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#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.

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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!


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   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:  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: (Federal) (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.

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Humanity’s Sacred Story

My latest poem …. which inspired my currently pinned condensed tweet version on

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

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What’s a Business Card for Anyway?

Get Your Poop In A Group

Lauritzen Gardens Conservatory Lauritzen Gardens Conservatory (Under Construction)

I’m writing this post to help those out there spending money on marketing and self-branding materials get a little more bang for their buck!  I was inspired to write it because of reading this blog post today –> “A Simple Trick to be Better at Networking for Business”  While there are some valuable tips provided, I take the portion discussing business cards one step further!

You only have one chance to make a good first impression.  Make sure that your leave-behind (business card/networking card) is simple, memorable, helps the individual remember who you are, what you do, and where you met.  The tips below will help you get more for your personal/professional branding efforts.  Remember, you are as much a part of the brand your company is trying to establish in a very competitive marketplace.

Less Is MORE!

The blog post above states…

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Five Ways to Get More Out of Your Meetings

Get Your Poop In A Group

As a 29-year veteran of the information, collaboration and knowledge management profession I have attended thousands of meetings. Below are five simple steps to ensure success for the meetings you host:

1 – Start With A Plan!

Franklin Covey says to “use your resourcefulness and initiative.” This encouragement suggests that none of us has enough resources alone, but together, we may have enough between us to succeed if we cooperate and clearly communicate. The reason for most meetings is to “get something from” or “give something to” someone else in the presence of others. In most cases, the result of meetings is an information exchange resulting in a decision or agreement between those present. If you are having meeting for any other reason, you might reconsider and instead send an email, make a quick phone call or video conference with one or two people rather than call a meeting.


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Know Your ? …. Knowledge Management Rumblings

Get Your Poop In A Group

The following collection of thoughts come from the last two years of working in the field of Knowledge Management.  Each organization is different… so of course, there is never a one size fits all philosophy.  However, the thoughts that follow come from working with great collaborative people…in person, and virtually!

There is no more entertaining an exercise in a professional environment than watching reactions of workers who have had their cheese moved without someone giving them prior notice.  Word to the wise–in all organizational change efforts (people, process, or tools) inform and involve all stakeholders!  Below are some helpful hints!

Knowledge Management Activity:  Observation, analysis and recommendations across the organization to optimize alignment of resources (people, processes, and technology) to support the individuals serving the purposes of the organization.

Start With Why:  Unless everyone who will participate, contribute or consume are on the same page with the reason you are providing a…

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