ourselves. Heaven knows, there are enough people in this world who won’t treat you (or anyone else) with the dignity and respect that every human being deserves.

1. FORGIVE yourself.

We all make mistakes. Personally, I seem to make the same mistakes over and over again. How many times have I vowed not to overschedule myself and take on too much? More times than I care to admit.

Sew costumes for the play, even though I’m working more than full time, shuttling three kids to every afterschool activity, supervising homework, cleaning my house, and feeding my family …? Sure! I can do that!

No, wait, I really can’t. Not without becoming a raving lunatic, that is. And “lunatic” is not the image I’m striving for.

It’s okay. We’re HUMAN. I forgave myself and learned. Do I still take on too much? Sometimes. But I’m getting better.

2. DON’T COMPARE yourself to anyone else.

In this age of social media where everyone posts snapshots of the restaurant-worthy meals they cooked, the blissful family vacation they took, the straight As their kids got—it’s easy to get discouraged. Believe me, I know. I avoided Facebook for close to two years because logging on depressed me.

Sometimes I feel like social media can become an adult version of a high school popularity contest—IF you let it become one. So-and-so has over 400 friends. I have 130. So what?! And who cares how many likes your post got? Post what you’re passionate about and don’t worry about who likes it. And, if social media really bothers you, take a break. Restore your soul and your identity. Then, when you’re stronger, return to the arena.

The only person you need to compare yourself with is YOU. Try to become a better person today than you were yesterday. And if you don’t succeed, forgive yourself and try again tomorrow.

3. SMALL STEPS. If there’s something you really want to change about yourself, set achievable goals. “I am going to lose all the weight I gained over the holidays in one week.” Definitely not achievable or healthy. (Trust me, I might have some experience with that one. #failednewyearsresolutions.)

4. Focus on the POSITIVE. Okay. For all you older Saturday Night Live fans, this one reminds me of Stuart Smalley. “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and—doggone it—people like me.” His character was meant to be satirical, but daily affirmations are actually a helpful thing. You don’t need to talk to yourself in the mirror, though, unless that’s something that really help you. If it does, go for it, but be prepared to explain what you’re doing to your family or roommate!

Instead of beating yourself up for what you can’t do, or what you can’t do well, think about what you CAN do. And be HONEST with yourself—give yourself some credit. We all have our different strengths. I can clean my house like a pro (although I don’t always do), while my dear friend can fix any household appliance. In fact, she saved me thousands of dollars by helping me replace the bearings in my old washing machine instead of buying a new one. (My kitchen looked like a warzone until we finished, but think of all the money I saved!) Strengths—we all have them, just not necessarily the same ones.

So, my friend, until we talk again—be kind to yourself.

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