My New Book Living More Than OK

My New Book Living More Than OK
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Sunday, September 25, 2016

Growth Mindset and Positive Emotions To Keep On Going

This semester of teaching is going by so fast. Part of this fastness perception was trying to get my college teaching classes off to a good start while ending a quarter of my dissertation work. With the dissertation it was a Summer quarter of trying to gain final approval on my research. There were items out of my control giving me grief and stress so it was hard to keep a positive front to my college students with my own educational stress was making my self-talk want to throw in the towel.

Thankfully as the quarter ended I did finally gain full approval for my research. So in the near future I hope to run my research study. So I realized I need to keep a mindset of growth to keep on going on the dissertation marathon.

Early on in each semester I go over in my college success courses the importance of Mindset based on the work of Dr. Carol Dweck. I was grateful this year in our pre-semester adjunct professor training to be affirmed in emphasizing this to students. At our training this year the guest speaker was Dr. Janet Nay Zadina. She was a former teacher and now an educational neuroscientist. I have gone to these mandatory training for years and she was the most noteworthy presenter I have heard. Listening to her I could feel her passion for education. She was not there to just pick up a speaker’s paycheck. Instead she wanted to instill the importance of helping college students grow in successful ways.

I was lucky in the drawing at the final morning session as I won a copy of her book, Multiple Pathways to the Student Brain and the corresponding workbook. It is an effective resource for educators on best practices to help students learn based on the most recent neuroscience research.

The most important aspect from her session and in her book for me was the emphasis on encouraging students to understand growth versus fixed mindset early in the school year or semester. Dr. Zadina pointed out that the growth mindset allows the student to break free from the fixed thinking of “I just can’t do it” or “That’s not the way I am”. Often those students struggling with math or writing will say statements like that which become self-fulfilling prophecies in math and English courses. Or the student that does poorly in Speech will say “I can’t speak in public”.
When students understand the growth mindset that they have the ability to grow in every area of their lives it frees them up from the negativity. This then allows them to obtain better abilities in all areas of academics as well as other areas of life.

Another area in the book and her presentation that stood out to me was the need to emphasize positive emotions. So many struggling students are bound up by negative beliefs and a victim mentality. By emphasizing positive emotions such as gratitude, confidence, enthusiasm, inspiration and awe they often can move in a positive direction in re-framing their mindset about their possible success in their academics in college.

As a therapist as well, I see many personal problems are caused by people being bound up by negative emotions such as frustration, jealousy, despair and envy. When they move over to a habit of allowing positive emotions control their lives they are more likely to overcome problems such as anxiety and depression.

I had to deal with this myself as I was frustrated with gaining research approval so I could move forward with my dissertation. It is easy to let negativity and the “maybe I should give up mentality” take over. But I did not give into that and kept pressing on and finally approval came. Granted too late to do the research this semester on my time line. Overlooking that, I simply created a new timeline starting with the January semester. So I will keep on with my dissertation marathon and continue to encourage my college students to focus on growth in their lives as well.

Reflection: Examine your reactions to life – are you guided more by negative emotions or positive emotions? How can you build up your positive emotions more in your daily life?

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Promoting and Supporting Reading

As Summer nears an end and the school year begins it is important to keep reading strong throughout the school year. Although I cover a wide variety of topics in my blog one of my personal favorites is promoting reading. Last post I discussed libraries and this one I am showcasing an organization I have been following on Facebook for a number of months. It is the group, Reading Is Fundamental. On their website they say this about their group: “For 50 years, Reading Is Fundamental has used its experience and expertise to motivate and inspire young children to read. It’s not just the books we distribute that make an impact. Our evidence-based program, Read for Success, helps children improve reading proficiency and combat summer learning loss – a contributing factor to the achievement gap.”

Their website, to explore what they are all about is-- and I would encourage you to explore all they do as an organization to promote reading on their website. What I like about following them on Facebook is that they daily list important quotes about reading and relevant articles about reading.

Education is important for the success of each individual and reading is foundational for educational progress. On their website at the present time they have some challenging statistics to consider. Think about these stats: 65% of 4th graders do not read on grade level; 8,000 high school students drop out every day; and 80% of low income children are at the risk of falling behind in school. If you think about it; reading touches on each of those issues. Reflect on the lost potential in improving our country and personal lives and dreams of young people through the reality of those statistics. Working on the college level, I see the struggles in students at that level because of a lack of passion and interest in reading which is foundational in college study. It looks like society is faced with a large problem.

But when I see on the RIF homepage “Since 1966, RIF has distributed more than 412 million books to 40 million children nationwide, improving their ability to read, learn and grow.” I see RIF as an organization that is part of the solution in their encouraging of reading. Under their Facts section I found out that “RIF was founded in Washington, D.C. in 1966 by Margaret McNamara when she was tutoring young boys and learned they did not own books.” It is amazing the impact one person with a dream can have. I am sure when she started the program she never thought years later that 412 million books would have been donated.

In their Tips and Resources section they have a wide variety of articles on topics such as motivating kids to read, choosing good books, reading aloud, Summer learning and resources of teachers. Parents may also appreciate their activity calendars for the various ages of children. Check these out at this link - there are reading ideas and creative learning ideas.

Another item I appreciate about liking them on Facebook is they link to important articles about reading such as this one on the importance of conquering illiteracy -

I encourage you if you are a Bookhead like me, check out RIF’s webpage as well as liking them on Facebook. Also tell teachers you know about RIF’s services in promoting reading in the school.

Reflection: How can you encourage reading in your sphere of influence? Think about how RIF was begun by one person, Margaret McNamara, wanting to meet a need for young people’s need for reading. What does that say about the power of one.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Bookheads Appreciate and Support Libraries

As an avid Bookhead I appreciate the importance of libraries. The local public library was where the love of reading first began for me. Over the years libraries have been perfect places for focused study when I was a college student. Just roaming through the bookstacks gave me new ideas of topics to study and learn. From my past experience I have always been thankful for libraries.

With my interest in books and libraries it was while I was searching for books about books I stumbled upon a book entitled, The Artist’s Library. The authors are Erinn Batykefer and Laura Damon-Moore. The book was a pleasant and insightful read as I enjoy reading about people’s passions. As librarians their passion for books and the services of libraries were evident in the pages of their book.

The book is a creative outflow of a project the two authors were involved with called the Library as Incubator. They interviewed people in the art world, such as writers, artists, performance artists, using a question “What does the phrase, ‘library as incubator’ mean to you?” (p. 15). The book highlights throughout the text some of the participants in the project and their thoughts concerning libraries. One example of an initial response by an artist is this: “An incubator is a warm place that encouraged things to come to life. Information is the seed from which one grows. Information informs our work. Interaction with other users and librarians cross-pollinate our ideas and passions…” (p. 15). What an insightful thought on a purpose for the library experience. I could have read a book of just responses like that one, but the authors provide an interplay of the various artists thoughts with practical descriptions of the important services libraries provide for the public.

There was much I learned about libraries from reading The Artist’s Library as well as reaffirming my own thoughts from my experience over the years with libraries. Some of the artists shared how their time in libraries opened new possibilities in their minds for projects they were working on as well as future projects. Possibility making is one aspect why I encourage students to explore libraries for new topics to expand their thinking about life and their journeys through life.

The ideas in the book show that the library is more than just a place to find books to read, even though that is my favorite part of libraries. They remind that libraries are a place to find information for research, many libraries provide monthly programs on important issues and topics, and they also often showcase display works of art for patrons to enjoy. There is so much a library provides a community if you take time to explore your local library.

Another aspect of the book I enjoyed is that they provide interactive reflections for the reader. For example this one here: “Think back to the first library you ever visited. Write about or draw moments from that experience.” (p. 55) For myself that reflection took me in my mind back to the children’s section of the Barberton Public Library, in my hometown in Ohio. My first remembrance was for the Summer reading program. I remember the colorful posters and all the books on the display racks and shelves. That experience was the start of my Bookhead journey of enjoying reading.

After reading the book I checked out their website about the book : I encourage you to visit their website as the story of the project continues. The book was published in 2014. If you click on the link and then click on the various headings – artists, writers, performing arts you will find more stories of artists thoughts on the importance of libraries since their initial work in 2014.

I recommend The Artist’s Library, to anyone who enjoys reading and libraries. It should be mandatory reading for librarians to continue their passion for their career choice. The book provides a deeper understanding and appreciation for the importance of libraries. Do not be a stranger to your local library. Take advantage of all the resources there.

Reflection: Think through why are libraries important to you? What are your favorite memories about libraries? Feel free to leave a comment.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Helping Heroin Addicts Heal and Thrive

This week I was planning on continuing thoughts on reading in the Summer until I heard Senator Rob Portman from Ohio on a news show about his Anti-Heroin Bill. He was discussing the travesty of ruined lives and negative impact on families and society from the scourge of heroin addiction. I was glad to see that his bipartisan bill, The Comprehensive Addiction & Recovery Act (S. 524) was passed 94-1.

In the report on the bill passage the purpose is stated to:

•Expand prevention and educational efforts—particularly aimed at teens, parents and other caretakers—to prevent the abuse of opioids and heroin and to promote treatment and recovery.

•Make naloxone more widely available to law enforcement agencies and other first responders to help in the reversal of overdoses to save lives.

•Provide resources to promptly identify and more effectively treat incarcerated individuals suffering from addiction disorders.

•Increase the number of disposal sites for unwanted prescription medications to keep them out of the hands of our children and adolescents.

•Launch an evidence-based opioid and heroin treatment and interventions program and promote treatment best practices throughout the country.

•Strengthen prescription drug monitoring programs to help states monitor and track prescription drug diversion and to help at-risk individuals access services.

(From -- )

In my book, Living More Than OK, I share the importance of seeking natural highs instead of quick drug induced highs. Drugs like heroin offer a quick get away from the problems of life and quick good feelings which our impulsive society pushes on young people. What is hidden from young people is the downward spiral into larger problems that occur through drug use.

In my book I promote a group out of California called Natural High. I promote it in my blog as well. I will again do a shout out about it now. I have used their website with counseling teen clients who are becoming involved with drugs. Their videos of successful people who enjoy a natural high is often eye opening to them. I use their videos as well with my college students. Again it opens eyes up to that there is more to enjoying life than ingesting drugs.

Check out this video from their site about one of my favorite bands, Switchfoot. Here is the link -- . In the video the lead singer Jon Foreman reminds us that Natural Highs are not about saying no to drugs but saying yes to positive passions in one’s life. This reminds me of Dr. William Glasser’s concept of positive addictions. In his writings Dr. Glasser reminded us that it is not good enough to help someone stop a negative addiction but instead to find a positive addiction for the person to inculcate into their lifestyle. I also like Drew’s comment of how no one on drugs will say drugs were the best decision in my life. When I went to 12 step program when I volunteered at a drug center in Brownsville no one praised how being addicted to drugs helped them and their families. Instead they shared personal pain and family pain drugs had caused.

I am thankful for resources across the country that are dedicated to help those who are battling drug addiction. One I would like to mention is The Ranch at Clear Springs near Waco, Texas. Their website is You can look at their website to see the services such centers provide. Every state has such centers and they need to be promoted for their help of people struggling with addiction. I wanted to give Clear Springs a shout out as the Director is Kito Holtzman, who I was privileged to have as a professor when I took my Drug Counseling course for my Masters in Counseling, at University of Texas at Brownsville, (now University of Texas Rio Grande Valley). Kito had and still has a passion for helping alcohol and drug addicts stop the downward spiral so they can spiral up to a better life.

Going back to the Portman bill it is good to see when politicians get it right. I just hope the follow through from Washington, helps in a practical manner. We all though need to be involved in promoting natural highs to help end the scourge of drugs on our country. If you know school counselors let them know about the organization, Natural High. If you have family or friends struggling with addiction let them know they can find treatment centers to be of help in moving in a positive direction.

Reflection: What is your natural high? You can have more than one. Mine are reading, music, and hiking. Watching the Natural High videos is there a new natural high you would like to try out?

Monday, July 11, 2016

Big Bend Bucket List Item

In my book, Living More Than Ok, (found at Barnes & Noble and Amazon – don’t tell me yes a selfish book pitch!) I encourage following Dream lists in the spirit of John Goddard. Some call them Bucket Lists. For years visiting Big Bend National Park has been our list. This past week we crossed that off our list and we were so glad we went there even though we were told it was the off season due to it being so hot.

We have visited Grand Canyon and were awestruck by the grandeur of the canyon. I visited years ago Rocky Mountain National Park with my brother. The sight of the mountains there is a majestic picture of nature’s beauty. What amazed me about Big Bend was the diversity as you can see in the pictures above. Up in the Chisos mountains you have pines trees and greenery. Then on the lower levels where ranches once stood, you have desert plants and canyons. We were told in April the desert floor is a sea of red and yellow from the cactus flowers. So we plan in the future to go back during that time of year.

We took several of the scenic drives where at every turn the splendor of creativity is seen. You could drive the same route and never be bored as there is so much to see. For each of us different things stood out on each drive. It was so hot we did not see much wildlife except for rabbits and road runners. A family staying near us said they had seen deer and they come across someone who had seen a mountain lion with cubs (personally I had no desire to see a mountain lion—I don’t like the idea of being a snack for another species).

Speaking of the family who stayed near us, we lodged at Big Bend Casitas in Terlingua. I highly recommend staying there. The cabins had an old west charm and were clean and neat. The staff at Far Flung Outdoor Center, who runs the cabins, was friendly and helpful about the area. With Far Flung they do guided river tours, ATV tours and jeep tours. We took a morning jeep tour on our next to the last day. The tour was supposed to be off road in a specially built jeep but there were flash flood warnings from early morning rains so our guide took us into a paved road run in the National Park. Our tour guide, Randy, was amazing with the historical knowledge he had about the area as he drove us down to the Castelon visitor center and the Santa Elena Canyon. Coming back we experienced the flash flooding as a roadway that had been dry 30 minutes earlier was covered in a flowing stream so we had to wait for the water to go down. That impressed us as well with the Far Flung team, as they were interested in safety of their customers.

In Terlingua being such a small town the restaurants are few in number but still very good food. If you go there or I should say when you go there; don’t miss out on eating at La Kiva. The experience is like eating in a cave with beautiful wood tables. There pizza is fantastic. I am usually not fond of white pizzas but their’s with spinach, artichoke hearts and tomato slices is a wonderful taste treat. The staff at La Kiva I felt were the friendliest of the restaurants in town.

If you enjoy national parks add Big Bend to your bucket list. The sunsets and diverse beauty captures the imagination. It is a place to find solace and think over your life. Since I look at life from a Christian world view, at the park and while looking at the night sky made me ponder about the God behind it all and my place in His purpose. No matter what your worldview the Big Bend experience is a must within your life journey.

Reflection: Click on the hyperlink to Big Bend National Park above and look over the pictures. What do the pictures of the park make you think and feel? Reflect on your favorite times in state or national parks. What are your favorite memories? When do you plan to visit Big Bend?

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Winning The Marathons in Your Life

“Energy and Persistence Conquers All Things” Benjamin Franklin

If you are looking for tips for running marathons you are out of luck. I am a walker not a runner so I can’t be much help to those who run marathons. Those who run marathons, I have a great respect for with their disciplined training, their endurance and persistence to push to the end. I found out in writing this that a true marathon is 26.2 miles or 42 kilometers. Those races that are shorter are called 5K, 10K, and half-marathons.

Marathons are at times seen as metaphor for our life journey. In looking at the metaphor I see many of our stages in life relate to being like marathons as well. Work, discipline, sweat, and persistence are parts of many of the various marathons we face. I have been going through a marathon journey the past few years with my work towards my PhD in psychology. I am on the final grueling leg of my dissertation process. That is why the initial picture for this blog is that of reading and research.

Recently, even though I am at the final stage the urge to give up is often in my self-talk. I have approval of my topic and a research plan for a qualitative study but I fear putting it all together. All the course work with Capella University has prepared me for the research and writing of the dissertation, yet at the same time there is the now seemingly chronic fatigue of always balancing work, family and studies. With the plaguing negative self-talk of “just give up – you won’t make it”. Often it feels like it is just me and the race and being the slow one there is no one to cheer the runner on.

That is where persistence kicks in. The quote I have listed here is important in persistently ploughing through the final stages where you want to give up in your marathon whether it is finishing your education, working through marriage problems, or even in finishing a PhD dissertation. “Persistence is a refusal to quit. It is looking into the face of adversity and saying, “I like my odds”. It is an unwillingness to move aside. It is believing in a cause and being distracted by nothing.” There was no person related to the quote and I have found that anonymous quotes are many times the best.

When I look at the last leg of my marathon for my PhD in psychology the negativity of my mind fills my life with getting sidetracked with distractions and the desire to quit. Persistence comes in with clear minded focus on the end goal. It leads with positive self-talk such as “I like my odds – I can finish this!” Often in quitting the marathons in our lives we lose track in our initial belief in the cause of our goal so we let the stuff of life defeat us. It is at these give up times we need to refocus of the goal. As in my case going back to why I started the PhD process, what I can learn from my dissertation research for my future and the future for my family and my work with students and clients.

In talking to marathon runners even though it is the toughest near the end there can be for those who persist a second wind, often called the runner’s high. It is a burst of energy that carries them to the end of the race. In flow research, which is part of my dissertation study; that second wind is important to the flow process in marathon runners. In your personal life journey marathons, don’t give up and you will gain the burst of energy you need to finish.

Our important life journey stages if we really want life growth should be seen as marathons not sprints. Modern culture wants to speed everything into short sprints to success but real life is not that way. When you feel like giving up -- “Keep Going”.

Reflection—What marathon in life are you going through at the present. How does the persistence quote relate to your experience at the present time? What can you personally do to “Keep Going”?

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Time To Enjoy Summer Reading

I have been delayed this year in writing a post about Summer reading programs but finally getting around to it. I do hope I can finish my PhD dissertation in a year so I can have it behind me and move more into a wider variety of reading and doing more writing here in my blog.

For the past month in my counseling practice I have been reminding parents of teens and children I counsel, to keep their minds active during the Summer with reading at their local library . Some of my young clients enjoy that idea and others put on a sour face when I make the suggestion. Seeing those responses reminds me that those clients who enjoy reading usually have better progress in the counseling process. It would be an interesting study to compare those who enjoy reading and those who do not as to how well they improve in their counseling therapy.

Reading has always been one of my favorite Summer activities. (of course for me it is year round as well). In Summer I usually look at Oprah’s magazine just to see what books she is suggesting. I have always appreciated her promotion of the importance of reading. In the O magazine for July, Oprah had this to say about reading: “Nothing, not one thing or activity; can replace the experience of a good read – being transported to a different land, a different realm, through words and language.” That thought of being transported took my mind back to my early reading experiences at the Barberton Public Library as a child. The fiction books I gravitated to were about other lands so I remember being transported in my imagination to other areas of the world and learning of other people around the world.

Back in May when we visited Barberton I stopped by the library where I spent many Summers in my elementary years. Then in my high school years I worked part time through high school there. I noticed during my visit there they were advertising their Barberton Public Library Summer Reading Club. Here is the weblink if you want to see how they do their Summer reading program-- For children their theme is "On Your Mark, Get Set...READ!". For the adults, I liked the theme thought of “Exercise Your Mind”. For a vibrant life it is so important at every to exercise the mind.

My local library here in New Braunfels, Texas is promoting a “Read for the Win” Summer reading program. Here is the link to explore their program. They state on their program website this about reading-- “Reading isn't just fun - it keeps us up to date on what's happening in the world, helps us connect with people in other places and times, and helps us keep our brains sharp. Reading is like exercising your mind!” Summer is an excellent time for outdoor activities to exercise our bodies and to be in physical shape. We must remind ourselves though as both libraries are emphasizing in their Summer reading programs exercise for the mind is just as important.

Someone on Facebook posted the quote picture I have listed here of a reading thought by UK author, Neal Gaiman, “The simplest way to make sure that we raise literate children is… to show them that reading is a pleasurable activity. And that means finding books that they enjoy, and letting them read them.” His thought is so important in today's world. Public Library Summer reading programs is one of the best ways to allow children to find the books they will enjoy. That is the beginning of a literary life. Librarians are there to help children and teens to find books that tap into their passionate interests. This Summer take your children or grandchildren to your local library to be involved in their reading programs. They have programs for adults as well so pick up books for yourself at the same time.

Fell free to comment on any thoughts you have about Summer Reading.

Reflection: What books are you reading this Summer? How can you encourage those in your circle of influence to involve themselves at their local library?