Friday, January 13, 2017

The Importance of a Mentor

Mentor:  An experienced or trusted advisor.

In a couple of short months, I will turn 50 years old!  Can you even believe that?  Throughout this year, I have constantly held in the back of my mind that I need to come to some big revelations about my many trips around the sun and be able to share them.  

50 years seems like a long time and I should have a lot of wisdom by now.  Strangely though, I feel that much of the wisdom I do have, I have learned in the last 5 years.  Before that it really seemed as though I was just having experiences and maybe not learning all that much, but lately I feel AWARE of my experiences as being teachers and that lessons are imbedded in them and I need to decode the lesson.  

So, in this time around my half century birthday, I will try and articulate some of the lessons and knowledge that I have learned in my time here on Earth.  I am a teacher so I am always thinking in terms of lessons and sending knowledge out to others.

Lesson 1:  Never underestimate the value of a mentor.  

Education is the key to unlocking your potential and for gaining knowledge, but a mentor is someone who knows which door the key fits into and how it opens.  There are many, many opportunities that can come your way if you find a mentor who believes in you and if you are open to listening and learning from them.  Relationships will open many doors that your resume will not.

When I was around 30, I was invited to a book club where the average age of the women was between 50 and 60 years.  It was really my first group of friends that were in a different stage of life.  Their kids were grown, they had successful homes or careers, they volunteered, and once a month they shared their wisdom with me through books.  It was eye opening for me.  It made me see the value of older women as friends and mentors.  They had knowledge that I didn't have and were willing to share it with me.

If you are a young women, get a mentor.  Do not try and reinvent the wheel.  There are shortcuts, connections, and easier ways to do things.  Be open to another woman's advice.  Doors can be opened by mentors that cannot be opened any other way. Mentors are not people who tell you that you are awesome all the time, as the saying goes, if they's time to find a new mentor!  

Mentors tell you the truth, they impart insight, they say things you need to hear sometimes. Hard things to help you grow.  Be humble, find a mentor.  And when you do, listen.  It is a listening relationship for you.  I think of Maya Angelou and Oprah Winfrey.  Oprah would sit at Maya's feet and listen.  How much wisdom was passed form one generation to the next through that kind of beautiful mentoring relationship.

Lesson 2:  Be a mentor 

I'm a teacher.  I teach 5th grade and they don't usually sit at my feet and listen carefully to every word I saw.  I drag them kicking and screaming to the tree of knowledge much of the time.  But, I love being an awakener.  Awakening the thirst for knowledge in a child.  

You can do the same thing by being a mentor.  If you have been on this planet for 50 or more years, you, too, have wisdom to share.  Be willing to share what you know.  

I find that many times, especially in business, we are afraid of competition.  What if we mentor someone and they become better than us?  We have to think more abundantly than that!  There are 7 million people on this planet, there is plenty of business to go around.  Share your knowledge!  Be the mentor that you wish you had when you were young.  

So many things in my life would have been easier, had I had a mentor.  When I look around our community and see wonderful women sharing their gifts with younger women, and younger women being willing to be still and listen, I see the future. 

We can inspire another generation of women to take over where we have left off and make our community and our world better. It will be our legacy. 

Enrich your own life by being a mentor.  

Monday, January 2, 2017

Best books of 2016

Everyone Brave is Forgiven by Chris Cleave was my absolute, favorite #1 read of this year.  I am a total sucker for smart, funny characters and witty dialogue and this book delivers! I also love any book that is set during World War II. This was a novel after my own heart!   This book also now resides on my Top 10 of all time list.  Read it!  You will be so happy you did.

This gem was not a 2016 book but I didn't read it until I really needed it.  2016 started with a lot of unhappiness, stress, sorrow, and sadness.  By April of 2016, two of my kids were diagnosed with ulcerative colitis, my army son had broken his leg badly in an airplane jump, my husband had been without work since January, and I was really heart-sick and not able to find my joy.   I read this book at a silent retreat and tried to put what she said to practice.  Most helpful to me was the section on really knowing yourself.  I now also have a whole page of awareness of myself..being that I can attempt to not put myself in positions that threaten my joy.

I read this in one sitting on New Year's Eve.  I love Liane Moriarty!  Her characters feel like my friends and I can't put her books down.  They are great when you just want a book that feels like an old friend and some fun characters who feel like real people.  I recommend all of her books!

I tried to read this book last summer but it required a level of concentration that I couldn't find.  That is a hallmark of stress, when your brain can't focus.  I got through half of it and had to put it down.  I picked it up on the first day of winter break and started over.  It was very good.  Set in New York, it follows the lives of 4 siblings as they try to get their inheritance back from their badly behaved brother.  Great character development and dialogue.

I bought this book at the Sycamore Tree while on a silent retreat.  I felt like it was on the shelf just for me.  I was really struggling with why God allows bad things to happen to good people.  He is a really good writer and this book was full of anecdotal examples as well as questions for personal reflection. This book was just what I needed, right when I needed it.  So, you have to ask yourself which

"what kind of person are you? Are you the kind that sees signs, that sees miracles? Or do you believe that people just get lucky? Or, look at the question this way: Is it possible that there are no coincidences?"  and who doesn't love a good Mel Gibson quote :)  and view :)

I also read The Aviator's Wife which I liked, but did not love.  I found the story fascinating, but for some reason the characters were a little flat to me.  A Man Called Ove was also another that didn't move me greatly.  I liked it though so perhaps it was me and my stress level that kept me from loving them and being able to fully immerse myself.  

I just started this...a haunting story of Auschwitz and the horrors that twins, Peal and Stasha are subjected to under Joseph Mengele.  Beautiful character development and prose.  

How about you?  What were your favorite books of the year?  What are you reading next?  

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Raising Responsible Kids

As a teacher and a mom of a large family, I am often asked how to teach kids to be responsible.  I talk to many parents who are frustrated with their child's lack of skill in keeping track of things, remembering homework, and being accountable for their actions.  I think the most important aspect to look at first is what ways are you inadvertently contributing to your child's irresponsibility.   Too often we want our child to succeed and so we rescue them from learning opportunities.  

For instance, you know your child forgot his school project or his football cleats and he is going to suffer the consequences from his teacher or coach.  We don't want our child to get in trouble so we rescue them.  We run back and forth delivering forgotten items and making sure that our child doesn't fail. We call teachers to fix grades, we call coaches and complain about lack of playing time, we complain about unfairness when our child is not choosing for a team or group.  

This last week our school hosted a traveling theatre group and held auditions.  I had one child get a part and one child who didn't.  Whose fault was that?  I heard that many parents were complaining about the unfairness of it.  Who said anything in life was going to be fair.  

I know for a fact that my child learned more from not getting a part than from getting one.  She was probably goofing around and being silly.  

How would it have benefitted her or taught her anything about if I had gone to the director or school and complained?  Instead she learned that maybe she was the reason and it was her own actions that led to the consequence. 

She also learned at 10 years old that life isn't fair and you don't always get what you want.  It is a lot less painful at 10 than it will be at 19 when they are at college and you aren't there to rescue them or help them deal with feelings.

How are they to learn to be responsible if we constantly take the responsibility for them?  How are they to learn about life if we don't let them experience it?

Parents who try to ensure their child's success by rescuing them often end up with irresponsible kids. 

Responsibility has to be taught, and sometimes it is a little painful.  For example, your child forgets his practice uniform or his homework and he is not allowed to play in the game that week or receives a lower grade.  

Here is a significant learning opportunity for your child; you forget your stuff, you suffer the consequence.  

If you bring it to them, all you have taught is that you are responsible for your child's things.  It is not fun to watch your child struggle or suffer a consequence but so much better to experience consequences for actions when they pay out is relatively small.  

If you raise an irresponsible child who is not accountable for his own actions, the size of the consequence increases.  It is so much easier on parent and child to teach accountability when they are young.

Let your child learn about navigating friendships, school, teams, commitment and responsibility at a young age.  Don't rescue them from natural consequences of their actions.  Consult them on how they could have avoided suffering that consequence, but don't take away the consequence!

They learn so much from doing things themselves than they do with you stepping in a fixing things and making decisions for them.  When they are teens the cost of not learning these lessons earlier goes up significantly.  Now they are driving your car, dating someone else's child, making decisions about alcohol and drugs.  

Ensure that they are good decision makers by giving them practice as younger children.  

Let's raise responsible kids who succeed!

Happy Birthday, Marygrace

My darling little lovebug turned 3 yesterday! She had a fun birthday at Chuck E. Cheese. She got her favorite presents, Bullseye and Toy Story figures. And had a cute caterpillar cake. It was a beautiful day for a beautiful, sweet girl. We are so blessed to have you!

5 Ways to Raise Good Teens

1. Sports and extracurricular activities. Teens who play a sport or are involved in other on campus activities do not have the time or the extra energy to hang out and get in trouble. They also have a built in peer group who also do not have time to get in trouble. Sports have been a major factor in keeping my teens busy, tired and focused on school. It is too late to try and get them involved after they are in high school, you have to get them doing things when they are little so they naturally gravitate toward those activities in high school.

2. Family dinner. Kids who sit down for dinner with the family are less likely to be involved in drugs and alcohol. They are talking and listening to parents and parents know what is going on in their lives. Dinner is really important.

3. Family vacations. A disturbing trend is the vacation where a teen brings a friend along. Vacations need to be a memory making time with just the family. It needs to be the time that you build connections, traditions and foundations with your kids, not the time that you do your thing and they do theirs. Be a family.

4. Church. Kids need to know that someone has their back all. the. time. Faith is also something that builds a connection with your kids. It is one of the things you all do together each week.

5. Tell your kids what you know. Talk to them. You can't just give your kids a talk once and have it stick, you have to repeat and repeat over the course of a childhood. If you don't tell your kids something is wrong, someone else will tell them it is right.

Book Club Reads

Recently I started a book club. Since I am new to the area, I really didn't have close friends to ask or know a book club to join, but I have been desperate for the friendship and fun a book club provides.

I asked a few of my neighbors and a couple of ladies I had met at the kid's schools and they were excited to start one, too! Our first meeting was last week. We read The Paris Wife which is the story of Ernest and Hadley Hemingway told from Hadley's point of view. Ernest already told his story in his memoir A Moveable Feast.

There was a lot to discuss in this book. It is sad and because it is true, I think that makes it even sadder. We drank wine, we ate yummy desserts and we even held a brand new baby...Our youngest member. It was a success.

I have been in many book clubs over the years and read a lot of books. Here are my top 10 bookclub reads. These books offered a lot to discuss and provided a lot to think about as well as to learn.


The Poisonwood Bible
Ahab's Wife
Sarah's Key
Those Who Save Us
Snow Flower and the Secret Fan
City of Thieves
The Other Boleyn Girl
Hunger Games
The Girl With the Pearl Earring
The Devil's Teeth
The Kite Runner

I know, I know, that is 11!...I could go on and on! If you are just starting a book club, these are good books to get you started on some great discussions though. Just grab a few friends or if you don't have friends yet, like I didn't, grab a few fun neighbors and start reading!

Top 10 Book and Author List

                                                            image source

“I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library.” 
― Jorge Luis Borges

Top 10 Favorite Books of All Time

The Poisonwood Bible~Barbara Kingsolver
Sarah's Key~Tatiana de Rosnay
A Thousand Splendid Suns~Khaled Hosseini
The Other Boleyn Girl~Phillipa Gregory
The Red Tent~Anita Diamant
The Year of Wonders~Geraldine Brooks
Cold Mountain~Charles Frazier
City of Thieves~David Benioff
Those Who Save Us~Jenna Blum
Ahab's Wife~Sena Jeter Naslund

Top 10 Writers of All Time...I love everything they no particular order

Anne Lamott
Elizabeth Berg
Anita Shreve
Jhumpa Lahiri
Sue Miller
Ron Rash
Tracy Chevalier
Ernest Hemingway
Jane Austen
F. Scott Fitzgerald