My New Book Living More Than OK

My New Book Living More Than OK
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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?

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Enjoying Ohio’s Natural Splendor

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.

Holden Arboretum

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

Classics As Part Of Your Reading Diet

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 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

Insights in Turning Your World Right Side Up

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 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 - ) 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.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Celebrate Love of Reading During National Library Week

As a Bookhead, this week is one of my favorite weeks. It is National Library week. Since my early experiences with Summer library reading programs in my hometown of Barberton, Ohio libraries have been important to me. It was the library that opened up a love of learning in their Summer reading program. One reason I improved as a student in my early years I owe to my mother pushing me to be involved in reading throughout the year, books from the library. We were on the lower income spectrum so the library was a great place to gets books since I could not buy them.
The local library was also my first job as well throughout my time in high school. As I later moved to college my work through college jobs bounced back between working at the campus library or janitorial work. So I am thankful for that aspect of the library in my life.
I am looking forward to finishing my PhD dissertation so I can be more involved in reading a variety of books from my local library. Right now the Capella University online library has been my rich source of journal articles for my dissertation preparation.

At the American Library Association website there is a link for Library week: there they state the Library week began in 1958. That was a good year as that was when I was born. Each year they have a theme and this year it is “Libraries Transform”. If you click on the preceding link you can go to their website and learn more information about the week.

As I reflect on the theme “Libraries Transform” I can truly see that in my own life. I am thankful I had positive teachers in my foundational years in elementary school. Yet I can see how the Summer reading programs at Barberton Public library transformed me in broadening my love of reading. That then had a spiraling effect over the years in my critical and creative thinking to propel me to improve my academics over the years. My belief in the importance of lifelong learning stems from the transformation in growing a love of reading which started with my mother introducing me to the library.

The Capella university library has been a helpful resource in finding journal articles on my dissertation research. The librarians there have been helpful during my coursework providing ideas on expanding my research topics in gathering the hundreds of articles needed. On the Capella Library website they show how they transform students: “The Capella University Library helps Capella learners transform by:
• Answering more than 8,800 questions from learners each year.
• Providing access to 56,000 journals and 193,000 books in our library.
• Performing 1,400 individual consultations with learners about their dissertation research each year.”
I know I have asked them questions over my years of study there. An attribute found in librarians is that they are helpful. Some of the best customer service I have seen over the years has been found in those who work in libraries.

When I looked at the website for my local New Braunfels Library I noticed their mission statement: “To provide the community with equal access to physical and virtual environments that support and encourage lifelong learning and enrichment.” That statement is a year round commitment to the National Library week theme of “Libraries Transform”. Helping people to think about living the best life possible; which is one basic thought behind my blog and my book, Living More Than OK; is seen in the desire to encourage lifelong learning. A person who is involved in their local library will never live a dull life as they are continually being enriched by the knowledge and the power of story that can be found in opening up the mind and spirit found from reading books.

Do you feel like you need some transforming in your life? Stop by your local library and search for a fiction or nonfiction book to start the transformation.

Reflection: What does the library mean to you? What
thoughts or memories come to mind in thinking over the theme “Libraries Transform”? Check out this website to see how you can be more involved with your local library.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Gardening Part of Living More Than OK

I have recovered and caught up some since my comprehensive exams for my Ph.D., so I thought I would move back to writing in my blog. I realize with life one never fully gets caught up so I decided to keep moving forward. One of the activities I have been doing recently during my recouping phase is helping prepare our Spring/Summer garden here in Texas. The garden is something my wife enjoys so my daughter and I help her with the preparation and harvesting.
Growing up in Ohio my mother and father planted a large vegetable garden. My dad would grow sweet potatoes almost as big as a football. When he died my mom moved us in with our grandmother and she even had more land for gardening and that garden provided much of the yearly food supply. So our present home gardening of the past few years brings back fond memories of growing up helping my mom in the garden.

For the most part these past few years while I have been working on my doctorate, my college teaching, and counseling; the garden has been run mostly by my wife. I am just starting my dissertation so after that is finished I will be more involved in the gardening. Preparing the garden in tilling the soil, planting and pruning our fruit trees has been a helpful relaxing diversion while I have been recovering from the stress of the exam I went through.

Gardening also provides times for families to work together. The above picture shows the garden pathway my daughter and wife laid out the other day. It was hard work for them but after their work they enjoyed a steak dinner of which I was not a part of since I was working on reports the whole day. The picture also gives an idea of the garden we tilled and planted a couple of weeks ago. We have a variety of tomatoes, peppers, squash, okra, cucumbers, Swiss Chard, collard greens, Mumbai spinach as well as herbs and other vegetables. We all worked together to get the garden going then pray for success as we never know what Texas weather will bring.

The work that goes into gardening provides an appreciation of farmers in our country and around the world that provide us with food. Our home garden has helped with the food bill but we are definitely not self-sufficient. The battle with weeds and watching over the need for watering is work. It is hard to imagine the level of work that goes on the grand scale of large family farms that provide the world’s food supply.

Outside of the hard work there is amazement and wonder in watching the plants grow. Some of our plants were from seeds. The wonder is in seeing the green shoots breaking up through the ground and before we know it the plant is blooming with flowers that become the vegetables. The development is an amazing wonder of creation. How did the various plants develop? Why are there so many varieties instead of just a few plants that we would be stuck eating? Kind of makes one wonder who or what is behind such amazing wonders doesn’t it?

Whether it is just a few herbs and tomatoes on a patio or a small raised garden give Spring planting a try. If you are benefited with a larger piece of land use some of that land for a garden. It will save you dollars at the grocer and teach your family the hard work that goes into growing produce. As you watch the development of the plants, you may also be caught up in the wonder of watching creation in an amazing way. Then of course the best part is harvesting the fruits and vegetables and using them in your salads and cooking at home.

Reflection: How thankful are you for the farmers who provide the bountiful supply of food you enjoy at your local market and grocer? Try this Spring to either just do a few plants if you are in an apartment or try a small raised garden in your yard. Reflect on the amazing variety in the vegetables, fruits and flowers. Why do you think there is such variety? Does it amaze you?

Friday, March 11, 2016

Try A Blast From The Past

I am a little worn out from passing my PhD Comprehensive Exam for my Phd in Psychology with Capella University. Working on it was so overwhelming I became behind in my grading for my college students and work with therapy clients. This Spring break will be getting caught up and then it is back to my blog posts.

Take some time to peruse some of my past writings over the past few years. Maybe there is a message hidden there for you life journey!