1 Simple Way to Make a Difference Globally

1 Simple Way to Make a Difference Globally

What is one way you’d like to make a difference in this world? I have an easy and super effective idea for you and your family to look at; which could not only save a life but an entire village. We often take this one thing for granted, and most of us will continue to do so until we understand what it’s like to not have it. Let’s play a little game to see if you know what this is.

Quick quiz

Try and guess this simple thing that has a big impact, answer these three statements:

  • I planted a garden and depended on this to see my first flower bloom. What is it?
  • I had no energy, no appetite, no hope, all due to a rare disease that hindered me of this. What is it?
  • My husband left for a two-week venture to Nepal, his bravery and drive brought him there because of this for the people. What is it?

Do you know what it is? I bet it’s on your desk right now. It’s something so simple yet filled with power in a thousand ways. If you take notice of this you too will see where this small thing has made a big impact on your life. I know I’m not the only one.

My delighted encounter

When my husband and I moved into our new home I was giddy to have our own place. Before then we lived in apartments and duplexes. Some we fixed up and rented, others we lived there…no fixing needed. What a difference a house made for us! Sure there is a lot more responsibility, but as many I dreamed of my first real home. Granted it wasn’t brand new, but at least I could make a snow angel on the carpet without hitting any furniture!

Yet, the best part about our house is that it had a backyard. A garden was definitely in order. I wanted to see something I planted with my own hands grow. There is something magical about planting something. Getting my hands dirty was like therapy. Gardening renewed my mind, I didn’t think about work, or my to-do list, for all I focused on was the steps to gardening. Step one, weed, then break up the dirt (my favorite), push in a small hole, plant the seed, cover the seed, then water. That first day in the garden was so fun. My dirt-filled fingernails delicately pushed the last seed into the ground, I gently covered the seed, and then watered. Now the sun does its job. And all I have left to do is to make sure it has water to grow. I knew this easy project was going to make a difference, not only for our own eye but for our neighbors. We reaped a harvest of food over the years with our garden, flowers delighted our souls, and we passed the love onto our neighbors. Some of our neighbors got inspired and even planted their own gardens. This garden made a difference in our small neighborhood, all because of water.

A fight that still haunts me

Exhausted and debilitated from nonstop nausea and uncontrolled vomiting I clenched my cross desperate for relief. Eight months of day-in and day-out sickness tormented my body and mind. I remember saying to myself, “This must be what it feels like to die”. If you have ever been severely dehydrated, you know what I’m talking about. Your body hurts, standing up straight is a joke, nothing sounds good to eat or drink, you can’t see straight, think right, and your head pounds. There is not an ounce of energy in your body. And when you pinch the skin on the back of your hand and the skin doesn’t bounce back, you know you’re severely dehydrated. I still use this trick today.

If I drank too much I’d throw it up. Nothing is worse than wanting to drink water, but can’t because it makes you sick. My body was present, but I was gone; all from a rare pregnancy disease. I kept thinking, “What do women do in 3rd world countries where the water is dirty and medical help is scarce? How do they survive? How do they thrive? I don’t think they do. An IV pierced my collapsed veins. The color in my face came back and I felt somewhat human again.

The lack of water can literally kill, it can leave a scar on our psyche, and our body doesn’t forget it. That’s the scary part that our bodies don’t forget. For instance, when I get the stomach bug, my body remembers dehydration and immediately shuts down to preserve what it’s got. Thankfully I can go the to ER for fluids. If I didn’t, I probably would have died eight times already. Water saves the day.

On a global level

My husband’s heart beat towards a little village in Nepal near the epicenter where an 8.1 earthquake hit in 2015. The earthquake killed at least 9000 people; it flattened villages, triggered avalanches, landslides, not to mention destroying watersheds. Never being on a mission trip he chose to go across the globe, to camp on the ground, ride treacherous roads for 10 hours, and have land leeches eat at his feet.

While he was there he took notice of what the people needed most…and acted on it. They needed water. People were getting sick because of the dirty water. I kept thinking of my dehydration experience, granted they may not have been vomiting, but diarrhea can do the exact same thing. My husband was a changed man after that trip. He made it his mission to get water filters to that village, then from the help of Genesis Waters, he was able to install two entire water filtration systems for the village. People walked miles outside of the village to use it. After seeing how one simple necessity could change an entire village, he dove into helping more people with clean water and is now a board member of Genesis Waters. To this day hundreds of people from that small Nepal village are using the exact water filters; they are feeling better, stronger, and cared for just because of water.

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Anyone can make a difference with water. Our neighborhoods, the health of our own bodies, and villages across the globe. Clean water makes us stronger in more ways than one. Not one person can survive over three days without water. This may not be an exciting cause to support, but it is a life-saving one that will make a difference for generations to come.

Simple ideas to make a difference with water:

  • Drink it for good health, a clearer mind, and a cleaner body. Use a water filter for home. We use this one. I absolutely love it and trust it.
click for details
  • Conserve it. Get a rain barrel. We have one like the one below. You can also limit your time in the shower less and flush less.
  • Help the environment. Plant trees or a garden near a creekbed, the vegetation naturally filters water from rain and melting snow that runs into it.
  • Support organizations like Genesis Waters who can bring clean water to people in 3rd world counties. Trust me, you don’t ever want to experience dehydration via disease or lack of water…neither do they or their precious babies.
  • Teach your kids about water. Kids can get into this. It’s something they can relate to immediately.
  • Minister with it for others.

Teaching our kids compassion- two ideas

Want your kids to feel the compassion for water? Here’s idea #1. Recently my son’s class went on a field trip. They had been learning about a village in Africa where they had to walk five miles to a river to retrieve water. And the water wasn’t even clean. The women and children were sent there with big tubs to fill up and balance on their heads as they walked another five miles home. As a class, they reenacted what these people had to do. Instead of tubs, each kid was giving two empty milk gallons containers. The kids had to walk two miles through a forest to get to a pond. They filled up their jugs and had to walk two miles back with the heavy jugs. The class, of course, didn’t drink the water, but that experience helped them be more appreciative of what they have at their fingertips…a faucet.

Idea #2

Another idea to do with your kids is to simply take them camping. This can be as simple as buying a couple of jugs of water and living off of those for the weekend. Or you can take it to the next level and purchase a water filter and filter your own water from a body of water. I’m talking rustic camping; no showers, no potties, no water pump. This experience will not only toughen your kiddos up, but again help them be thankful for what they have. And they’ll have a lot of fun! Here is the water filter my husband recommends.

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Together we can make a difference in this world if we just focus on water. Simple, yet powerful.

By CT Copyright © 2017 More Than Existence All Rights Reserved.

Teaching Generations How to Work Hard – 4 Tips

Teaching Generations How to Work Hard – 4 Tips

There have been recent conversations in our home about what it means to ‘work hard’. Different generations have different definitions, I get that, but I think we can all agree that hard work takes four things: integrity, sweat, humility, and sacrifice

When I put an image to ‘working hard’ I picture the Brawny Man in the red flannel shirt with sleeves rolled up. Or I picture Pa from Little House on the Prairie; again he had his sleeves rolled up. Why do I associate rolled sleeves as hard work? It seems I’m not the only one. According to the Cambridge Dictionary to roll-up-your-sleeves signifies a person is ready to work.

Are your kids missing out?

When I was a teen I was taught to work first, then play. I also was taught that having a job was important and that you had to work for what you wanted. There has been a lot of chatter about Millennials (people born between 1982 – 2004) not knowing how to work hard. This disturbs me. For one, I’ve met many millennials that have two jobs and living on their own. They’re hard workers, they’re happier, and they’re confident.

Working hard gives me pleasure. I feel good about myself and I love the feeling of accomplishing something. At the end of the day, I can say with a smile on my face, “I put in a hard day’s work!” But are some Millennials missing out on this natural high?

In a study by Vanderbilt scientists, they discovered that people who were willing to work hard had higher dopamine levels than those who were not keen on the idea. Remember dopamine is a neurotransmitter that makes us feel happy and good. In other words…a University of Connecticut researcher, John Salamone states, “Low levels of dopamine make people…less likely to work for things. So this work-hard-bit has to do with your brain.

Teach how to work hard

Here are four tips to weave into the lesson of how to work hard:

  1. Make realistic attainable goals.
    • This is a small example; my young son was shooting hoops. He wants to be a great basketball player, so I said he couldn’t come in for dinner until he made 5 shots in a row from where he was standing. I gave him a realistic goal, one that challenged him, and one that would give him great pleasure. So what happened when he made his goal? He jumped up and down and cheered! Need a little help in making goals? Check out my free printable in Freebies.
  2. Focus on your dreams. What drives you?
    • If you want it bad enough, you’ll naturally work hard to get it. How bad do you want “it”? That diploma, that promotion, that certification, that house, that small business, that weight loss?
  3. Exercise and eat healthy foods.
    • This one has to be one of the easiest ways to get motivated to work hard. If you feel good, you’ll be more confident, make better decisions, be more alert, and be more creative…and probably make more money. Here’s a post I wrote on weight-loss and how to get started.
  4. Integrity.
    • By simply having strong moral principles, being honest, knowing what is right from wrong, and following through with commitments will help you. It’s hard work to have integrity, but when you do the right thing you again trigger the dopamine.

Let’s hold each other accountable to use our gifts, abilities, and morals to work hard, to make a difference, to be driven, and to be part of the big picture. Oh yeah, and don’t forget to roll-up your sleeves.

By CT Copyright © 2017 More Than Existence All Rights Reserved.

The Purpose of Creativity, Not What You Think.

The Purpose of Creativity, Not What You Think.

flame

Creativity is one thing I love to do in the kitchen. I’ll never forget the time when I was 10 years old; I reached for the flour in an overhead cupboard. My fingertips were millimeters away from the canister. One… more… bit… CRASH!

I was successful in getting the flour down, but it wasn’t in the canister… it was on my head. I stood there and sulked as my older sister laughed at me. She called me “Casper”.

Back then my dream was to become a baker. I loved baking cookies, muffins, and quick breads. Mixing simple ingredients with my signature twist was so fun. Unfortunately, its harder for me to bake these days. Not being able to eat gluten really puts a damper on the baking. But I still try and experiment with what I got. 🙂 My baking dream might have fizzled away but my need to create has not.

To truly feel alive I need to create something; whether it’s cookies, a garden, a writing piece, or simply drawing a picture on my son’s lunch bag. It is gratifying to see what my imagination can create. I feel like I did something. Know what I mean?

Why creativity is important

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Creativity isn’t just for fun. Creative thinking can solve problems, help us perform better at our jobs, help with depression, and it can help make a difference in peoples’ lives. Look at music, art, dance, and literature… what are those talents trying to do? Matthew Barnet has a great answer from his book, The Cause Within You.

He says, “Fulfilled artists do not paint or sculpt for the sake of creating more art. They do it to move people and challenge them to see the world differently. “

Want to know what’s scary?

From CreatingMinds.org they say our creativity fades away when we don’t use it. As in the Bible, it says, “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything…” Matthew 5:13. (NIV)

In our busy lives, it’s important to take a time-out to be creative; to take a small step in becoming the unique person we were intended to be. Not just for ourselves, but for the sake of others.

The creativity flame still has a glow in us. Let’s blow on it to feed the fire within. There is no better time than now to get our hands busy; our minds will love it, our hearts will feel good, and we may incite someone’s perspective.

By CT Copyright © 2016 More Than Existence All Rights Reserved.

To Be Aware: How to Teach Your Child

To Be Aware: How to Teach Your Child

A skill every child should learn is how to be aware of their surroundings. Some awareness skills we are naturally born with, instinct. However, if you really want to succeed in life, you must learn it and pay attention to it. This life lesson can not only save their lives, but it enhances their ability to succeed in communication, life skills, and survival in many different situations. I’ll teach you how to help your child and yourself become more aware of using your eyes and ears. Check out my tips below.

Gone fishing

CTFishon

“Shh…walk softly on the dock, we don’t want to scare the fish,” my dad instructed. It was a summer morning. The lake was like glass, not a movement of wind. Today, at seven years old, I was going to learn how to fish. And the most important fish skill of all: awareness.

We got into our boat, started the motor, and trolled to our fishing spot. My dad whispered instructions on how to bait the hook. He showed me how to adjust the bobber, and he demonstrated how to be quiet watching for signs of a hungry fish.

I wasn’t just learning how to fish; I was learning how to become more aware of my surroundings.

What exactly does it mean to “be aware”?

Wikipedia explains it like this: Awareness is the ability to directly know and perceive, to feel, or to be conscious of events, objects, thoughts, emotions, or sensory patterns.

As the world drives to go faster, to be aware of what’s going on around us and in us is being ignored. This can get us into trouble. We get so focused on our to-do lists, phones, and work that we forget to stop and look around to see what’s happening in our relationships, our children, and our overall path in life.

To be aware is a skill

There were two major events that helped me understand how important it was to be aware of my surroundings. One was fishing. The other was when I endured a rare sickness.

The sickness

Awareness doesn’t come naturally; it is a skill that can be learned or in some cases forced. Not too long ago I felt that force…not Luke Skywalker ‘force’, more like the ‘dark side’. My body suffered, so much so, the tiniest movements made me fall ill. For months on end, I was continually nauseous and weak. Have you ever heard of muscle wasting? That’s when your body eats itself because you’re not getting enough nutrition from food. That was happening to me. I couldn’t keep much food down, yet alone fluids. It was hard for others to understand what I was going through.

What I noticed while going through this torturing sickness was the love and compassion of others. Never had I paid attention to it before because I wasn’t the receiver of it. I became instantly more aware of how powerful a card was, how impactful a visit was, how humbling a listening ear was, and how a small smile from a stranger made me feel.

Not only that, I also became more aware of the power and reality of spiritual presence.  My faith grew stronger every day I suffered; I became more aware of His grace and protection. But I had to seek Him to get it. If I hadn’t endured this suffering my eyes would have missed these little gems of light in our broken world.

How to be aware with your eyes and ears

Open your eyes

This skill of awareness starts with using your senses.

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The simple exercise helps us to pay attention to even the smallest details. Do you know those “Hidden Picture” games in kid magazines? Or the Where’s Waldo books? These games are great exercises for enhancing our skills of paying attention. I would qualify myself as a Master Finder, not only in these games but in finding things around the house. Having the challenge to find something is gets me going. My dream vacation would be to hunt for buried treasured or go to a goldmine!

Want one?

Lately, my 11-year-old son is in that phase of asking me where everything is. My answer varies from, “It’s your responsibility to keep track of your own stuff” to “If you can’t find it, you can’t have it.” When in fact the item he is looking for is literally right in front of his face. I’m not trying to be mean by not helping him find it, I’m trying to teach him the skill of looking, to be aware. He obviously needs to brush up on this skill.

Tips

Tip #1: when finding certain objects whether it be inside or outside is to look for a piece of the object, not just the whole thing. Rarely is the entire object going to be visible? Look for a part of it. This technique works for fishing and hunting too.

Tip #2: envision yourself finding it. What reaction will you have? Will you pause and whisper to yourself that you found it or will you yell in excitement? Visualize yourself finding the object.

Tip #3: Lastly, but firstly, pray to God in helping you find whatever it is that you’re looking for. He knows exactly where it is, why not ask him to help you find it. Most importantly, listen for his ques and hints of where to look.

Use your ears

Like using your eyes, use your ears too. Ears come in handy when it’s dark or when you’re lost in the woods. Have you heard the lesson about listening for the road when you’re lost in the woods? How about listening for a car coming when you’re riding your bike on the road?

I’m a fan of the show ‘Naked & Afraid’. I hate to publicly admit that, but it’s a great show to teach us about awareness. The nakedness part could go away, I don’t like to see people’s exposed. Yet, because they are nude I think their awareness of their surroundings enhances. They feel vulnerable and their senses are on overdrive.

In this show, it seems at night is when they get the most freaked out. I don’t blame them. The noises they hear when they can’t see become so much bigger and uncertain that panic nestles in.

As in walking down the street. Using our ears helps us hear when someone is coming up behind us. Walk signs now have beeps to tell us when to walk. And horns on cars tell us something too.

I didn’t even mention Mother Nature, but we can learn a lot about the noises she makes.

Tips with hearing

Tip #1: If you’re in a strange place, unplug the earbuds. Pay attention to the sounds around you.

Tip #2: If you’re having a conversation with someone, listen to what they’re trying to tell you. There is more behind the words they say. Like when I was enduring the sickness. People understood that what I was really telling them was that I felt alone and needed comfort. Be aware of what they’re really trying to say, then act on it.

Tip #3: As in fishing or hunting, use your ears for clues of where they are. Is there a splash in the water? Are there leaves rustling or twigs snapping?

In conclusion

Be aware of the peace that is offered daily by nature, the kindness that is freely given by others, and the small blessings that are awarded without reason. I encourage you to stop and look around; for I know you’ll be amazed by what you see and find.

By CT Copyright © 2016 More Than Existence All Rights Reserved.

6 Easy Ways to Comfort Hurting People

6 Easy Ways to Comfort Hurting People

kids walking on path arms around each other

What does comfort mean to you when a friend needs a little help? When a friend reaches out for a hand to hold, are you there to grab it? Back in 2004, an old college friend of mine committed not only suicide but murder before he took his own life. What was hard for me was that I didn’t find out about this incident until six months later. If only I could have talked to him one more time maybe I could have helped? Maybe I could have told him more about Jesus? Or maybe I could have just listened to him talk about what was bothering him.

The way I found out about this tragedy was through one of his friends. I had been trying to get a hold of my friend to catch up on life, but he wasn’t answering his phone. Something was wrong. So I looked up his buddy and called him. His friend had told me the news. He said, “You didn’t hear?” I’m like, “No.” Apparently my friend had reached out to his buddies, but his buddies didn’t pay attention. I was so mad. All my friend might have needed was a little comfort. And I know he didn’t call me because he knew I was married and he would have felt weird. Ugh. Stupidness. Not having a listening ear might have cost my friend his life, the girl her murdered, and his life after death.

Awareness

It is a horrible story, and I still don’t know what happened. All I know is that his girlfriend had broken up with him. He was on drugs. And he couldn’t handle it. He obviously needed some help. I am still in unbelief. And I wish I would have called him sooner to check-up on him. This is an extreme case to show my point. But you never know how bad people are hurting.

I admire people who can share openly what’s going on in their life; I’m not talking about people boasting about themselves, I’m talking about people genuinely reach out for help. Why? Because it makes me feel human and it gives me a chance to help in some way or form.

It takes courage, confidence, and bravery to open up and expose our hearts to the world. We weren’t made to go through storms alone, so why do we try to keep it quiet and pretend everything is “fine”. Unfortunately, my friend did try to reach out, but no one was there to listen. Is that our fear of not sharing? Probably. But we have to take that chance especially if our life is on the line. The hard part is not knowing if your friend is hurting as bad as my friend was, so listen to them all.

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When a friend needs comfort that is far away

Recently, an old high school classmate of mine was going through a difficult situation. She had a choice; keep it to herself or share it. She chose to share it on social media, not for sympathy or for attention, but because she needed help getting through the storm. I admire her for putting her stuff out there, especially on social media where 90% of the posts are only good things that happen in people’s lives.

My heart went out to her and her family. I knew I wanted to respond but I didn’t know what to say so I thought about and responded to her the next day. She felt alone, you could read it even though she didn’t say it. And that struck a chord in me. Whether it was emotions, hormones, the Holy Spirit, or a soul connection, I started weeping for her broken and confused heart.

I thought back to my storm I endured years ago in my personal life, how alone I felt. I thought about my friend and how he must have felt all alone. From experience, I knew the best thing I could for her was to reach out to her, pray for her, and give her a promise that I would. Prayer really does change things, and just knowing that other people are praying for you helps you put more trust and confidence in the Lord.

I believe my friend posting the updates about her situation was meant to not only keep everyone informed but for her to know who was sitting by her. Sometimes you have to just exist with someone… to do more.

Here are some ideas to help a person out:

  1. Visit them
  2. Send them a card in the mail
  3. Pray for them
  4. Call them
  5. Just let them know you’re thinking about them
  6. Listen to them
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When a neighbor needs a little comfort

“As soon as you start thinking about the needs and burdens of others, and what you can do to alleviate them, or how you can bless and build up others, you begin to establish a new identity for yourself – your true identity.” –Matthew Barnett, The Cause Within You.

A while back I was talking with my neighbor. It started out as a friendly wave across the street, then she started walking towards me. I was in a hurry but knew I had to adjust my plans. She had to get a load off her shoulders and I understood the importance of a listening ear. Afterall she’s there for me when I need to vent! She needed comfort in knowing someone would listen to her.

After she was finished she looked really exhausted. Knowing what to say to comfort her was hard. I thought about suggesting ideas for solutions, but she didn’t ask for a solution so I just listened and told her I was really sorry she was going through all of this. She didn’t want advice, she just wanted to be heard.

couple walking on beach

What I did next

The next morning I tried to put myself in her shoes and asked myself if I were feeling down, what would make me feel a little bit better? I then hopped in the truck and drove to the market. Buying something for my neighbor is what I wanted to do. Who doesn’t like to get a gift? But I wanted to get her something she could look at that would bring a little joy in her heart, not something to eat or drink, but full of color. The store I went to has amazing flowers, so I plucked out all sorts of colorful carnations. The thing I love about carnations is their bright colors and cost. They are inexpensive but have a lot to say. So if you’re on a budget go for the carnations.

When I got home, I arranged the flowers in a mason jar and went over to her house. A soft knock on her door was all I did and she opened it immediately. I handed her the flowers and said, “Just thought you could use these on your desk.” No words were spoken, yet her eyes got glossy. She kindly said thank you and I left.

No matter who needs help whether it’s online or in your neighborhood, take notice. Listen to what they’re trying to say. And let them know you hear them.

By CT Copyright © 2016 More Than Existence All Rights Reserved.

Mom? I’m bored. One thing every parent should do.

Mom? I’m bored. One thing every parent should do.

dad and son walking to hunt

Thirty-some years ago when we were bored we went to Mom. We didn’t have iPad’s or cell phones, heck; we didn’t even have TV remotes or garage door openers. Back then we didn’t think twice about walking home from school or playing outside after dark. We were so free and fearless. As technology progressed and the news increased, our cheese moved whether we wanted it or not and fear shackled our ankles.

Whether it be electronic devices or overall safety there are many studies on how staying inside is affecting our kids’ health, their learning, social skills, and a simple appreciation of the outdoors. As parents we dreaded three words: Mom, I’m bored.

The “I’m bored” conversation I had with my son:

“Mom, I’m bored,” my son said.

“It’s okay to be bored,” I said.

“But Mom! What am I going to do?” he replies.

“Why don’t you go outside and play,” I suggest.

“Na, there’s nothing to do outside,” he ends. “Mom, what can I do?”

That very first conversation about being bored was a heart-sinker. And sometimes as adults, we don’t quite understand it. After all, we were their age at some point, and I’m sure we were bored too.

When I was his age I was outside ALL the time, and mostly by myself. So when I heard MY son say there’s nothing to do outside, I realized something had to change. But more so, I realized I had to change. I had to encourage him and not let up, and maybe I had to even show him how to play outside and use our imagination.

Why the outdoors is so important for our future

For some reason, I thought kids were born with an attraction for the outdoors, but not all are. According to the Outdoor Industry Association (OIA), back in 2014, they did a report about youth outdoor participation (6-24 years old). What they found were two major deterrents: lack of interest and lack of time. This tells me that now a day, playing outside is a thing of the past.

My answer to my son ‘Why don’t you go outside and play’ was an easy answer. I should have said, “Let’s go outside and play”. But what if you have work to do? Then you schedule a date. Respond with something like this, “Mom has to finish this project, so let’s plan on going outside together at 4:00. Okay?”

Young Child looking through Magnifying Glass

I recently read that the Michigan DNR is going to help schools who have forest land make the best of their natural resources by putting together outdoor education programs. It says, “[Educators] say taking students outdoors to learn and apply math, social studies, art, science, language arts, and physical education…is more engaging and meaningful.”

The OIA states from their study, “Reconnecting youth with the outdoors has become critical to the health of future generations and the health of our natural landscapes.” The future of our natural resources will someday fall into the hands of our children.

What am I going to do about this?

For starters, I told myself if I wanted him outdoors I had to show him. So I changed my answer to, “Let’s go outside to play”. This put a kink in my day, but this was important to me. I wanted him to develop a relationship with nature. That way he’d always have someplace to play and not be alone. My thinking was if I can get him started, then he’ll figure it out. And it’s been working!

What did I do?

Depending on where you live and what resources you have you may have to get creative yourself. Things that I did with my son included:

  • Going for a walk and talking with him how important nature is to our survival.
  • We played “I Spy”.
  • I helped build a small fort out of snow and in the Spring we used sticks and cattails.
  • I made a scavenger hunt.
  • His favorite was the obstacle courses.
  • We did yard work together.
  • We explored the park and played “I Spy” and looked for treasures.
  • As he got older I taught him how to make fire with a flint and dryer lint. I also taught him about matches and lighters. Please know I had tight rules to not do this without an adult.
  • We cooked hot dogs and marshmallows by the campfire.
  • We looked at bugs…not my favorite.
  • And we hooked up hammocks and looked at the clouds for fun shapes.

What changed my son’s mind

Over the next few months, we went camping in a campground with our little tent as a family to get our son more connected with nature. We did the whole bit. Tent, sleeping bags, camp food, and a fire. The campground had a lot of amenities like showers, playgrounds, wi-fi, and organized kid activities. All was a great experience, but it didn’t hit in his heart. All that changed was sleeping in a sleeping bag for him.

It wasn’t until this past summer when he went on a canoe fishing trip in northern Minnesota that all my hard work paid off. This was as rustic as it gets. No cell service (no wi-fi), no cozy bathrooms or showers, no playgrounds, no organized kid programs, and no car! Just a canoe, backpack, some food staples, playing cards, and fishing poles. My husband and a few other relatives and friends embarked on this trip.

The result? Bored?

When my son got back I thought for sure I was going to hear an earful of how awful it was. I was mentally prepared to hear how much he missed his iPad, friends, and…how bored he was. Yet, to my surprise, I heard the complete opposite. He loved every minute of it, except the mosquitos. The guys told stories, played cards, and my son read a whole book in a day! He caught fish, he ate fish, and according to my husband, he didn’t complain about a thing! Ever since that trip he has been saying he wants to go back. In fact, I asked him what his favorite trip was last summer…we went to a lot of places in our camper…and he said the fishing trip in northern Minnesota.

Our kids still may be bored every once in a while, but at least we can say with confidence to go outside! It’s the fun stuff we show them outdoors that our kids will remember. Most importantly they’ll always remember who brought them to it.

“Must we always teach our children with books? …. Let them look at the waters and the trees and flowers on Earth. Then they will begin to think, and to think is the beginning of a real education.”-  David Polis

Copyright © 2016 More Than Existence All Rights Reserved.

Martin Luther King Jr. in Child’s Eyes

Martin Luther King Jr. in Child’s Eyes

Not too long ago we, as a nation, recognized Martin Luther King Jr.’s Birthday. Banks were closed. The Post Office was closed. Public schools were closed. If you haven’t heard of Martin Luther King Jr. or haven’t understood his stand, he was the most visible spokesperson in the Civil Rights Movement from 1955 until his assassination 1968. Dr. King believed in non-violence, he was determined, he knew his purpose, and he acted on it. He paved the way for peace.

Martin Luther King Jr. Day

My 7-year-old son HAD school on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. His school honored Dr. King by teaching the students about him…what better way to celebrate this day. His teachers explained what Dr. King was fighting for. The students experienced his “I Have a Dream” speech. My son came home excited yet a little confused.

At dinner our son started the conversation like this, “Guess what?”

“What?” we respond.

“Did you know… that some people had to go to different schools? They couldn’t ride the same bus or use the same bathroom because they were tan? That’s so weird.”

We respond, “Yeah, we know. Thankfully, it’s not like that anymore.”

I pause and ask. “Did you guys talk about Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous speech today?”

“Yeah.”

Our neighborhood

For you to understand the next question I asked my son, you need to know that we live in a diverse neighborhood. Our neighbors come from all over the world; we exchange smiles, conversation, baked goods, a cry on a shoulder, and a helping hand. We look after each other and even pray for each other. Our next-door neighbors and our neighbors across the street are African-American.

“Honey?” I ask. “Do you know anyone who is “tan” which is also called “African-American” in our neighborhood?”

Our son says, “No.”

My husband and I look at each other and smile. I wink at him.

“It doesn’t matter what people look like, does it?” I ask.

Our son says, “No, that’s silly.”

“That’s what Dr. King was trying to tell the world,” I explain.

“Yep. He did a good job,” he says, then continues to eat his apple sauce.

If only we could be more like kids

What I took from this small yet huge conversation was that our son has lived seven years on this earth and hasn’t seen skin color. Children have this awesome power to look beyond the surface and see the heart. They are more concerned about how people make them feel, rather than what they look like.

“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

In hindsight

After this conversation, I was simply in awe of my son’s observations. And I hope and pray his views will continue as they are. Just remember, no matter how we were raised, it’s never too late to start looking at the world with child’s eyes. You have the ability to make your own opinions and not be molded from what other influences told you. Do more than exist, love all people the way you would like to be loved.

“Dress-up” Not Just for Kids: 5 Benefits to Play Dress-up

“Dress-up” Not Just for Kids: 5 Benefits to Play Dress-up

boy and girl playing dress-up

As a child, one of my favorite activities was to play dress-up. Yet as an adult dress-up plays a big role in our overall success, did you know that? Have you ever tried mowing the lawn in a business suit? How about swimming in blue jeans? I’ll give you the top 5 benefits of dress-up for both kids and adults and why you should think about what to wear.

My recent dress-up play

One of my dreams as a kid was to have a Little House on the Prairie kind of life. What I mean is where the clothes and doing basic chores in them. I know that might sound silly, but those dresses were so pretty and full! I never forgot this dream. Today I do not live in the country, my neighbors live about 12 feet away on both sides of our house, but I do have a little garden.

After a fried day to the brain, I wanted to do something different to spark my imagination and escape my time zone so-to-speak. I wanted to play dress-up. To my bottom of my dresser drawer I went and pulled my big long skirt out. I would define this skirt as a gypsy skirt. It was dark teal with scattered blue sequents, and lime green lace and ribbon. My imagination wanted it to be one of those long prairie skirts that Ma wore in Little House on the Prairie.

What I did next.

I slipped on the skirt and headed to the garden to do chores. It was fun walking to the garden, but gardening in this thing was not fun. The garden was full of weeds and I only had a short amount of time before I had to get my son from school. My ‘playtime’ immediately went to ‘work time’.

working in garden

Wearing a long skirt while gardening is not the smartest move. I don’t know how they did it in those days, but it was pure misery. Weeds poked my bum and little bugs crawled up my legs! Needless to say, I didn’t want to get my fun skirt dirty. I got nothing done and my ‘fun’ escape turned into a stress ball. Back to the house I stomped, I even stepped on my skirt and about pulled it off. Arg! I threw my fun skirt on the floor and pulled on my garden pants. Back to the garden I went, sat down in the dirt with confidence, and weeded the rest of the garden in half the time.

What I learned

What I learned from my dress-up play is that I needed to decide if I wanted to play or work. If it’s to play, to be practical goes out the window, who cares! But if it’s to work, you gotta adjust your attire and put practicality to use.

As soon as I changed into my garden pants, the pants I don’t care about getting dirty, the garden was weeded efficiently and quickly without any bug up the butt interruptions! All in all dressing the part will give you a leg up on performing the part.

Top 5 Benefits

1. Builds Confidence

Confidence. We all want it, we all need it. Why? Because people are depending on us to make things happen. Things usually don’t happen unless we have confidence in doing the task at hand. Playing dress-up gives us permission to move forward and boost our confidence in looking the part.

The more confident you feel in your clothes

the more you’ll achieve.

For instance; dressing the part tells your mind to do that specific activity well. If I’m mowing the lawn in my work suit, I’m going to hurry up and do a bad job because I don’t want my suit to smell like mower exhaust. And if I’m swimming in jeans…let’s just say I would probably drown. I know these are off-the-wall examples, but I’ve seen people do them. Not only did they look miserable, but the guy mowing the lawn did a terrible job. To read more about confidence, check out this post: 5 Easy Ways to Build Courage & Confidence.

2. Improves Brain Function

Dressing the part or playing dress-up engages our mind and triggers our memory. If we saw a coworker do an epic presentation and noticed their outfit, we too want that feeling of awesomeness when we do our presentation, so what do we do? We dress-up as they did.

If we saw our mom make an amazing meal while wearing an apron, we too would want to wear an apron. How about dad working in the yard with his work gloves and ballcap?

Wearing clothes that correlate to the job we’re trying to perform, puts us in the mode of doing a good job in that particular role. It gives us more confidence and freedom to act the part out, hence stimulating our brain to think as they do. When we dress like the character, we start to think like the character.

3. Fake it til you make it.

Dressing the part gives you permission to be that person. Have you heard the saying, “Fake it til you make it?” Sure you have! And you have every right to do so. You’ll learn more and more about that role until you know how to do it. Especially so if you are around people in that particular role.

4. Challenges your skills

What does a uniform say? It says I’m an expert, I have the answers. When you, let’s say, start a new job or your going to a trade show, your company wants you to wear their logo. They are asking you to represent them, which says you need to know the answers. Another example is at the store. You have a question, who do you seek for answers? Someone in uniform. When you wear the vest or logo, you have a responsibility if you want a paycheck. Dressing the part challenges you to learn as much as possible to answer questions. In return, knowing the answers makes your job a lot more fun and rewarding. It becomes easy and builds confidence.

5. It’s fun.

Putting some fun in your work can start in your closet or accessories drawer. Wearing fun bracelets, rings, or scarfs really do make a difference in enjoyment. Even nail polish can lift our moods. Dressing the part or playing dress-up is fun! When you have pep-in-your-step you’re happier, more productive, and people notice.

Isn’t just for kids

Playing dress-up isn’t just for kids, us adults will benefit from it too. We don’t have to dress up in our old prom dress or as a frontier woman to reap the benefits of dress-up, we can make subtle additions that can have a magical impact.

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Subtle dress-up ideas:

  • Wear a fun apron when you cook or even clean. The apron gives you confidence in making a mess! Who cares if you wipe flour on your apron or splash cleaner on it, it’s an apron! It’s simply doing its job. Check out this super cute apron.
  • When working outside in the yard wear work gloves and “garden pants”.
  • Working-out? Dress for success. Pitch the cut-off sweats and homemade tanks, pull on the performance wear.
  • Home from work? Immediately change out of your work clothes into something more relaxed.
  • Dress for the weather…need I say more.

May you get the most out of your outfits. Dress for any occasion, you’ll feel better, have more confidence, and you might learn a thing or two.

Copyright ©2016 More Than Existence All Rights Reserved. By CT

4 Simple Tips for Planting a Tree

4 Simple Tips for Planting a Tree

tree
This is Bruce the Blue Spruce, a tree my little ‘farm’.

One of my favorite things to do in spring is planting a tree or two. My childhood was surrounded by trees. That’s probably why I love them so much. They were my friends when I didn’t have anyone to play with, they were my listener when no one else would listen, and they were my entertainment when I didn’t want to watch TV.

No, I’m not a major tree hugger. But I do want to do my part. In fact, on my vision board, I have a ‘tree farm’. About five years ago I started my own little baby tree farm in our backyard. I bought pots, dirt, and saplings of Blue Spruce, Douglas Fir, White Pine, Sugar Maples, and Burr Oak. There has been so much joy in watching are caring for my tree babies. In the Spring I would sell them for a discount. So much fun!

Tree facts and benefits

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Trees have many benefits, they reduce air pollution, enrich habitats, bring beauty to the eye, they shelter us, and comfort us in many ways. I got the book, The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben. Oh my goodness, so interesting! Did you know trees communicate with others through their root system? That they ‘scream’ when they need water? If you have an interest in trees or are curious about them, this is a great find to read.

There are about 3 to 6 billion trees cut down globally per year. That’s a lot of trees! No wonder our atmosphere is so polluted. Mahatma Gandhi has a valid point, “What we are doing to the forests of the world is but a mirror reflection of what we are doing to ourselves and to one another.”  

4 tips with trees:

  • Plant a tree to represent an important time in your life. You’ll take better care of it knowing there is symbolism behind it.
  • When planting a tree in the ground, make sure to dig a wide hole and only as deep as the pot. Carefully remove the tree from the pot and spread out the roots. Cover with dirt and then a 2-inch layer of mulch. Water the tree every day for two weeks. And wrap the trunk in the cold winter months to protect it from sunscald and rodents. Do this until it’s big enough to thrive on its own, probably when the trunk is at a 4-5 inch diameter.
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  • Don’t know where to get a tree? Try a local nursery and opt for native trees, trees that thrive in their environment. For instance, White Spruce is a native tree to Michigan, but Blue Spruce is native to Colorado. Your local conservation office should have trees to buy. You can also get a tree on Amazon! Seriously, you can get a Sugar Maple.
  • Go to the Arbor Foundation for trees to purchase, or you can make a small donation and they’ll send you free trees as a thank you. They have loads of information in caring for your tree.

Trees are the best monuments that a man can erect to his own memory. They speak his praises without flattery, and they are blessings to children yet unborn.” – Lord Orrery, 1749

Let’s make the world a better place for ourselves and future generations.

Copyright © 2014 More Than Existence All Rights Reserved.

Do You Know How to Smile?

Do You Know How to Smile?

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A smile says a lot, even from our dogs. Not too long ago I visited my ala mater and was shocked at what I saw on faces. As I drove up 7th street to go to the Student Union all I saw were frowns. Seriously, not a single smile. The funny thing was is that all the girls were wearing the same kind of outfit. That made me smile!

In Dale Carnegie’s book How to Win Friends and Influence People, a book every young twenty-something should read, Dale says “The expression on one’s face is far more important than the clothes one wears on one’s back.”

Not only that but Dale also mentions what Professor James V McConnell, a psychologist at the University of Michigan says about smiling, “People who smile tend to manage, teach and sell more effectively, and to raise happier children.”

What’s up at college campuses?

When I got home from my campus visit, I told my recruiter friend who visits many college campuses what I experienced and how sad I was about the emotionless students. She told me that it isn’t just happening there, the ‘no smiling’ thing is happening on other campuses too.

I told her that I even did a smile test in the women’s restroom, you know what I’m talking about….you smile at someone and they smile back? Well, that’s what is suppose to happen, but it didn’t work. I felt invisible. And shocked for that matter. So I tried again in the hallway. Still nothing! When I went outside, I tried again. Not even a look in the eyes! This was getting quite comical. I must have looked silly smiling at people, but not getting a single smile back.

What could be the cause?

When I saw all these students looking like drones, they had no emotion just blank stares as if they were all suffering from vitamin D deficiency.  At first, I thought they were all depressed or stressed. Maybe they failed an exam or they stayed at the bar too late the night before. But all of them? What gives?

Then I thought of a more educational reason, I blamed the frowns on two things. Social networking and their incompetence to know how to interact with people face to face. It was like they were afraid to smile or they didn’t know-how. Maybe that’s a little extreme, but with social media and social distancing going on people may very well be afraid to show their real self out in the world.

What’s the big deal about a smile?

Smiling is a natural, automatic expression we reveal when we are happy or when we feel good. Psychology Today says that smiling releases endorphins, hormones that make us feel good. We need to smile to stay sane!

When I was in college I remember a time when I was walking through the Arboretum to get to class and a stranger smiled at me. As a natural response, I immediately smiled back. In fact, I remember my smile was over-exaggerated because I was so shocked he smiled! Ha ha ha!

The effects of a stranger giving YOU a smile is loving. I even remember telling my roommates that some random guy smiled at me, not like a slimy-lets-go-on-a-date look, but a ‘hey, hope you’re having a nice day’ kind of smile. Smiling makes us feel good and it boosts our confidence.

I didn’t know how to smile!

In Kindergarten I didn’t know how to smile. Yep. I had no idea. My sisters tried to teach me but I just couldn’t get the corners of my mouth to go up on cue. School picture day was coming up and I so desperately wanted to smile, but every time I tried my lips clamped shut and the corners of my mouth turned down. I tried so hard!

With lots of tickling by my sisters in front of the mirror, I finally understood the smile. By 3rd grade, I was smiling on demand. Yes, it apparently took me that long to get it down. Who would have known in my Senior year in high school I got voted ‘best smile’. 🙂 

Make a difference and watch what happens!

Brighten someone’s day, smile at them. Smile at your kids. Your children need to see that you are happy. Even if you’re not having a good day, still show them you can smile. You deserve to feel good and they deserve it too. Smiling says many things beyond what words, e-mails, tweets, texts, or instant messaging could say.

When you smile, people will be curious about who you are because you look happy. People seek happiness and they want whatever is making you show your teeth. Let’s put our phones down, take our earbuds out, and pay attention to people walking to class or in the grocery store, heck even in the car next to you. Smile and see what they do in return.

Last but not least, keep on smiling before you forget how to do it, it really does make life a lot more rewarding. Don’t forget to check out Dale Carnegie’s book How to Win Friends and Influence People!

Copyright © 2014 More Than Existence All Rights Reserved.

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