Category Archives: Adversity

Understanding the Contributions and Challenges of Blind People (Guest: Donna W. Hill)

Radio Style Interview, The Changing Behavior NetworkJournalist, performer, author and advocate for the blind, Donna W. Hill, shares her story and offers much-needed insight into issues facing blind Americans today.

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Understanding the Contributions and Challenges of Blind People, Donna W. HillVery few children are born blind; blindness affects the majority of individuals as the result of disease or a degenerative condition. For this reason, children, teens and young people know precious little about what it means for a person to be blind, and what blind individuals can and cannot do. That lack of awareness and knowledge can affect them later if they, or someone they know, becomes legally blind. (SUGGESTION: Please share this interview with those who can share it with school-aged youngsters.)

According to Dr. Sutton’s guest on this program, Donna W. Hill, blind Americans remain an under-served minority as they continue to be affected by low expectations. She shares in this interview, for example, how there are still issues with Braille literacy, as well as major concerns regarding meaningful employment and careers for blind individuals.

Listeners will be touched as Donna shares her own story of being the only blind student in her whole school district. As she explains, that experience came with numerous difficulties.

To her credit, Donna continued her education and earned her college degree while developing her abilities in music, performing and writing. Starting out as a street performer in Philadelphia, Donna later appeared onstage, where she opened for a number of performers and groups, including the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. (In fact, this interview concludes with Donna singing an original song, “The Rules of the Game,” from her album, The Last Straw.)

The Heart of Applebutter Hill, Donna W. HillAs a journalist and publicist, Donna has tirelessly advocated for blind Americans. In fact, she was the first blind representative of a radio reading service to receive national press credentials to cover a presidential inauguration. (Note: Donna has prepared an informative quiz and fact sheet about blindness; it’s with our free, guest expert materials on this site.)

Donna’s recent book, The Heart of Applebutter Hill, is fiction, but it packs a big punch. In fact, professionals in education and the arts have endorsed the book as a diversity and anti-bullying resource for middle school through college. It’s a story about a young teen named Abigail, a refugee without her family in a new place where some are kind and some are not. While going blind, Abigail must navigate an enveloping plot in this adventure and mystery novel.

Before she moved to the country air of Pennsylvania’s Endless Mountains, Donna was a regular guest at schools, universities and other gatherings of young people throughout the greater Philadelphia area. She and her guide dog, Hunter, still enjoy opportunities to inform, inspire and encourage young people. (34:19)

http://www.DonnaWHill.com

TO LISTEN, use the player below or left-click the link. To access the file right-click and “Save Link as …” to save to your audio device), CLICK HERE FOR LINK


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A Promise, a Dream, and a Mom’s Love (Michael Byron Smith)

Michael Byron Smith shares how his single-parent mom kept her family together through difficult times, how he managed to keep a promise and fulfill a dream, and why mentoring is so important today. We present, “A Promise, a Dream, and a Mom’s Love.”

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A Promise, a Dream, and a Mom's Love, Michael Byron Smith)How a child is raised has an undeniable impact on his or her success and happiness. Everyone would agree with that, but many ignore it anyway.

Occasionally, children raised in a stressful or unloving atmosphere achieve while others, raised in the same atmosphere, or even in a seemingly ideal situation, do not. However, I think most experts agree, with little doubt, that having two savvy and involved parents is a huge advantage in the mental health of a child. Children without that advantage can succeed, but they will struggle more than necessary. I lived this scenario and I’ve seen others in my family both fail and succeed, but the successes have been far fewer.

Big Job for a Ten-Year-Old

As I turned ten years of age, I was in a situation that required me to babysit my five younger siblings. My father was absent and my mother had to work to support us. She was only 27 years-old with six children to feed. My youngest brother was not even a year old. Thinking back on this is a frightening picture; back then, it was normal to me!

It wasn’t every day that I had to do this, just on occasions when nothing else would work out for my mother. My memories of these days are not totally clear. What I do know is that my father abandoned us. Where he was in the world at that time I do not know. Where and how he spent his earnings, other than on alcohol, is a mystery. But more mysterious to me is how a person could abandon his young children.

Some may think my mother should have never left us alone, but she was without alternatives. I don’t know how she got through the pressures of being a single mom with a tenth-grade education. All I do know is she did not abandon us and worked to exhaustion to raise and support her children.

Not surprisingly, a ten-year-old placed in charge of his brothers and sisters doesn’t get much respect. My eight-year-old brother would challenge me and aggravate everyone else. My five and three-year-old sisters were typical little girls getting into stuff and fighting. My two youngest brothers were a two-year-old toddler and a baby under a year old. Basically, I was there to keep them from injuring themselves or each other; I’d call Mom if someone got hurt badly.

Why am I writing this, exposing my family’s dirty laundry? It is obviously not to brag, nor am I asking anyone to feel sorry for us, but to share a story of hope. Hope, however, needs action – mostly our own action to meet our challenges head-on. It is up to each individual, but many kids don’t know what to do, or how to do it.

I don’t know where we lived when I was ten because we moved quite often, and I didn’t have many childhood friends. Because of this, I was much more comfortable around women than men. Being a shy, skinny, and often new kid, I was like shark-bait to the local bullies common in poorer neighborhoods. My self-defense plan was invisibility, staying indoors or peeking around corners before proceeding. It wasn’t even close to an ideal upbringing.

Tough Beginnings Mean Extra Work

Needless to say, this was not the best start for any young person. The difficulties my siblings and I experienced pale in comparison to the challenges too many young people suffer. But preventable struggles, like struggles caused by my father’s parental neglect, should never happen.

How did we all do coming out of this situation? Beyond the challenges all kids face as they mature, we all had extra demons to defeat, some struggling with those demons more than others. We’ve had teen mothers, a lack of a high school education, truancy, poverty and some minor drug and alcohol use, with following generations dealing with some of the same problems. Of the six of us, three extended families are doing well, while three families are still struggling to one degree or another.

Fortunately, I did not have any of the problems described above, but I did have others. The most challenging to me was a serious lack of confidence in myself. I believe my five siblings also suffered from this and other psychological issues. I broke out of this cycle of despair more successfully than my siblings because of two things: 1) a promise I made to myself and, 2) a dream.

The Power Of Dadhood, Michael Byron SmithThe promise was to never be poor! Not to be rich, but not to be poor – an error I will discuss later. My dream was to be a pilot, a dream of many young boys. But in my case, it was more of a passion. I knew that I would have to do it on my own because I didn’t know how to ask for help. Mentoring was not something of which I was aware, and being shy didn’t help. Certainly, someone would have mentored me had we stayed in one place long enough. (I apologize immensely to those I have forgotten who did give me help and advice, especially my many teachers.)

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Being a mentor is a wonderful way to help anyone who could use advice or guidance! My book, The Power of Dadhood, is, in fact, a mentoring book intended to teach fathers to how to mentor their children. It may be obvious, by now, why I wrote this book.

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My dream of being a pilot seemed so distant, like a star in another galaxy, but I kept my focus. This dream supported my goal of never being poor. It is amazing what one can do when they have a dream as a goal backed up by a promise. I also had two distant people that I looked up to: Jack Buck, the announcer for the St. Louis Cardinals, and Jimmy Stewart, my favorite actor and a US Air Force pilot himself. I admired their values and personalities. Never was there a bad word said of either, not by anyone I would respect. It was to my benefit to invent my own mentors because everyone needs role models and teachers.

A Dream, a Promise, and a Mom's Love, Michael Byron SmithI succeeded in my keeping my promise and achieving my dream. I have never been poor since the moment I graduated from college. I also became a US Air Force pilot and loved every part of that experience.

But it wasn’t easy! The required steps to make my dreams come true were demanding, but not really the issue. The toughest hurdles in this journey were the exaggerated and fabricated hurdles I put upon myself, thinking I was not worthy! The hurdle of self-worth will also cause one to underestimate their potential. I should have had a goal to be rich; instead, I just hoped to not be poor. I’m doing very well but what if……?

In Closing

My message here is two-fold. The first message is that anyone with a dream can overcome obstacles. That is a common theme of encouragement, but your self-imposed obstructions are the first and most important to overcome. There is no need of having a fifty-pound dead weight on your back when you’re climbing Mt. Everest. This or any other test in life has its very own challenges to conquer and that extra, unnecessary weight could cause you to fail.

The second message is the desperate need today for parents and other mentors to help young people grow. Having proper mentoring and a decent childhood atmosphere will help a child avoid unnecessary burdens. A much easier and effective way to be successful, of course, is to not have those extra burdens in the first place. Children raised in a good, nourishing home will have a head start because their lives have been streamlined, not encumbered with self-imposed friction and speed bumps. If the number one factor in a successful life is self-reliance, a very close second would be the way one is raised and mentored.

I challenge parents and all adults to be aware of the needs of the young people around them. Your help and guidance will save them from being an adversary and/or an obstacle to themselves. It just takes a kind word or a bit of attention. ###

Michael Byron Smith is the author of The Power of Dadhood [website]. He also hosts the “Helping Fathers to be Dads” blog.

 

A Foster Kid’s Dilemma: Who Gets the Life Raft? (Shenandoah Chefalo)

What happens when youngsters have to make “grown-up” decisions regarding their own welfare? Former foster youth and author, Shenandoah Chefalo, shares this eye-opening, candid account of such an experience and what she learned from it.

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Shenandoah Chefalo, A Foster Kid's Dilemma: Who Gets the Life Raft?Writing for my blog is sometimes problematic for me. I try to be as transparent as possible and talk about the things that are truly affecting my life in the moment. I want it to be honest, of course, but sometimes that means discussing emotions and feelings that are difficult or painful to put into words.

An Unexpected Answer

Recently, I was at an event and a woman asked a question that I hear often: “How did you overcome the abandonment of your mother?” My answer is burdensome and often shocking for audiences. The truth is, I never felt abandoned by my mother. Instead, I felt that I had abandoned her.

I had spent much of my childhood taking care of my mother, worrying about her, and making sure she was okay. When I was 13, she disappeared for a few days, then a few weeks. It wasn’t shocking to me; it was my “normal.”

When she still hadn’t reappeared, and my grandmother was going to be evicted from her housing, I knew I had to call social services. It was a difficult call for me to make; one that I would wish, time and time again, that I hadn’t made. Making that call always felt like I was watching a life raft for one float by, and I selfishly took it for myself.

When people hear this story, I can see a bit of shock come across their faces. It is difficult to put into words the loyalty I felt for my mother, and the betrayal I carry in my heart. As an adult, I cognitively understand my decision, and most do, also, but the betrayal I feel I caused hasn’t lessened.

Garbage Bag Suitcase, Shenandoah ChefaloA Matter of Loyalty

After the most recent presidential election results started coming in, I was struck with the notion of loyalty and how the weight of that emotion can be viewed, oftentimes confused for betrayal. As defined, loyalty is a strong feeling of support or allegiance to someone or something. It is a feeling or attitude of devoted attachment and affection. As a society, it is a trait we hold in high regard. In fact, any sign of disloyalty is often met with cries of one not being patriotic, a traitor, a crybaby, or various four-letter expletives.

And, that is why, after not seeing my birth mother for over 27 years, I still have feelings of disloyalty toward her and feel as I am the one who betrayed her. Abandonment was never my trigger or emotion. It is also why I have difficulty discussing those feelings; any sign of estrangement or retreat creates feelings (and brings accusations) that I was wrong in my decision to save myself.

Complicated

These emotions are complicated when children enter foster care; old families, new families, changing families … the feelings and questions come to the surface:

How can you be loyal to everyone? Can you ever?

Whom do you betray?

How do you protect yourself?

Is it ever OK to be disloyal? If so, who decides who gets the life raft?

Sometimes you just need to pick up the phone.

Shenandoah Chefalo is an advocate and a former foster youth. She is the author of the memoir, Garbage Bag Suitcase, and co-founder of Good Harbor Institute, an organization focused on ensuring sustainable, implemented trauma care within organizations and individuals. You can learn more about her and her work at www.garbagebagsuitcase.com or www.goodharborinst.com

 

Five String Recovery, Part 2 (Guest: Phillip Wadlow)

A 16-year-old musician wins a national bluegrass championship while secretly battling addiction. Here’s the second of his two-part story about his recovery, his music, and his message to young people.

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Five String Recovery, Phillip WadlowThis is the concluding part of 5-String Recovery with guest, Phillip Wadlow. In this part he tells of moving into adulthood with his drug and alcohol addiction, and how it affected his marriage, his children, his work, and his health. He also shares how he came to realize he needed treatment, and he tells of that experience. Throughout the interview, Phil plays some of the music that was such a significant part of his life, and shares how he’d like to use his music as an avenue for reaching out to young people. (Dr. Sutton, the interviewer, plays back-up guitar, except for the sad, but appropriate, guitar solo that represents one of the lowest points in Phil’s life.)

The original message of this interview was a cassette tape program, thus the reference to the cassette near the end of the program. Because Phil did move around quite a bit over the years, it is not know exactly where he is now, but life goes on. His children are grown now, of course, and it is know that he has remarried and, at last word, he and his wife were managing an apartment complex in Missouri.

There is a powerful message Phil wants young people need to hear, and this is it: Although one can recover from drugs and alcohol and work a program of dedicated sobriety, the costs of addiction impose many losses than cannot be recovered. Unless one takes responsibility for those losses, instead of blaming others, complete recovery is difficult, indeed. (20:40)

To listen, use the player below or left-click the link. To access the file right-click and “Save Target as …” to save to your audio device), CLICK HERE FOR LINK


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Five String Recovery, Part 1 (Guest: Phillip Wadlow)

A 16-year-old musician wins a national bluegrass championship while secretly battling addiction. Here’s his two-part story about his recovery, his music, and his message to young people.

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Five String Recovery, Phil Wadlow, The Changing Behavior Network

If you take a Missouri boy who grew up with bluegrass music and encourage his natural talent for playing it well, you’ll have the ingredients for an awesome career very few can achieve.

Young Phillip Wadlow was that Missouri boy. Everything was falling into place for him, until drugs and alcohol threatened to destroy him and all he held dear. This is his story and his music, in two parts. This interview was recorded in May of 1990, as Phil was completing his first year of recovery and sobriety. It’s a story Phil wants young people to hear, for he hopes they can learn from the wrong turns he took.Five String Recovery, Phillip Wadlow

In this part, Part One, Phil shares how he began using marijuana at a very young age, and how so quickly its use became chronic. But Phil also shares about the music he grew up with and how, at 16, he won a national bluegrass championship. He plays the song that took first place, “Cattle in the Cane.” The joy of being recognized for his music, however, was tainted by the fact he was, by then, completely dependent upon his drug of choice.

Dr. Sutton, the host in this interview, picks up his guitar and accompanies Phil on most of the songs in both parts on the interview. The banjo solo at the opening is an original composition of Phil’s, “Dusty Roads.” (22:12)

To listen, use the player below or left-click the link. To access the file, right-click and “Save Target as …” to save to your audio device), CLICK HERE.


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Divorced Parents: Made Mistakes You Regret? It’s Not Too Late to Make It Right! (Rosalind Sedacca, CDC)

Divorced parents can make mistakes they regret. Divorce  & Parenting Coach, Rosalind Sedacca, offers insightful ways for making it right.

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Divorced Parents: Made Mistakes You Regret? It's Not Too Late To Make It Right, Rosalind SedaccaDivorce drives some people crazy. Because of that, they make many poor decisions. Their judgment, integrity and credibility are easy to question. Their decisions regarding taking responsibility for their children come under scrutiny.

Learning From Mistakes

There is much we can all learn from these mistakes. And wisdom we can take away that is important for all of us to remember: It’s never too late to get it right – when your children are at stake!

In the heat of the divorce drama, we may have settled for a decision or two that we later regretted and still feel resentful about. Or we made a child-related agreement that, in hindsight, was not in our child’s best interest – but we don’t know quite how to remedy the situation.

Perhaps we lost our tempers at an inappropriate time and watched our children painfully internalize the experience.

Maybe we referred to our ex in a rather unflattering way only to find our child get very upset and storm away in anger.

Take Action

While some legal issues can only be handled through legal resolution, there are many post-divorce relationship decisions involving our children that we can remedy! And, of course, it’s never too late to make amends.

If you have found that your children are suffering or hurting due to a decision you made when you were more motivated by anger than by positive parenting and are now having regrets – take action.

That can mean having a heart-to-heart with your children and apologizing for behavior or statements you made that created pain in their lives. Take responsibility, own those choices, and humbly explain that you made an error and now want to make some changes.

That may translate into letting them spend more time with their other parent … no longer bad-mouthing your ex in front of the kids … inviting your ex to a holiday or school event with the children … encouraging the kids to have a visit with their “other” grandparents … you get the idea.

Perhaps it means a straight-talk conversation with your ex that opens the door to better, more cooperative communication, trust and co-parenting. Or it could mean apologizing for harsh words and insults.

Sometimes Difficult, But Worth It!

Yes, this can be amazingly difficult to do from an ego perspective. But when you think about how much joy it can mean to your children when they see both of their parents getting along – it’s more than worth the swallowing of your pride. Chances are your ex will swallow some too – and be receptive to working things out in a more mature manner.

If you have nothing to “own,” and all the tension and mistakes rest solely on the shoulders of your ex, try approaching them in a different way, focusing exclusively on the emotional needs of the children, and reaching out a hand in peace.

There’s no guarantee this will work – and we all know there are some certified jerks out there of both genders! But don’t give up – ever! Times change, people can change, and change may be just what your family needs so you can create a better outcome for your children.

When you take the “high” road and model responsible, effective behavior, you are giving your children the gift of learning how to do that themselves. It’s a gift that will pay off for you and them many times in the years ahead. One day your children will thank you for making things “right.” They’ll acknowledge you for being such a model Mom or Dad, despite the challenges you faced. And believe me, you will be proud of the parent you worked so hard to become.

It’s never too late to heed this advice and start taking constructive steps that move you in the right direction – to honor the children you love. And if you need a helping hand, reach out to a professional for that support and guidance. We’re here to help you make a positive difference for everyone in the family.###

Rosalind Sedacca, CDC is a Divorce & Parenting Coach, founder of the Child-Centered Divorce Network and author of the internationally-acclaimed ebook, How Do I Tell the Kids about the Divorce? A Create-a-Storybook Guide to Preparing Your Children — with Love! For her free ebook on Post-Divorce Parenting, coaching services and other valuable resources on divorce and parenting issues, go to: www.childcentereddivorce.com.

 

Confidence or Determination: Which is More Valuable? (Michael Byron Smith)

How do we identify and instill confidence and determination in our children? Author Michael Byron Smith offers insights into positive change. We present, “Confidence or Determination: Which is More Valuable?”

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Confidence or Determination: Which is More Valuable?, Michael Byron SmithIf ever there were two heavyweight fighters in the world of self-development, they would be called CONFIDENCE and DETERMINATION. Looking at these two characteristics as a parent, which would you emphasize for your child?

Certainly, anyone who has both of these characteristics will likely become whatever they choose to be. However, a child may have confidence but not determination, or vice versa. And if only one exists, which would be best to have?

Having confidence will make life and its challenges appear easier to attack, allowing one to charge ahead with little reticence. On the other hand, having determination will give one a voice shouting encouragement in their ear: “Keep going–keep going”!

Of course, we want our children to have both characteristics and to use them wisely. If they have one of these attributes, we concentrate on the other. But getting back to the question, if they are weak in both, which would you choose to emphasize–confidence or determination? Before we choose, let’s consider the traps that exist in both confidence and determination.

The Challenge of Confidence

Confidence can trick you. It can prevent one from preparing properly, or from trying hard enough. Too much confidence can defy your true abilities and displaying it can put off others a bit. Confidence is best worn on the inside showing through, not draped callously upon your personality.

I discuss confidence in my book, The Power of Dadhood:

Self-confidence can be nurtured by introducing your child to challenging experiences, such as hiking the Grand Canyon, cleaning a fish, or joining a drama club. Kids become self-confident when they get over the fear of the unknown, when they overcome an inhibition, and when they accept that they don’t have to be good at everything, because no one has ever been good at everything.

The challenge must not exceed their capacity, or their confidence could diminish. Nor should you mislead them into falsely thinking they’ve achieved a significant success when it was too easily attained. Success does build confidence, but success built on sand will not contribute to your child’s confidence in the long run. Confidence gained by easy victories can be shattered by reality.

It may not be wise to convince your children that they are great artists or athletes if they will be judged more honestly in school or by friends. A more realistic view will not set them up for a fall, a fall from which recovery could be difficult. But, of course, praise any real talent and encourage any talent that shows promise.

Confidence works both from within (how you feel about yourself), and from without (how others see you).

Determination: ‘Intend’ is a stronger word than ‘Can’

Determination is a great characteristic to possess. It can, however, be brutal on your overall happiness. Your determination can make you go off in directions for all the wrong reasons. For example, it’s not good to be determined to get even with someone. Nor is it good to go after a prize or be vindictive just because you want to prove a point. Determinism must have properly chosen goals. While misplaced confidence has the most failures, misplaced determination has the most stress.

The Power of Dadhood, Michael Byron SmithOnce again, from The Power of Dadhood:

Knowing you ‘can’ makes your intentions that much easier, without all the gut-wrenching anxiety. However, many people can, or think they can, but never do. People with a can-do attitude have their wheels greased, but they have no engine if they have no intent. If we Dads and our children have both the engine (intention) and the grease (confidence), we have what we need to move forward. Not only can we get somewhere, but we can get there with little friction.

‘Determination’ is the backbone of persistence. ‘Determination’ can help you to focus and to overcome a lack of confidence.

Which is it?

So, if your child needed both confidence and determination, which would you choose to emphasize? In my experience, if you’re not confident, then at least be determined and confidence will come. If you’re not determined, your confidence is like pajamas—comfortable as you lay around. What saved me was my determination! I was not confident about becoming successful, but I was determined to be so. I was, at the very least, determined to improve my situation in life, that being the only thing about which I was confident.

Although you can nurture a child to have confidence, you can’t let them wallow in it. Again, that’s when having determination can help. Push them when you have to be on task. It’s how the military gets many of their recruits through basic training. That’s how the voice in your ear does its job, telling you to “keep going”! Mantras are voices at work, expressing through repetition what you want to achieve. When a goal is met with your determination, an increase in confidence will follow. You can ask any graduate of basic military training, any mountain climber, or any Olympic athlete.

There is no wrong answer to my question because we will always want to encourage our kids to have determination, and nurture them to have confidence. Vince Lombardi once said, “Confidence is contagious. So is lack of confidence.” Confidence can be with you one day and gone the next, but with determination, one will bridge those gaps. Never stop encouraging or nurturing either characteristic. That’s what makes a mother a mom, and a father a dad!

And someday, you may hear these precious words: “Because of you Dad, I didn’t give up!

Michael Byron Smith is the author of The Power of Dadhood [website] He also hosts the “Helping Fathers to be Dads” blog.

 

Eating and Self-Injury Disorders: Finding the Door to Recovery (Guest: Melissa Groman, LCSW)

BTRadioIntDisorders of eating can affect both young and old. Their self-abusive characteristics are difficult to understand and, at times, can be even more difficult to manage and treat effectively. Melissa Growman, LCSW, shares valuable insights in this interview from some of our most popular programs in the archives. –JDS 

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Eating and Self-injury Disorders: Finding the Door to Recovery, Melissa Groman

Beliefs, and the thoughts they bring on, can either guide a person’s life and keep it on course, or they can erupt into feelings that torment an individual without mercy. When that happens, any behavior that covers and soothes emotional pain and anguish is an option.

Difficult to Address

According to our guest on this program, eating and self-injury disorders are difficult to address because they serve their purpose, at least in the short-term. Like other behaviors that can become addictive, bingeing and starving, or the compulsive cutting of one’s own flesh, provide welcomed distraction and relief from much deeper pain.

These behaviors can become a cycle of self-abuse that occurs in more adolescent girls and young women than you might think. Ultimately, the cycle becomes a trap.

Is there hope for change?

Ambivalence is an Issue

Better is Not So Far Away, Melissa GromanOur guest on this program, Melissa Groman, psychotherapist and specialist in eating and self-injury disorders, suggests that, although recovery from these disorders is possible, ambivalence toward recovery can be a major obstacle. In this program, Melissa will share with us why this is so, what it takes for recovery to become a reality, and what caring parents, other relatives and friends can do to help.

Melissa Growman, LCSW

Melissa’s trademark warmth, sensitivity and profound understanding of human nature permeate her work. She has more than 25 years of experience helping people live healthy, satisfying lives. Although she maintains a busy private practice, Melissa writes regularly for a number of magazines, websites and blogs. This program features her book, Better is Not So Far Away: Decide to Recover from Bingeing, Starving or Cutting. (27:43)

www.melissagroman.com

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A Homeless Clown: The Gift of Receiving (Guest: Dr. James Sutton)

The Changing Behavior Network, Radio-style InterviewThis short program doesn’t feature the typical interview with an author. Instead, Dr. James Sutton, the founder and host of The Changing Behavior Network, turns on the microphone and simply shares his thoughts on giving, receiving, and the importance of youngsters to have a positive and active purpose, especially when idleness can stir up a LOT of trouble. Presented here is “A Homeless Clown: The Gift of Receiving.”

A Valuable Lesson

A Homeless Clown: The Gift of Receiving, The Changing Behavior NetworkListen in as Jim shares a lesson he learned when he was seven or eight, and how, almost five decades later, he experienced that same lesson, a lesson in receiving, being used very effectively. Isn’t there always a place for learning to receive well?

A homeless clown? Yes; it’s sad, but true. But in this case, the clown played an important part in teaching a group of at-risk boys how to receive a less-than-attractive gift.

Dr. James Sutton

Improving a Youngster's Self-Esteem, Dr. James SuttonDr. Sutton is a “mostly retired” child and adolescent psychologist that started off as a Special Education teacher. He has worked with children and adolescents in the school and clinical settings, and has lectured extensively in the US and Canada regarding ways to effectively reach, teach, manage and treat youngsters with emotional and behavioral disabilities.

Dr. Sutton has authored more than a dozen books, including the e-book we are featuring here, Improving a Youngster’s Self-Esteem (revised). (12:23)

Learn More About THIS BOOK

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The Tablecloth: A Story for the Christmas Season

BTLifesMoments
Jim Gentil, my friend in Austin, Texas, published this story about nine years ago in his online newsletter, The Power of Positive Living. It captures the essence of the Christmas season. It was originally written by Howard C. Schade under the title of “The Ivory and Gold Tablecloth.” May this story bless your soul, as it has mine. –JDS

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At Christmas time, men and women everywhere gather in their churches to wonder anew at the greatest miracle the world has ever known. But the story I like best to recall was not a huge miracle — not exactly.

It happened to a pastor who was very young. His church was very old. Once, long ago, it had flourished. Famous men had preached from its pulpit and prayed before its altar. Rich and poor alike had worshipped there and built it beautifully. Now, the good days had passed from the section of town where it stood.

But the pastor and his young wife believed in their run-down-church. They felt that, with hard work and lots of faith they could get it in shape. Together they went to work.

The Storm

stormBut, late in December, a severe story whipped through the river valley; the worst blow fell on the church. A huge chunk of rain-soaked plaster fell out of the inside wall just behind the altar. Sorrowfully the pastor and his wife swept away the mess, but they could not hide the ragged hole.

The pastor looked at it and had to remind himself quickly, “Thy will be done!” But his wife wept, “Christmas is only two days away!”

That afternoon the dispirited couple attended an auction held for the benefit of a youth group. The auctioneer opened a box and shook out of its folds a gloriously beautiful, very ornately sewn, gold and ivory lace tablecloth.

It was a magnificent item, nearly 15 feet long. But it, too, dated from a long vanished era. Who had any use for such a thing today. There were a few half-hearted bids, then the pastor was seized with what he thought was a great idea.

He bid it in for $6.50.

He carried the glorious gold and ivory lace cloth back to the church and very carefully put it up on the wall behind the altar. It completely hid the hole! And the extraordinary beauty of its shimmering handwork cast a fine, holiday glow over the chancel.

It was a great triumph. Happily, he went back to preparing his Christmas sermon.

The Woman in the Cold

busstopJust before noon on the day of Christmas Eve, as the pastor was opening the church, he noticed a woman standing in the cold at the bus stop.

“The bus won’t be here for 40 minutes!” he called, inviting her into the church to get warm.

She told him she had come from the city that morning to be interviewed for a job as governess to the children of one of the wealthy families in town, but she had been turned down. As a Jewish war refugee, her English was imperfect.

The woman sat down in a pew and chafed her hands and rested. After a while, she dropped her head and prayed.

She then looked up and saw the great gold and ivory cloth. She rose suddenly and walked up the steps of the chancel.

She looked a the beautiful tablecloth with with remembering eyes.

“It is Mine!”

The pastor smiled and started to tell her about the storm damage, but she didn’t seem to listen. She took up a fold of the cloth and lovingly rubbed it between her fingers as tears welled in her kind eyes.

But they were happy tears of recognition.

“It is mine!” she said. “It is my banquet cloth!” She lifted up a corner and showed the surprised pastor that there were initials monogrammed on it.

“My husband had the cloth made especially for me in Brussels! There could not be another like it.”

For the next few minutes the woman and the pastor talked excitedly together. She explained that she was Viennese, and that, in being Jews, she and her husband wanted to flee from the Nazis. They were advised to go separately. Her husband put her on a train for Switzerland. They planned that he would join her as soon as he could arrange to ship their household goods across the border.

But she never saw him again. Later, she heard he had died in a concentration camp.

“I have always felt it was my fault to leave without him,” she said. “Perhaps these years of wandering have been my punishment.”

The pastor tried to comfort her and urged her to take the beautiful cloth with her. But she refused saying, “No, no, the cloth has found its way to you. You need it. It has purpose here; I want you to have it. I am happy knowing you have it.”

She gazed lovingly up at the magnificent gold and ivory lace cloth, then quietly went away.

The Repairman

As the church began to fill on Christmas Eve, it was clear that the magnificent cloth was going to be a great success. It has been skillfully designed to look its best by candlelight.

The glorious gold and ivory lace cloth actually glowed in the candlelight. It cast lovely fine designs on the walls and ceilings of the church. Everyone looked around in wonderment, and a tranquil ambiance was cast over all.

After the service, the pastor stood at the doorway. Many people told him the church looked more beautiful than ever before.

chimesFrom the generous donations that were given, a few days later the pastor had the local jeweler, who was also the clock-and-watch repairman, come to repair the church chimes.

The repairman’s gentle middle-aged face drew into a look of great astonishment! As if in a trance, he walked right up to the beautiful cloth and looked upon it intently.

“It is strange,” he said in his soft accent. “Many years ago, my wife, God rest her, and I owned such a cloth. My wife put it on the table (and here he gave a big smile) for holidays and when the Rabbi came to dinner.”

Reunited

The pastor suddenly became very excited. He told the jeweler about the woman who had been in the church to get warm, saw the cloth, and recognized it to be hers.

The startled jeweler clutched the pastor’s arm. “Can it be?” he said, through desperate tears.

Together the two got in touch with the family who had interviewed the woman for the governess position and got her address. Then they both drove to the city.

The jeweler knocked on the heavy, weathered door. As it opened, there stood his beloved wife. The many years of separation were immediately washed away by their blissful tears. They held each other in loving embraces, never to be parted again.

Purpose in the Storm

True love seems to find a way. To all who hear or read this story, the joyful purpose of the storm was to knock a hole in the wall of the church.

So, Dear Ones, the next time something knocks a hole in your dreams or your goals, just remember to have enough faith and enough belief in those dreams and goals to lovingly and creatively hang your own brilliant lace cloth over the temporary mar.

Then watch the miracles come. ###