Category Archives: Holidays

The Harder You Work, the Bigger the Snowman (Michael Byron Smith)

As we prepare for the winter season, Michael Byron Smith has some great ideas about how families can share the best of cold-weather times with their children. This article, “The Harder You Work, the Bigger the Snowman,” comes from our archives.
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There is no school equal to a decent home, and no teacher equal to a virtuous parent.

Mahatma Gandhi

The Power of Dadhood, Michael Byron SmithIt starts around October. People, almost exclusively adults, start complaining about the onset of winter. I understand their point of view. Their focus centers on being cold, dealing with icy roads and often dreary weather. I don’t like those things either, but not enough to worry or complain about them.

Few of us have to be in the cold air longer than it takes to walk from our toasty car to our toasty home or office, at least not often. Slippery roads are a nuisance, but where I live in the Midwest, there may be only 10-15 days all winter when the roads are seriously snowy or icy for part of a day. In more northern states, they really know how to deal with their more frequent snowy days and they do it efficiently. There isn’t much you can do about dreary days, but I’ve seen dreary days in every season. With those realities said, I believe any adult that doesn’t like winter has the right to complain about it or move to a warmer climate. But it is also my opinion that children who are raised in areas that have seasons are advantaged in experiences and learning.

The Power of Dadhood, Michael Byron SmithNow I admit that winter comes in last in my list of favorite seasons. Spring, fall, summer, then winter is how I rank the seasons. But I LOVE seasons! In winter, I thoroughly enjoy watching the snow fall while I sit by a fire. And there is certainly beauty in winter if simply a red cardinal resting on a branch with a snowy background.

One of my favorite sensations ever was at my farmhouse in the country, waking in the morning after a heavy snowfall had blanketed the earth the night before. The wind was completely still in the bright morning sunshine. I walked outside and it was the most profound silence I have ever experienced. It was as if the snow had muffled every possible sound, except the squeaky sound of my boots sinking in the snow. The scene was truly a Norman Rockwell painting.

I accept winter and look for those experiences that only winter can provide. This brings me back to children. You rarely hear them complain about winter. They pray for snow and run around outside so much they don’t get cold. When they come in, a little hot chocolate will put the exclamation point on a fun and memorable kid experience. I have many memories of playing outside with friends, coming in with my hands so numb that the cold water from the tap felt warm, and I loved it!

You can join in the fun with them. Have a snowball fight or take them on a hike in the woods. The exercise and cooler weather make it comfortable and invigorating with views no longer obstructed with leaves. And you can sneak in a few life lessons occasionally using tricky little metaphors that may stick with them longer than a boring lecture.

Teachable Moments in Winter
The Power of Dadhood, Michael Byron SmithBuild a snowman with your children. Maybe you can have a competition for the best snowman. The teachable moment may be, ‘the more you work on your snowman the bigger and better he will be–just like anything else you will ever do’. But working hard isn’t the entire answer to success. You have to work smart also. It’s impossible to make a good snowman with very dry snow, even if you work very hard at it. With a little patience, a warmer sunny day will melt the snow wet enough to be able to build your snowman. The teachable moment: Patience and smarts will often save you a lot of time and effort with better results.

Go sledding with your children. Find a nice long hill and feel the thrill of zooming down. If they want to ride down again, they will have to trudge up the hill. The first ride down is free, after that they will have to work to experience it again. Going down is easy. Going up is work! The teachable moment: Nothing worthwhile is really free. There is always effort required by someone. The only ones who sled down for free are those that don’t have the strength and need the help of others to get back on top. Which of those would you rather be?

Not only are there life lessons to teach, but there are science lessons that will be remembered when they are in school. Take your children ice skating. Skating is best when there is very little friction, allowing them to glide effortlessly. But when they need to stop, they want some of that friction back so they dig into the ice. Friction is like fire. It can save your life or ruin it. How people use it makes all the difference!

Some history lessons can be best expressed in the winter. The strength of our forefathers and ancestors can be demonstrated, when there were no furnaces to warm them up with a push of a button; or when their home was a teepee or mud hut. No snowplows helped them out. Grocery stores were rarely nearby and food had to be grown or hunted. Traveling for just thirty miles would take half a day or more and the only heat was from the horse if you were lucky enough to have one. Not until one thinks about how tough conditions were for others in the past will they understand and appreciate the fortune they have today.

The Power of Dadhood, Michael Byron SmithBut maybe the most important of all these moments, whether you stop to teach or not, is to be actively engaged with your children, having fun, creating everlasting memories, and making connections to them that will serve both you and them forever. I already mentioned a couple of winter activities, but there are others you can enjoy with your kids including baking things together, movie nights, reading books, crafts, snowball fights, going to sporting events, and so much more.

Take advantage of every opportunity
I wish everyone a great winter season! Make the best of every day no matter the season, and never miss a chance for a teachable moment for your children. And for you older folks out there who hate winter, just think about how fast time passes for us! It’ll be spring before you know it; the recent contrast of winter causing it to be even more appreciated. I can almost see the tulips and crocuses popping through the ground already. Another teachable moment! ###

Article and photographs by Michael Byron Smith, author of The Power of Dadhood [website]
“Helping Fathers to be Dads” blog

 

10th Anniversary of International Child-Centered Divorce Month (Guest: Rosalind Sedacca, CDC)

Radio-style Interview, The Changing Behavior NetworkIt was a joy once again for me to visit with Rosalind about the important work of those advocating child-centered divorce. From an idea to a worldwide mission, Rosalind has steered a steady course over the years, and the positive impact has been noted in the lives of young people. But there’s plenty of work yet to do, so listen in as we bring you “10th Anniversary of International Child-Centered Divorce Month.” –JDS

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10th Anniversary of International Child-Centered Divorce Month, Rosalind Sedacca

International Child-Centered Divorce Month

January has been established as International Child-Centered Divorce Month. January of 2017 is the 10th anniversary of ICCDM and its outreach in helping parents, therapists, attorneys, educators, mediators and other divorce specialists focus on the needs of children and teens when divorce plans are being made.

Many free resources and gifts related to child-centered divorce are being offered during International Child-Centered Divorce Month. You won’t want to miss a single part of this excellent opportunity.

To help us understand more clearly the importance and methodology of child-centered divorce is our special guest, Rosalind Sedacca, Certified Divorce Coach and the Voice of Child-Centered Divorce. Rosalind will emphasize, using her own story, why the needs of children should be a priority in divorce, how best to explain divorce to one’s own children and why a child-centered, collaborative approach is so important.

International Child-Centered Divorce Month, Child-Centered Divorce Network

Rosalind Sedacca

Rosalind is the author of an innovative storybook approach to communicating divorce to a child, an approach that informs while it supports and upholds a youngster’s identity, dignity and sense of value. Her diligence and effort resulted in a successful and highly acclaimed e-book entitled, How Do I Tell the Kids About the Divorce? A Create-a-Storybook Guide to Preparing Your Children –With Love.

Rosalind’s work with the Child-Centered Divorce Network, which she founded, has been acknowledged on five continents worldwide. In her speaking, writing, blogging and media appearances, Rosalind continues to share the message of child-centered divorce. The International Child-Centered Divorce Month is yet another way to showcase what is being done. The link below takes you to the website and a free e-book from Rosalind, Post Divorce Parenting: Success Strategies for Getting It Right. (29:09)

www.divorcedparentsupport.com/ebook

 

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


(START/STOP Audio)

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. ###

15 Tips to Organize and Enjoy the Holidays, Part Two (Alison Kero)

15 Tips to Organize and Enjoy the Holidays, Alison KeroThe holiday season can be a special time of togetherness for families, especially when the kids are out of school and are home for the holidays. But it can also be a frustrating and less-than-perfect time, especially when the kids are out of school and are home for the holidays. Organization specialist, Alison Kero, offers us some great tips to help make this holiday season the best ever at YOUR house. We present, “15 Tips to Organize and Enjoy the Holidays.” (This is Part Two, as we conclude this two-part post.)

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Alison Kero, ACK Organizing(Continued from Part One)

#9 Expect the Unexpected: Chaos happens despite our best intentions or how organized you are. Expect that you’ll burn something, forget something or a kid will throw up at the worst possible time because then, when it actually happens, you won’t be thrown off. To help you stay organized, add in extra time for unexpected delays, especially when traveling, and even consider throwing a frozen lasagne in your freezer as a “just in case” to help you remain calm in the midst of unexpected chaos and you might even enjoy the holidays more knowing you have a backup just in case.

#10 Ask for Help: Even Santa has helpers. Hire or ask people to help you with such task as: a professional cleaning service to do the cleaning, a catering company to do the cooking, asking customer service or the online store to wrap gifts for you, use decorative bags to place your gifts in (no talent necessary), ask friends and family to help you decorate, ask friends and family to help you take down the decorations, and lastly, if you need additional emotional support, schedule a session with a therapist so you can manage the holidays more easily. Outsource or delegate what you don’t like doing or don’t have time to do and no, it doesn’t make you less of a person to ask for help; it makes you a smart person who recognizes you need and deserve support.

# 11 Keep It Simple: Intelligent people love to solve complicated riddles. It makes them thrive. The problem is when they get in their own way and start over-complicating simple matters, thinking everything must be solved in a complex manner. Not every problem is complex and sometimes a simple answer is the best and easiest solution. Simple doesn’t equal stupid, rather simple actually allows you to then focus on complex matters while allowing the simple things to flow easily to and from your life. Simple will keep you sane and organized this holiday season. So, if the lights don’t work, consider buying new ones rather than spending hours hunting down one old-fashioned light bulb to get the whole strand working again.

#12 You Don’t Have to Keep It All: This is in reference to any clutter you might accumulate during the holidays. Whether it’s spiritual clutter because once again you say “yes” when you really mean “no!”, or emotional clutter that you accumulate when someone criticizes your efforts, or the physical clutter you have by keeping every gift anyone has ever given you out of sheer guilt. Let it go. Let it ALL go. Do your best this holiday season by continuing to let anything go that won’t allow you to be happy, healthy or productive in your life.

#13 Plan Ahead: If you already know that you are looking at a busy schedule, actually using your scheduler will help you see where you have time to run errands, shop, bake or just relax and enjoy yourself. If you plan everything you need to do and everything you want to do ahead of time, you’re much more likely to achieve an enjoyable holiday feeling relaxed and organized.

#14 Don’t Get Stuck In the Past: We all have great memories of holidays in the past with certain decorations or traditions being carried out year after year. However, sometimes traditions no longer work within a new environment and decorations get old, break or no longer work. While we all want to recreate what we felt was a great memory, it’s also just as great to create new memories or collect new decorations. It doesn’t mean you aren’t respecting the past, it’s just that you are also allowing for new experiences to come in and create wonderful new memories for you and your family. You’ll enjoy yourself more if you’re willing to let go when you realize it’s time to move forward.

#15 Breathe: Sounds simple, but it will save your sanity. No matter what holiday you celebrate, there will be a point where you feel overwhelmed, annoyed, frustrated and/or ready to throw in the towel. Breathe when that happens. Take deep breaths in and out. In fact, before doing any task associated with the holiday, take 3 deep breaths and see how much more focused and relaxed you are. You might even find it’s a great way to start your day and continue using this method long after the holidays have ended.

Please enjoy a happy, healthy and safe holiday season! ###

 

Speakers Group Member, The Changing Behavior NetworkAlison Kero truly enjoys teaching her easy and effective decluttering system to her clients through her company, ACK Organizing. To reach Alison, go to http://www.ackorganizing.com.

 

 

 

15 Tips to Organize and Enjoy the Holidays, Part One (Alison Kero)

wreathThe holiday season can be a special time of togetherness for families, especially when the kids are out of school and are home for the holidays. But it can also be a frustrating and less-than-perfect time, especially when the kids are out of school and are home for the holidays. Organization specialist, Alison Kero, offers us some great tips to help make this holiday season the best ever at YOUR house. We present, “15 Tips to Organize and Enjoy the Holidays.” (This is Part One of a two-part post.)
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Alison Kero, ACK OrganizingHolidays are supposed to be a fun and joyous time for everyone. That’s the message as we are bombarded with commercials, movies and television specials featuring happy families who have decorated their homes as if they were Martha Stewart themselves. They are able to afford piles of gifts under the tree, and, of course, everyone easily forgives one another for past grievances no matter what bad things were done. We’re told it’s a time of family, forgiveness and of giving to others.

Yet, for many of us, it feels more like the most stressful, exhausting and frustrating time of the year rather than the happiest and most serene. So how do you manage the stress, keep up your energy and maybe even enjoy yourself this season? Here’s my favorite 15 ways to organize and enjoy the holidays.

#1 Know Your Priorities: Weeding out what can wait is just as important as knowing what you can’t do without as it will help you manage your time well and ensure you make smarter decisions, even in the midst of chaos. However, figuring out what is important can be difficult when you have a child begging for that latest “must have” toy while everyone is asking you to make that special cake that takes 5 hours to bake. So how do you choose what is imperative and what isn’t? Make a list; if Santa can do it, so can YOU. If the holiday fell apart, what would still make it okay? To make it special, focus on what’s important, rather than getting mired down in the smaller, pettier matters.

#2 Focus on the Positive: If you have a huge bank account, a large support team, and a perfect family then, yes, you probably can have a perfect holiday with bells and whistles. But if not, the main priority is that you have food on the table and that your family has gathered together to celebrate the season. The best way to ensure you enjoy the holidays is to choose to focus on the fact that everyone is together and hopefully healthy, not the large amounts of dishes you’ll have to wash as a result. Choose to focus on the true gifts of the season rather than focusing on what gifts you didn’t get or those that didn’t arrive on time. Focusing on the positive will help you stay organized and you’ll be much more likely to enjoy yourself for once.

#3 Set Boundaries: Holidays are not about the stuff; they’re about reconnecting with people you care about. But sometimes some of those people will try to walk all over your boundaries and your feelings. When that happens, it’s time to empower yourself by setting up healthy boundaries with family members and friends, then keep them enforced no matter how much they push you to back down so they can have their way. Whether it’s choosing to walk away from an argument up or saying “No, but thank you!” to the 4th holiday party you’ve been invited to this year, remember that only you can control how you react to things. So lessen the amount of emotional clutter you bring into this holiday season by choosing to let others be responsible for their own behavior.

#4 Shop Online to Save Time: If you’re short on time or dislike shopping then purchasing gifts online is your best resource. It’s a great way to keep yourself and your gift giving organized, plus it will take less than half the time since there’s no traveling. You can literally have everything purchased, wrapped and shipped without ever leaving your home. Best of all, you’ll avoid long lines and crowds, and you won’t have to wait your turn for hours only to find that the store ran out of what you wanted. Just remember to pay attention to how long it takes to ship so you ensure your gift arrives on time.

familyshopping#5 Start Early: Whether you shop online or prefer to stick with stores, shop early. It will make the experience more enjoyable because you won’t be rushed or stressed out. You might even find yourself finishing early so you’ll even have time to actually enjoy the holiday season without feeling stressed or rushed. Also, if you ship gifts early, not only will you be guaranteed it will arrive on time, you’ll avoid waiting in a long (and often impatient) line and it won’t cost you your entire holiday budget to get it there on time. If you are someone who waits until the last minute, then at least scout out in advance one store that’s open late on Christmas Eve where you can find suitable gifts. And no, heading to CVS and buying gift cards at the last minute doesn’t count.

#6 Make Self Love Decisions: If you go into your holiday season with the mindset that no matter what everyone is going to be over-the-top happy, then you’ve set yourself up to fail. You can’t allow yourself to be held hostage to what everyone else thinks makes a perfect holiday, but you can choose to remain as calm and happy as possible, no matter how chaotic it might get. You can only control your own reactions, so you might as well decide to make them good ones. You might find you actually enjoy yourself because you chose not to get caught up in unimportant matters.

sleep#7 Get Some Rest! You are no good to anyone if you’re exhausted, and you certainly won’t enjoy the holiday season when you’re running on empty. Incorporate at least 8 hours of rest into your day and nap if you can. Try going to bed at the same time each night. This routine will help you fall asleep more easily. Getting enough rest will also allow you to think and organize your days more easily. It will also help prevent you from getting sick during this holiday season.

#8 Eat Healthy: Yes, enjoy the cookies and other delights the holidays bestow upon us, but be mindful that it’s a self love and smart choice to eat healthy foods in between those sips of eggnog and nibbles of gingerbread. Eating well throughout the season will ensure that your energy stays up and that you keep your body, mind and spirit happy and healthy during the holidays. Eating fruits and veggies will actually help you keep your weight down over the holidays and you’ll crave less sugar. A healthy diet will also give you a great head start on your 2017 resolutions.

We will conclude with tips 9 through 15 in Part Two in the next post. ###

 

Speakers Group Member, The Changing Behavior NetworkAlison Kero truly enjoys teaching her easy and effective decluttering system to her clients through her company, ACK Organizing. To reach Alison, go to http://www.ackorganizing.com.