Posted in Uncategorized

#Bonsai – A Metaphor for Parenting

Bonsai_ParentingSo, if you reflect back on your upbringing, and lived in a home where excessive physical discipline accompanied your parent(s) pointing out your faults and failures to comply with boundaries and rules, this post may resonate with you.

I stumbled across this picture (“unattended children”) at the perfect time just when I was outlining this post.  I began my journey as a novice bonsai artist in February of this year.  As a person who journals for personal growth reasons, I have been pondering for years the impact of parenting on the character of adults in later life.  As I started learning the craft, I couldn’t help notice how many parallels there are between the art of bonsai and some life-altering parenting techniques.

As a new bonsai artist, I find the comments in forums and Facebook groups from experienced bonsai masters follow a predictable rhythm.  This is not a criticism, it is an observation–heeding their advice is necessary to become good at developing attractive bonsai.  If you buy a puny juniper from a retail store, you’ll hear “plant it outside and let it grow and develop a thicker trunk for a few years.”

A thicker trunk is necessary to create the appearance of maturity and provide visual balance.  All of the wiring, pruning, and shaping techniques are intended to give a full-sized appearance to a tree that is typically no taller than two and a half feet high.  So what does all of this have to do with parenting?

If you walk around retail stores late at night you’ll find examples of what I’m calling the bonsai parent.  Shift workers sometimes interrupt their child’s nocturnal rhythms and put them in a shopping cart at 1am (often during holiday seasons).  When the child starts whining and complaining, the instructions parents give children at this hour are unrealistic.  The parent gets embarrassed that their child is throwing a tantrum and attempts to bribe, shush or threaten them to achieve silence, avoid embarrassment, and calm the child.  This interaction only frustrates the child and intensifies the behavior.

This type of scenario plays out in parking lots, churches, school functions, waiting rooms, ball games, and movie theaters.  I’ve seen it myself.  As a youngster, I was the child in the scenario.  While most parents wait until they are in their car or back home to retaliate for the child’s behavior, you will sometimes witness the pruning (shaming/bribing), and wiring (hand smacking, head-thumping) in public places.

Parents who expect or demand mature-like behavior from a toddler, young child or teen, and achieve it through repeated punitive actions, do not realize the long-term damage they are doing to the spirit/psyche of this developing human entrusted to their care.  This type of recurring trauma forces the child to build beliefs about themselves and others that aren’t necessarily true or healthy.  It also can cause some individuals to develop negative behaviors and attitudes as defense mechanisms that actually hinder their ability for building healthy long-term relationships with others.

The generic ultimate goal of any parent is to raise successful and happy children who become responsible adults–who contribute positively to society.  However, if you never question the values passed onto you through your upbringing, you’ll find yourself repeating your parent’s internalized values/methods (repeating cycles of negative/destructive behavior).  When you are tired at the end of the work day, you’re more than likely to resort to parenting actions motivated by those internalized behaviors/beliefs.

There are ways to achieve successful parenting practices that do not result in abuse, shame, guilt or pain.  If you are interested in learning methods and tools that you can use resulting in the least negative impacts to your child, I recommend a book called “Positive Discipline for Preschoolers” (title is linked to the book for sale on Amazon’s website).  The book basically teaches you how to teach your children self-control.  There are several books in the Positive Discipline series that help you direct your introspection and learning to your needs.

The results of bonsai techniques are successful only while constantly tending to the developing specimen (child) … if left alone, the specimen will resort to natural growth behaviors and “go native”–the result isn’t the most attractive.  Similar with children…behavior modified or controlled by punishment only work to curb growth behaviors while under the control of the bonsai artist (parent).

If you have heard parents say, “We didn’t raise her to act this way!” …. I submit that actually, yes–those bonsai parents did.  Punishment doesn’t teach–it has the opposite effect–rebellion/resistance–positive behavior only resulting from “being the control.”  The old adage, do what’s right even when nobody is looking comes to mind.  What happens when the control isn’t around?

Teaching self-control should be the aim of a parent.  Self-control results in self-respect and an ability to respect others.  The result of not teaching self-control is the belief that I must do something, perform or create value for others in order to “deserve” any modicum of love, attention or appreciation.

As an adult professional today, I have been told I am a consummate worker–I set the example.  It is because I am very self-disciplined, self-motivated (the rules of the organization are my wiring, pruning, pinching).  Much of this stems from my identity (value) being built around a reinforced internalized belief that acceptability equals performance.

Luckily, I have been journaling for about 30 years and have been able to heal from much of my past–I still have a lot of work to do.

On a personal level, because of my upbringing, I still struggle to manage personal relationships well.  The good news is, each negative or painful relationship exchange is an opportunity to go inside and tease out what is motivating beliefs that trigger behaviors.  If you’re like me, you’ll find that lessons come in layers (like onions)…so you may need to learn deeper levels of the same lessons over and over (start peeling those onions).  Your clue is that your friend/spouse/boss will repeat the same phrases to you time and time again, complaining that talking doesn’t help because in spite of what they say….nothing changes.

As a side note…humanity is filled with all sorts of examples that show that regardless of parent’s poor choices, somehow, some people manage to create a great success of themselves in spite of the emotionally scaring situations we put our children into.  A movie released this month, based on the memoir written by Jeannette Walls, called “The Glass Castle” is a good example of this type of resilience.  You know…there’s always one in every family who is … not like the others.

If you have a history of failed relationships, are not able to “find your thing” …or generally unhappy with where you are in life, don’t accept that you’re stuck.  If you find yourself in the words of this post, I recommend journaling as a first-step to beginning the corrective process of undoing damage from the past.

Becoming healthy is a journey where you learn to be “WHO” you are without all of the pruning, pinching, clipping, wiring and stunting created by an inherited system of beliefs that you may be following today without ever having questioned the basis of their value to you in your life.

You exist … you are human, and therefore, are “deserving” of love, attention, and respect just because you exist.  You are a unique expression of humanity, struggling to figure out where you fit into the big picture, just like the rest of us.  My hope for anyone reading this post is that you truly see yourself as a beautiful person who is worth knowing, being seen and valued by others.

If this post has touched you, struck a personal nerve or think this may help others, please share it.  To learn more about this line of thinking and better parenting/relationship practices, I highly recommend you visit the website created by the author of the Positive Discipline book, Dr. Jane Nelson.  The Positive Discipline website is filled with plenty of resources for the struggling parent, teacher, boss, spouse, roommate and baby-sitter.

All the best to you on your journey.

Posted in Uncategorized

Citizen Response – Time for Action

This is my response to someone’s Facebook comment regarding the outcome of the 2016 election I just thought I’d share.

Personally, I was disappointed in all the candidates the available parties offered up. Seriously?? Of all the amazing, educated, passionate individuals this country has, our parties couldn’t find anyone better to put up for options in the primaries?? The fact that you have to be “in the game” or obscenely wealthy to play is part of what’s wrong with the whole system.

Our choices in candidates were “qualifications” to hold a government office (not necessarily the president) or an activism representative “against” (disgust/revolt) the system [your pick of 1 of 3 parties]. Forget about an option for someone with integrity, statesmanship, maturity or values our founding fathers would bless.

There are two points that should poke us all in the eye:

1) We rank 31st out of 35 countries for percentage of eligible voters who actually turn out to vote (partially because of increasingly restrictive state voting laws [time frame in which to vote]; AND because many people think their vote doesn’t really matter/count.)

2) Too many people believe that circling an oval and calling it good is the extent of their citizen’s duty and don’t take the time (competes with so many other personal priorities) to educate themselves on how to be an engaged participant in this democracy at the local level, and communicate their dissatisfaction through local representatives with where our electorate is taking the country at the national level.) We truly need to be at the “trust but verify” (and respond when dissatisfied) with EVERY elected official.

This election outcome (voter turnout & presidential pick w/our electoral college rules) was a passive aggressive response (disgust w/where our country is–is headed) by the American people to a situation in which we share equal blame.

Through public discourse (and I don’t necessarily mean on Facebook or social media of any sort–please God get your news from some place reputable), engagement (face to face) at the municipal and state levels; and collective citizen participation in our law-making/electoral processes we all have the right … no, the responsibility, to hold ourselves and our elected officials accountable for what we believe to be the principles that will help us be UNITED (OF the “people”, BY the “people”, FOR THE “PEOPLE!”

Posted in Politics, SocialMedia, Uncategorized

State of the Nation: Public Service, Politics and Social Media

Regardless of your personality type, religious background, nationality, gender, sexual preference, political leaning or income level, you are first a human being.  If you’re in this country, benefiting from a democratically organized and administered society (legally or undocumented) … you are still a human first–deserving of respect!

humanrights-tweet

As a citizen, defined by Merriam-Webster as:  “a native or naturalized person who owes allegiance to a government and is entitled to protection from it”, there is an inherent obligation by each citizen to be a loyal participant of that society, its laws, and the practices of administering it’s “govern”-ment.  Government is defined as:  “a government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised by them directly or indirectly through a system of representation usually involving periodically held free elections.”  Our system is set up to allow both federally through elections, and locally through legislatures, councils, boards, and committees.

It is unfortunate how few people vote in our country when so much is at stake.  What I find even more appalling is how many people choose to get their information for decision-making from unsupported claims posted on social media outlets, hot-heads on talk-radio, and biased daily news shows.

How can YOU participate and be an active contributing citizen of our society?

Before new Federal laws are implemented, they are posted for public review and comment by anyone with access to a web browser (which is everyone, because public libraries have computer labs.)  If you’ve never visited the site–it can be found at https://www.federalregister.gov/   No excuses for any of us to complain that we never had a say (for or against) legislation that has become law.

Every state has a website to make public the issues and legislation being proposed.  In my own state that site is:  http://nebraskalegislature.gov/  Google your state name and the word Legislature to find your state government’s administrative resources.  My state has a link to live-streaming of legislative sessions.  You can search for your congress or senate representatives, schedule an appointment to take a tour, view the legislative calendar, view past transcripts,  or find telephone numbers to speak with your representatives.

Of course there is always traditional media (Fox, CNN, MSNBC, BBCNews and the other major news networks) to help you evaluate elected officials backgrounds and attempt understanding the issues being discussed.  But as you may realize, there is a LOT of spin on what is being presented as “truth” (sound bites pieced together to lead you to believe something shocking–yet totally out of context).  You also should not be duped into believing everything you read.  If you want to be an informed citizen and vote by fact, not feeling…here are a couple of other sites you might consider:

https://www.govtrack.us/ (Federal)
http://www.voterinformation.org/ (Nebraska local) – Your state may have a similar site.

November 8th is right around the corner.  Depending upon what news you read, you just might believe that the world is going to hell in a hand basket.  There is a lot wrong in our government, but it is still a lot better than most governments.  There is always room for improvement, but it requires we be engaged, aware, involved, actively participating in this democracy.

Just because you hopefully voted during the last election cycle does not mean your job as a citizen is done.  You must observe your government in action and participate in this democracy to make it work for you.  If you don’t approve of local, state or federal decisions, use the processes put in place for you to engage and make your voice heard.  The links provided in this post are a starting point.

If you do not like the current state of government at the state or federal level, you have a right…no, a responsibility, to get involved and contribute.  Regardless of what you think of her, Elizabeth Warren said it best, “a constitution does not sustain itself.”  Prove your loyalty to this great nation, educate yourself and get involved.

Posted in Self-Improvement, Writing

Success for the Future

20160806_084854
One of my hobbies – Orchids! 5th time blooming since I brought it home!

Good morning all,

It’s been a while since I posted anything.  I have been focusing on a lot of new things which have taken most of my time.  This entry is the beginning of developing additional focus on my writing.  I’m excited to share with you what’s been keeping me from a regular blogging routine.

In 2015 I decided not to make any “New Years Resolutions” again, EVER!  I thought, it’s too much of a commitment to say on one day that I’ll do or be something for an entire year!  Right away, I knew I’d be setting myself up for failure.  In my day job, I’m always thinking about how we can set ourselves up for success.  So, after a bit of journaling, I decided that I could commit to anything for thirty days!

In 2015 I chose to start one good thing and stop one bad thing every month.  Each month would have a single focus area for positive improvements, and efforts to eliminate something not so good.  Whatever worked for me I would choose to continue just as a part of my new way of life.  During 2015, I stopped chewing my fingernails, I started a fitness program, I went for a whole month without coffee (only water for all fluid intake), another month I eliminated all “fat pills” (cookies, cake, ice cream, basically anything with sugar–or all the good stuff :-))  Needless to say, I was so pleased with the success of my self-improvement approach to 2015, I decided to take it up a notch for 2016.

In November of last year, I spent a good deal of time journaling about “who am I?”  What is it I have always believed about myself that I wanted to be true…not just a wish, not a something I’ll get around to…but no kidding, I wanted there to be observable evidence of truth to the things I believed about myself.  Who is the person I say that I am?  I always wanted to play an instrument, speak another language, be better at personal relationships, stay in shape/be healthy, write a book, etc.  So I came up with a new way to organize my life so that I could set myself up for success.

I created a notebook with eight tabs.  The first tab is the Activity/Progress Tracker which is nothing more than a blank month calendar template.  At the bottom is a legend with alpha characters that match the first letter of the word for each of the following 7 tabs.  Seven tabs, seven days in a week.  So, here are my tabs:

  1. Activity/Progress Tracker20160806_084828
  2. Guitar Practice
  3. Spanish Lessons
  4. Fitness
  5. Writing Studies
  6. Reading
  7. Personal Relationships
  8. Hobbies

Each of the tabs 2-8 are filled with blank notebook pages for me to write short journal entries about progress I’m making in each of those areas.  Every day, I track my progress on my activity tracker like this:

  • H – Gardening 1hr
  • G – 5 min Timed Chord Changes
  • F – 4 miles walk/run intervals

Just like last year, I decided that I’d give it a month and if it seemed like too much work or I could not consistently keep it up to date, I’d try another way.  However, after my first month, I was amazed at how little time it consumed to keep up with my progress and for the first time was able to track real progress.  My objective was to make sure that in any given week, I would have at least three of each letter in my tracker.  If I can’t find time three times a week to focus on Spanish, I’m not going to achieve a conversational fluency by the end of the year (okay, maybe that’s ambitious–but that’s the kind of goal setting that works for me).

The nice thing about this project is that my binder is my affirmation.  I don’t need anyone to pat me on the back.  Also, if I ever start to doubt myself in any of these areas, I just look at the tracker or the log entries behind each of the tabs to see that I have dedicated serious time and energy to the things I believe are important for me to achieve.  So far, it has worked very well.  I have seven completed months of tracking/logging.  I can now play a Spanish love song on the acoustic guitar.  I have a lot of Spanish practice under my belt and have basic (read, write, speak, listen/comprehend) skills.  I am only 14 pounds heavier than I was when I completed technical school in the Air Force at the age of 18–30 yrs ago.  I am improving my personal relationships.  I joined the Nebraska Writer’s Workshop (a three hour weekly commitment) Jan 2015 and am an active weekly member–I wrote my first novel!  I have read 12 and a half books since January–all while holding a full-time job and enjoying the most awesome gardening season ever.

The results speak for themselves and I now have a way to hold myself accountable to the things I say are important to me.  I hope that everyone who reads this is able to glean an idea or two that will help them with their goals.  One of my Writing goals is to blog more regularly.  I haven’t decided upon a rhythm yet, but I’ll share what my plans are soon.

Cheers!

Posted in Uncategorized

Humanity’s Sacred Story

My latest poem …. which inspired my currently pinned condensed tweet version on https://twitter.com/justasked

Every human being is a story being written

Whose words have just not yet been put to page

Beginning with the eyes, ears and tending hands of others

Until we are able to begin choosing our own futures

Some stories are written by the author, others by a believer

The believer is someone who feels the story so powerful

It cannot be left unwritten for fear of story loss

Some stories must be chronicled for the sake of humanity

Stories recorded by those who don’t want to lose the value of

Love and charity given by lives so selfless

Success and ingenuity by unstoppable dreamers

Sacrifice and freedom by those who reach for better tomorrows

Stories shared by the author are a treasured gift

The why and how of living a better life

Encouragement and examples to strive for something more

How not to take our gifts of story for granted

Every human has a story to share

Not just the story being lived, but the story observed

For each perspective offers a different point of view

And shares an individual perception of value

If we could all tell our stories

If we could all know each other’s stories

Would we choose to live our stories differently?

Would we regard each other’s stories as sacred?

Every human has value, offers perspective, and is sacred

Every story offers insight without the cost of experience

Every story shared by its author is a treasure

Every story shared by an observer is a gift

Posted in Politics, Relationships, Wellness

Six P’s to Ponder for 2015

Happy New Year 2015 thoughts to share across the globe.  Thanks to technology, this message can be shared to my social network which spans every continent and has the ability to touch every demographic.  I thank you for reading and hope you will pass this message to others.

Purpose

For everything we do, there should be a valid need and reason (joy, entertainment, education, aid & assistance, growth, advancement, etc.) …. that doesn’t undo other great and necessary efforts already decided as priorities by people with experience and talent at providing solutions to human need.

Politics

Red, blue, black or white, rich or poor, famous or unknown, sick or well, disabled or fortunate all of our governments have a responsibility to the people who are being served or governed.  In our policy making and choices for the many, let us remember that “the people” are made up of individuals and every one of us matters.

Peace

In the 21st Century, we have greater access to advanced technology, medicine, science, knowledge, and power … is it possible that we might learn to use our vast resources for the betterment of the most common requirements of all humanity in Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs that is true of all human kind regardless of country, status, power or position?   — guarantee equal rights to health and safety for all ethnicities and gender?  There is enough suffering life offers in our lifetimes, why should humanity foist deliberate suffering to any its members?

Patience

With age comes wisdom, or so it should … we should all remember, it is often our human created systems that fail us.  Author Jeff Sutherland tells us that “If we can blame someone else, we insulate ourselves from the possibility that we’d do the same thing. [make a mistake, do wrong, cause harm, be neglectful]”  There’s plenty of blame to go around, we should accept responsibility that is our own and try our best to remember life is a marathon, not a sprint … in our busy-ness lets look out for our neighbors and show concern, compassion, respect and kindness–be of help to others.

Practice

…what we preach … all of us are guilty, all of us are hypocrites to some extent (do as I say, not as I do).  Becoming a better person; changing a culture; replacing bad habits with new and better ones or strengthening our communities takes a conscious effort and much practice.  Concern, compassion, respect and kindness all require practice to improve…similar to the efforts of great athletes, musicians, inventors, painters and parents.  Let us find ways to encourage each other; to practice becoming better stewards.  We are all architects … of time, is what we are building going to last?

Pride

If something is worth doing, its worth doing it right…I know you’ve heard that before.  Let us not rush to failure.  Let us remember that daily we are building the reality we are subject to.  If we do not like what we see, hear, see, experience … there is opportunity for us to improve our product, our process, our speech, our results–the consequences.  In everything you do, take pride in your effort as though it is the last effort you will exert on this planet–how do you want your contributions to be remembered?

Thank you again for reading and I wish you much success in 2015!

Posted in Relationships, Wellness

Actions With Words = Meaning 

Good morning world!

I just felt like sharing a few thoughts of reflection as I enjoy my coffee on this 2014 Thanksgiving.

Within the past week all four of the family vehicles used at our house have had to go in the shop.  One of them was pronounced dead on arrival–that was the car the kids were using to drive back and forth to college.  That same day my wife had an accident in our family van–all the kids were on board.  Luckily there were no injuries.  So, the hand-me-down process is alive and well.  I’ll be getting a new car; my old one will go to the kids.

I’m finishing up the last few weeks until my Master’s program in Public Administration is completed at Bellevue University.  It’s been a long journey–I have learned so much!  The greatest revelation about this part of my academic journey is how much I enjoy research and thinking…and sharing this with others.  Perhaps when the kids have left home I’ll pursue a PhD (topic/field yet to be determined).  I have learned that I have an insatiable passion for social growth/change & unrest, education, sustainable practices, and understanding the intricacies of human relationships.  All of these topics are at the heart of everything that is wrong and everything that is right in this world.  Governments make choices and the people weather the consequences.  It is ironic to me that without people there is no government, and yet globally, “we” are often victims of our own choices (or lack of choice-making).

I hear a lot of people who say they want to make a difference, actually change some aspect of the world–leave a legacy.  Sometimes I wonder how committed we are to the words that escape our mouths.  It seems more accurate to assess that unless there is an immediate crisis or challenge facing us, we’re content to sit back and criticize other’s attempts to create meaningful change.  I don’t know about you, but seeing this dynamic saddens my heart.  However, I hang on optimistically to my growing belief in cycles and rhythms that seem to be more deliberate than any human intent.  A perspective I’ve gained (maybe it is because I’m getting older) is that life is a marathon, not a sprint!  This dynamic applies to EVERYTHING where any human is involved.  If you take that perspective to moderate your expectations, it is easier to exercise patience, tolerance, and participation.

The greatest challenge to our humanity in modern day life …. communication.  The quality of our listening, our non-verbals, how easily we’re distracted shows we’re a society that has a tragically short attention span….

  • If you don’t make (and keep) eye contact in conversations, if you don’t offer feedback in response to hearing someone speak that confirms to the speaker that you heard what they’re saying;
  • if you don’t stop what you’re doing long enough to visually acknowledge and PAY ATTENTION to the individual … what is the message?

Introspection is one of the best things you can do with some of your spare time.  Think about your own words and actions–do they align?  When someone talks to you, are you paying attention?  The greatest gift we can give each other is our time.  I’m thankful that soon, my plate won’t be quite as full and I can give more of my time back to my family.

I truly wish each of you a wonderful day (Thanksgiving for Americans) and weekend.  I appreciate your time taken to read this message.

Cheers