Tuesday, July 19, 2016
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 -- www.portman.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?p=press-releases&id=642FECC3-DF06-4D8D-8E21-A54624B7F347 )
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 naturalhigh.org 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 -- http://naturalhigh.org/video/switchfoot-grammy-award-winner-2-2/ . 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 www.clearspringsranch.com 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
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
“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
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-- www.barbertonlibrary.org/content/create-page-4 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. newbraunfels.libguides.com/summer 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?
Wednesday, June 1, 2016
On our recent vacation to Ohio we made it a point to enjoy some of Ohio’s parks. As I mention in my book, Living More Than OK, taking time to enjoy the splendor of nature is one way to improve in living a more than ok life. Going to nature parks adds to life by slowing down and being awed by the amazing details of God’s creation in nature. I am going to mention several of the parks that stood out in our last Ohio trip.
The first place we visited was Holden Arboretum in Kirtland, Ohio. The arboretum was started in the 1930’s by the from a gift from the Holden family. Over the years the Holden Arboretum has grown to 3,600 acres in Lake and Geauga counties. We started off the time there with a short tram tour which took us around the main areas describing the plants and trees and a history lesson on the development of the arboretum. Then the rest of the time there we went back to some of the areas we wanted to look at in more detail. Here is the website if you want to learn more about the arboretum -
The flowers and the trees were kept well. The experience gave an awareness of how some people of great wealth use their money wisely so that future generations can enjoy learning about and appreciating nature.
Tinkers Creek Gorge Overlook
This nature site I went to with my brother who enjoys hiking in the many metro parks in Ohio. The Tinker's Creek Gorge Scenic Overlook offered a spectacular view of the wooded area. Tinker's Creek Gorge Scenic Overlook is located off Gorge Parkway in the Bedford Reservation in the Cleveland area. As you can see from the pictures the hiking paths are heavily shaded and think with a variety of trees. Even it was a warm day the trees’ shade created a natural air conditioning. There were also a variety of wildflowers growing along the pathways to enjoy as well. The area is a great place for a morning or afternoon hike. Here is a the website for more information:
Silver Creek Metro Park
The third and last park we enjoyed in our week visit to Ohio was Sliver Creek Metro Part near Norton, Ohio actual address is listed as Doylestown. We had stayed in Norton several times in the past and never knew of this park. The park is 1,008 acres with a 50 acre spring fed lake. The experience there was so peaceful especially as we sat at a bench just reflecting on the lake with the peaceful water. We just took a short 2 mile hike of the Chippewa Trail. Along that trail there was a pine tree lined pond with frogs croaking. Here is the website for information on this park:
I have included pictures from each park. As they say a picture is worth a thousand words so I hope you will enjoy the pictures.
Reflection: What is the favorite park you have visited? On your vacations do you make it a point to visit nature parks? What do you learn from experiencing nature parks?
Tuesday, May 17, 2016
With Summer coming soon I will doing some blog posts that focus in on reading. I have several clients in my counseling practice that are telling me they will have their children involved in Summer reading programs at their local library. I often encourage them in doing so. As I have mentioned before libraries and reading has always been important in my life.
In considering reading material I read a short book recently from a teacher encouraging the reading of classics by children. The title of the book is Classics Why we should encourage children to read them. It is written by teacher and author, Fiza Pathan. Knowing that a teacher has a passion for encouraging young people to read literary classics was a pleasure to read about. So many of my teen clients and college students paint a picture of schools K-12 being about standardized tests which actually turn them off to learning. We need more Fiza Pathan’s out there in the schools stretching the minds of students in writing essays and reflective papers on literary works as she describes in her book.
Reading through her book made me to think back over my reading history when I was younger and some of the literary classics I had read. Titles such as The Call of the Wild by Jack London, The Time Machine by H.G. Wells, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, and my favorite The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis were a few a my favorites that I reflected upon. Fiza’s passion for the classics reminded me that I need to incorporate some of the classics from her list that I have not read into my present and future reading. Most likely future; with my next year being inundated with my PhD dissertation work. She reminded me that there is profit in re-reading old favorites as well; as at a different age and context, I may gain new insights from stories like The War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells for example.
Fiza also develops an argument for young people reading of the classics by emphasizing how this can develop their minds. One of the first aspects of development and I feel the most important is how reading the classics develops the imagination. She makes an important statement, “In my teaching experience, I have realized everyone has an imagination; whether the student is an honest first ranker or a sports freak… one has to make a student aware of his or her capabilities. With a rich imagination, a person can do wonders with one’s life.” (Page 9) An imagination and creative mind can be built up as the stories in the classics encourage the mind to take the reader into the story and visualize what they are reading.
She goes on to discuss what I call the addictive levels of young people watching tv and computer videos. As a teacher she has seen the creative powers of students limited and stagnated by their almost constant visual attachment to a video screen. That is because the video spoon feeds their minds the visuals and information in a passive manner. Their minds are not stretched to visualize the scenery themselves. Their minds are not transported into the scene as they are mere passive observers. I have had young children as counseling clients who say their teachers do not read to them in today’s schools. Instead the “book” is shown in class on a screen with an unseen narrator reading to them. The schools are turning reading into another movie/tv experience. That is why I am not really keen on ebooks for children. It is just reinforcing an addiction to staring at a screen. How I remember my third grade teacher, Mrs. Clifford reading books to us. I believe that helped encourage me in my reading.
Fiza also moves into how reading books aids in vocabulary building and general knowledge about life and the world. Some of the great works like the writings of Dickens transports the mind back to historical times and can make history fun. Science fiction and futuristic books can encourage a young mind that is interested in science. There are a myriad of benefits to encouraging young people to read the classics. This does not rule out those of us who are not young people. As I mentioned she has an extensive list of classic books. Go to your local library and ask a reference librarian to help you look into some of the classics they may have in their collection. Or most libraries can get about any book you are looking for by their library loan programs. You may also wish to check out Fiza’s website www.fizapathan.com that connects to her blog to find other ideas about encouraging your children in reading or developing your reading diet.
Reflection: Think back to your favorite literary classic. Which is one of your favorites? Do you remember when you read it? Why did it impact you? Go to your local library and pick up a literary classic to read.
Saturday, April 23, 2016
There are many times in our lives where our journey feels upside down. Depression, grief, random difficulties drop into our lives making us feel despair and gloom. How can we move back to a flourishing happy life during these dry patches? I came across a book recently that provides helpful tips and encouraging challenges to move towards turning our world right side up. That book is The Sky Is Green And The Grass Is Blue by Deb Scott.
From her website it is seen that Deb Scott helps people transform their lives by combining her unique practical business, training and leadership experience as a successful professional, with her passion to help people be the best person they were created to be. Her website is www.debscott.com where you can find out more about her, her books and radio program.
What I like about her book is she shares from the difficulties in her life and brings out examples of pains and struggles we all face. She then offers a variety of tips and ideas to help the reader move from pain to promise and hope. One of my favorite tips that I want to share with you is an exercise that helps you look at your personal strengths that you can be thankful for by relating positive words to the letters of your name. This is from page 9 in her book: “Write down each letter in your first name and think of something you are grateful for about yourself right now, in this present moment; something about you, something you have, someone you have in your life. It could be any person, place or thing.” She uses her name in the book for an example. I have tried it with my first name for an example here:
F Faithful to those I love and my values.
R Resiliently moving forward with God’s dreams for me.
A Academic in my desire to grow in critical and creative thinking.
N Nourishing personal growth in self and others.
K Kindly seeks to care for students and patients in my career field as Professor and Counselor.
(I found this helpful website to look for positive words with the letters of your name - http://positivewordsresearch.com/positive-words-that-start-with-letters-from-a-to-z/ ) Give it a try with your name and make a poster to place in a place where it can be a reminder for you.
Deb encourages the reader to make her ideas personal for their life journey. She doesn’t try to fit all people into the same cookie cutter of “do these few things for personal happiness”. She understands we each are unique creations by God and each our on our own journey. That style struck a chord with me as that is what I try to do with my book, Living More Than OK. We each have our own personal calling to follow. Not all ideas work the same so we need to be open to the ideas that work for us in our unique circumstance.
As a professional Counselor I appreciated her chapter on Professional Guidance Therapists and Coaches. Many self-help books are not honest in facing the realities of the difficulties in life. Some authors write like “read my book and all your problems will turn into beautiful butterflies”. That is not realistic and actually provides a disservice to the genre of self-help books. Self-help books can be helpful tools for self-improvement and providing tips in various areas of our lives but they are not a cure all for all problems. Deb reminds her readers to be open to seeking help from professionals. She does so in a manner to help break down the negative stereotypes we still see in the culture at large about seeking therapeutic help for mental and emotional problems.
I have just shared a couple of gems from the whole treasure chest of profitable ideas found in Deb Scott’s book. You will need to get a copy of her book to find more gems for what you are facing in your upside down life. She has many more exercises, lists of helpful web resources and other books that can be helpful. Don’t settle for an upside down life when you can live right side up. Feel free to post any comments about turning your life right side up.
Reflection – Are you going through an upside down time in your life? Try the little name exercise listed above to refocus and the positives in your life. Be open to outside help from a professional if you are going through a major difficulty. Don’t let fear or pride stop you from seeing a Counselor or Coach in your area.