New Year Reflections ~

Well, we made it through the holidays! I was going to write about dealing with holiday stress, but I guess I was too stressed and too busy to write about it! Hope you weren’t expecting it. Like the holidays, we tend to have high expectations of “the most wonderful time of the year” that often fall short.

To tell you the truth, after the tragedy at a school in Connecticut on Dec. 14th, I had a hard time knowing what to write. It left me stunned, not knowing what to do. Hard to talk about “holiday stress” when such a huge tragedy strikes. All I could think about was the deep pain and sorrow the parents and children and teachers of Newtown were experiencing. I did post helpful tips for parents on Facebook and I wrote a letter to the President. What did you do? How will we help people grieve this huge loss? How will we prevent this from happening again? It is complicated with no easy quick solutions.

I received an email from a young father (and bully expert) who has two young boys, ages 3 and 5. His name is Brooks Gibbs and he sent me a very moving video about what he’s doing to help the people of Newtown, where this tragedy occurred.

Please watch this short documentary that tells the story of the work he is doing. It’s very inspiring and gives you hope that there is a way through all this grief and sorrow if we’re willing to talk about it.
http://NewtownSpeaks.org

I will be leading a free workshop at the YMCA this month about “Dealing with Bullying: How to Empower the Victim”.  It’s a different approach that has been very effective. If you’d like more information or would like to attend, please click on “Upcoming Workshops” or email me at Lmartenspeaks@yahoo.com

I hope your New Year will be full of enough joy to keep you happy and enough challenges to keep you humble and make you strong.

Remember as Ghandi once said: “BE the change you wish to see in the world” and this especially applies to parents (BE the example for your kids to follow). Tall order I know, and worth the effort. Maybe the best example is that we are willing to keep learning, especially from our mistakes.

Happy New Year! Be gentle to yourself.

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Let it Snow! (sip cocoa, read, and watch it snow!)

Let it snow! Let it snow! Let it snow!

Maybe that’s a good mantra for parents as they weather the ups and downs of parenthood.  As the song goes, …”The weather outside is frightful, but the fire is so delightful. As long as you love me so, let it snow, let it snow, let it snow.”  It seems we can survive just about anything if there is some love in our lives, someone who cares.  It’s easy to forget that we are social creatures. We need each other.  (Maybe that’s why it’s easier for me to exercise with a friend, than by myself!) So, the attitude of “let it snow”, means we can survive any storm, any situation, better together than alone. (Hurricane Sandy is a good example of people coming together to survive better together than alone.)

I know the holidays are often stressful. Our lives don’t always match the happiness we think we “should” feel this time of year. So even if you are going through hard times right now, (and for many of us the holidays bring back painful memories of the past), take time out for yourself this holiday season to be in the present and enjoy the beauty of Nature, the lights, the music, the food, the friendship(s). If you’re feeling lonely, reach out to an old friend. You might just make their day. Sometimes taking a “contrary action”, like calling an old friend, can get us out of feeling stuck with old feelings of the past or fears about the future. The key is to stay in the present.  I know it’s easier said than done. So the next time you’re out and about, take a moment to observe little kids or elderly people. Notice how they enjoy life more because they focus on the here and now……..Perhaps that’s the best gift you can give yourself & your loved ones this holiday season, being present here and now, open to receive the gifts of the present moment.

…..More about holiday stress & expectations in my next post.

Until then….. take a moment now to relax, breath……. let go……. and let it snow…..          (Hope you enjoyed the “snow” on my blog today.)

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How do you Culivate Gratitude in Hard Times?

This is supposed to be the season of giving thanks, of Thanks-giving. We encourage our children to be grateful. But are we grateful? How can we be grateful after great loss or death or change that shakes our world?  What if you just lost your job or found out you have cancer? What if you depend on food stamps to feed your kids and the government just cut them in time for the holidays?

I can be mad about the injustice and sorrow of this world or I can decide to do my part to “Be the change I wish to see in the world” as Gandhi said.  I can choose to be kind when others are mean. I can remember “hurt people hurt people”.
I just watched a very moving video where people in Russia in the severe cold of winter still made time to help each other; little acts like helping someone’s car stuck in the snow or helping an old lady cross the street, etc. It’s on my Facebook page or you can look it up on YouTube, “Russian video that made the whole world cry” http://www.youtube.com

Act as if “, a wise old woman reminds me. Write 5 gratitudes before bed, even though you may not “feel” like it.  I tried it and I am amazed every time of the power of gratitude to shift my thinking.

Then there are those days when you & I lose perspective and can’t think of anything for which to be grateful.  That’s when doing the opposite works.  I think of all the things that I’m grateful did not happen today: The toilet didn’t overflow. We didn’t have an earthquake or a tsunami here in Los Angeles. I didn’t have car problems or an accident. I didn’t lose my home. None of my loved ones died.  I don’t have cancer or heart problems. The cat didn’t barf today….    This often gets me laughing and gratitude & perspective return once again. (You might try doing this with your kids, like a game to see how many things they can think of.)

Then there are those times where nothing seems to help and we need to just be where we are & feel what we are feeling. Sometimes that’s the hardest thing to do, to accept life as it is now and lean into the cold wind that bites our cheeks. Amazingly, when I stop resisting and fighting the pain of how things are, it hurts less.  This is true physically as well as emotionally. Breath. Relax. Just Be. Solitude is good for the soul.

Remember, we are social creatures. We need each other. Ask for help. Seek support. Don’t carry your burdens alone.  You’ll find out you’re not alone. We all have something we are struggling with.  Don’t judge your insides by other people’s outsides.

Humor can be a great relief  from our sorrows and difficulties. Watch a comedy and take a break from it all. Laughter is great medicine. It releases natural endorphins that make us feel happy for awhile.
Try Tim Conway‘s “Speedo Airlines” from the old Carol Burnette Show. It’s hilarious.

If you have a hard time getting to sleep, try saying gratitudes for every letter of the alphabet.  For example, A for Apples, Apple pie, Air to breath; B for Beauty, a Bed, Books; C my Cat, my Car, my Children……….   Before you know it you’ll be asleep.

Have a grateful Thanksgiving.

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Save the Date: Wed. eve, January 23, 2013, FREE Parent Workshop

Start the New Year right with a Parent Workshop!

Thanks to the Westchester YMCA, I will be presenting a free parent workshop at the YMCA Annex (that nice building behind the Y, formerly Jr. Women’s Club site).

TOPIC: Teasing and Bullying (how to empower the victim to stop the bullying)

Time:  6:30pm to 7:30pm on January 23, 2013

 

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The “Empty Nest Syndrome”

When my kids started leaving the nest, I asked an older mother with grown kids,        “What does the mother bird do when her babies leave the nest?” (I was on retreat and had been watching a bird nest outside my … Continue reading

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My Heart has Many Homes

Hello Again,

My husband and I just returned from a refreshing trip to beautiful British Columbia. After living in Los Angeles for almost 29 years, it felt like heaven to see so many green trees, fresh air and Spring blooming everywhere; baby ducks, geese, bunnies, squirrels, and even black bears in the mountains eagerly eating after a long winter hibernation.  It’s comforting to see Life returning again after the death of Winter.

We met in these beautiful Northwest surroundings the summer of 1981. We share fond memories of growing up there, meeting each other & falling in love there, among the tall Douglas Fir trees. In fact, we were married in a Northwest Forest in Washington State. No wonder, just the smell of pine & the rich damp soil of the forests somehow brings us home to ourselves again.  These forests are so thick you can’t even see the light of day. There is a mystery and a strength the forests hold.  It feels like home there to us…….. I didn’t want to leave.

When we landed yesterday at Los Angeles Airport, I complained, “From green to brown and this ugly airport.” I didn’t want to be here 29 years ago either, when we moved here for my husband’s work. Yesterday, I didn’t want to be here again. Yet this is where we have put down deep roots. We grew a huge Forest of Family & Friendships that have weathered many of the storms of Life with us. We have Community here and that means a lot to me, maybe just as much or more than the gentle beauty of the Northwest.

So as I drove the streets of Los Angeles today on my way to visit a dear old friend, I notice the TREES. They are beautiful here too, just different. They speak to me of strength, shelter, and endurance.

And the bright warm sunshine welcomes me back. Ah, sunny California, where I began the second leg of my journey of adulthood:  married life and parenthood.

Now another leg of the journey beckons. ~ Our children are grown and soon to fly further from the nest. (Our eldest moves out into his own apartment this summer and our daughter flies to Univ. of Hawaii.) My husband, a recently retired engineer says we are at “maximum transition” in our family.  As we enter this new phase of life, I feel a carefree spirit rising within me and a deeper need to give back what I’ve learned to other parents and families.

I’ve been reading Joan Anderson’s book, “The Second Journey, The Road Back to Yourself”.  She goes away to the Scottish island of Iona seeking to find answers there. She meets a wise old man in a chapel. He asks her if she’s found what she was looking for. She responds, “I’m afraid I’ve come with too full of an agenda, trying to get too much out of your island in too short of a time.”

Just be still,” he says, “wherever you are. Iona is no Utopia . . . there is no such thing.

It’s all here,” he says, pointing to his heart

“Pray, but don’t expect anything,” the old man cautions.  “A few minutes with a painting, a sunrise, or even listening to a string quartet will give you more than what you need.”

I strive to live like this, one day at a time, wherever I am.

I remember again ~ my heart is my Home.

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” You must have a place …

” You must have a place to which you can go in your heart, your mind, or your house, almost every day, where you do not owe anyone and where no one owes you ~~ a place that simply allows for the blossoming of something new and promising.” Joseph Campbell

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Conflicts and Communication Skills

images-11Most parents (including myself) get triggered by what their teenage son or daughter says or does.  We don’t have any control over getting triggered in any relationship. However, we do have control over how we respond, (with practice).  Most parents/people respond in one of two ways: over react and explode  or  withdraw and put up a cold wall (which later usually erupts). Underneath our anger is often hurt and fear.

Here’s something I tell myself over and over:  “It’s not about me.” and “What you think of me is none of my business.”   Sooo, what others do or say, including our teenagers (who often reject us as they assert their independence) says something about them, not me.  This is true in all relationships. I remind myself, “It’s their journey.”  And, I don’t have to tolerate verbal abuse either.  I often ask parents I coach, “Would you allow a friend to talk to you the way you allow your teenager to talk to you?”  The trick is, we don’t have to lower ourselves to the same blame game.  Instead, when my teen needs a ride somewhere, I can say, “Due to how you talked to me, I won’t be driving you today.”  Of course they will get all upset. Just walk out of the room. Stop talking. Short and sweet is much more powerful, clear, and effective.  And, your self respect will rise too.

So take this opportunity with your teenager to practice some relationship skills that might also help you in other relationships as well.

Remember: “Talk less, listen more.”

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“Changes, Transitions, Transformations, oh my!”

In the Wizard of Oz, Dorothy & her new friends venture into unknown territory saying, “Lions, & Tigers & Bears, oh my!”. Sometimes changes on the horizon can feel like that, full of fear, suspense, and excitement.

This Thursday our youngest child will graduate from high school and head off to college in September. Time to let go some more and trust her wings are strong enough to fly more on her own. Lately, I find myself remembering days when she and her brother were younger (and so was I!) Guess I’m in transition too. We parents forget that as our kids grow and change, so do we.

When the kids were little I used to sing to them at bedtime. One song that keeps returning to my memory lately is “Turn Around”.  Let’s see if I can remember the words.

“Where are you going, my little one, little one. Where are you going, my baby, my child? Turn around and you’re tiny, turn around and you’re grown, turn around and you’re a young man going out of the door. Turn around, turn around and you’re a young wife with babes of your own.”

I recall the kids didn’t want me to say “babes”, because that sounded like girlfriends.  They wanted me to say “babies”. So I said “babies” and smiled, amazed at such a young age they already knew what “babes” meant!

Well, here we go in just two days, watching our last child graduate from LA Unified School District. It’s been a long road. We’ve been fortunate to find good schools and good teachers most of the time.  Afterall, nothing is perfect.

Lots of changes, transitions, and transformations this year for our family. My husband recently retired after 27 years, our son graduated from college and is looking for work and just landed a part time job, our daughter is graduating from high school and will leave home for college soon, and I just officially launched a new parent coaching business!

By the way, my business “launched” successfully on June 11th at my first public presentation at the Santa Monica Library.  I look forward to doing more in the near future.

I will close with this from Fiddler on the Roof ~  “Is this the little girl I carried?  Is this the little boy at play? I don’t remember growing older, when did they? When did she get to be a beauty? When did he get to be so tall? Wasn’t it yesterday when they were small?

Sunrise, sunset, sunrise, sunset, swiftly fly the years! Seedlings turn overnight to sunflowers blossoming even as we gaze….. Sunrise, sunset, sunrise, sunset, swiftly fly the years! One season following another, laden with happiness and tears…..”

To Life! and to Transitions!!

Bye for now. Would you share some of your “transitions”?  How do you deal with change?

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Is Your Teenager Stressing You Out? ~ Come to a FREE Presentation, Sat. June 11th, 3pm

Parenting Flyer_Layout 1(2)

You are cordially invited to the official~

LAUNCHING OF LINDA’S BUSINESS ~ “GET HELP PARENTING”

To celebrate Linda’s new business, she will be giving a free, entertaining & informative powerpoint presentation for parents.  Enjoy the food, fun, friendship, and door prizes too!

When?  Saturday, June 11, 2011 @  3:00 to 5:00pm

Where?  Santa Monica Library (Montana Branch, corner of 17th & Montana)

Parking? Small free parking lot behind library, or on the street (no meters south of Montana & east of 17th)

RSVP: (310) 422-2397  or Lmartenspeaks@yahoo.com  or leave a comment!

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