Teaching Grown-ups

Homophones on the road

Homophones on the road

We’ve been out of school on fall break for two weeks.  This is a souvenir I received from someone really special.  This is one of those priceless little gifts that probably nobody else will really understand.  It’s from a husband and wife who come and mentor my little reading rock stars.  Not only do they mentor six of my little people every single week, but they fill-in on short notice when mentors are absent.  They do a lot of really nice things for me.  They are so precious and wonderful.

I often take a little time to give refresher info to the mentors so that they will understand what they’re doing with the kids they mentor each day.  Recently we’ve been working on multiple meaning words and homophones and so I’ve been giving the adults a refresher course on what, exactly, a homophone is.  That’s not common knowledge that we carry through life and use in daily conversation.  Even the most intelligent people forget some things.

So Sandi and David were driving through North Carolina over fall break when they passed this church.  They stopped and went back to take a picture of the homophone on the side of the road so they could show me that they’ve learned what I’m teaching!  It’s hanging on my bulletin board.

These are the kind of gifts that stick with me because they remind me that what I do matters and people care.  Probably silly to everyone else…priceless to me.


Do you have an hour a week to help a second or third grade student become a better reader?  Click here to find out more about how to become a HOSTS mentor. http://www.wayne.k12.in.us/hosts/

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom

Dear Mom, I know I wasn’t an easy kid to raise.  I think that’s why God gave me to you; He knew you could do it.  And you did!  I’m far from perfect, but I’m way better than just OK.  You taught us what truly matters in life–love, loyalty, family, faith, education, and moral standards.  All things no amount of money could ever buy.  You led us by example. You ARE the Grandma you set out to be.  Their sun rises and sets in you.

Thanks, Mom.  I love you.  Happy Mother’s Day.

(Click the “Play Button” on the bottom right)

My 30 Day Shred

Four years ago I lost 42 lbs.  I went from a size 14 to a size 6.  Great, right?  The problem is that I lost all of this weight during a maximally stressful time in my life.  I lost it because I was living on Marlboro Lights and Coke Zero–not exactly a healthy diet plan.  So I found myself skinny for the first time in 13 years, but with no real way to manage it.  Within six months I was a size 8, but I was fine with that.  I was making better food choices and that was working for me, but I was fairly sedentary.

A year after I lost the weight, still at a size 8, I quit smoking.  I had been working from home for a decade, so my schedule had a lot of flexibility.  I joined the Y and started working out some and swimming.  I managed to stay in my size 8’s, though they got a little more snug. Some big life changes happened and I went back to the world of working 40 hours (at least!) every week outside my home.  Then I enrolled in college, and promptly slowed down and then stopped working out and swimming.   The next year wasn’t too bad, I was so busy that I didn’t really have time to eat much.  But I became increasingly more sedentary as I began to spend all of my spare time studying.

March 29, 2013 marked 3 years out from my last cigarette.  The only size 8’s I can still wear have a lot of Lycra or spandex mixed in.  The first warm day came last month and I tried to put on something from my summer wardrobe–nothin’ doin’.  Not one single thing in my summer wardrobe fit me.  I could still button a couple of my jeans, but the “muffin top” was enough to make me cry and I was so uncomfortable.

The biggest obstacle I face in weight management is that I cannot eat gluten.  Don’t ask me to tell you what foods I cannot have, because the list of foods I CAN have is much, much shorter.  So there is not a weight loss plan out there that I can follow.  Even Weight Watchers would not give me enough food choices to make it possible for me to stick to the diet–I looked into it.  I only have one size of clothing in my closet.  Part of no longer being a size 14 is getting rid of your size 14 clothing, which I did 4 years ago.  I have no budget for a new wardrobe.  Now what?

Enter Jillian Michaels.  I have never been much on exercise classes.  I don’t like slamming into other people while I’m trying to workout, and I don’t like having to learn a bunch of fancy dance moves made up by the instructor of the week.   I don’t have much time to throw at my workouts, so I need maximum results for a minimum investment of time.  I started doing Internet research and I found really great user reviews on the Jillian Michaels 30 Day Shred. There are 3 levels of workouts.  This is not because Jillian doesn’t want you to get bored.  You have to do Level 1 until you’re strong enough to move on to Level 2.   If you’re looking to be entertained, look elsewhere.  If you’re looking for fancy dancing and chatting with a friend while you’re doing this, look elsewhere.  This is a SERIOUS workout.  For the first week I screamed curse words at the television, but I hung in there.  You only work out for 25 minutes including warm-up and cool down, but you work.  You get out of it what you put into it.  If you stop and rest, you might as well look elsewhere.  You won’t get the results you want.  She has someone doing lower impact, modified versions of all the moves behind her at all times.  If you can’t do the full move, do the modified version but don’t stop moving.

Today is day 18 for me.  I did level 1 for a week, level 2 for a week, and I’ve been on level 3 for 4 days.  By the end of the first week my strength and endurance had increased drastically. I was blown away at what had happened in only 7 days.  I stopped screaming curse words at the television.  All I did was keep on moving through the whole 25 minutes every day.  Some interesting things had begun to happen; I had started to crave this workout.  The endorphin boost is addictive.  I also started making better choices about what I eat. I’m not dieting. Gluten free is all the diet I can ever do.  I just make better choices.  After I hump and sweat through this routine, I don’t really want to chow on some fattening empty calories.  But, Friday night is pizza night at my house. I go down to Monical’s Pizza and get myself a gluten free sausage and mushroom individual pizza, and I eat it.  My husband is a meat and potatoes guy, so I choose lower carb lower calorie foods during the day and eat what my family eats at dinner.  18 days into this I’ve lost about an 1 1/2 inches off my waist and off each of my thighs.  My arms are slimmer and have more definition.  There is no more cellulite in my armpits.  I can now wear about half of the cloths I could not wear 3 weeks ago.  My muffin top from hell is not gone but it’s down to one small roll and getting smaller every day.  Today I was able to do things in the level 3 workout that I could not do 3 days ago.  I feel better than I’ve felt in years.

It’s pretty basic calisthenics.  Jillian is an expert in how to burn the most calories, work the most muscle groups simultaneously, and keep it simple enough for even someone with “two left feet”.  This is not for the weak-willed.  You have to push through the pain.  There weren’t really any negative reviews on this workout, but the few negative things I read were people who got bored of doing the same routine every day for a week or 10 days.  Or people who didn’t like how hard they had to work so they cheated and then wondered why they didn’t get results.  I was just happy when I could finally do what Jillian and Natalie were doing!  I’m not here to be entertained.  I’m here to be healthy, and skinny!  And that’s happening.  One caveat: don’t expect massive weight loss.  A gallon of fat only weighs 5 pounds.  This routine turns your fat into muscle and muscle weighs more than fat.  So worry more about how your cloths fit and how your body looks, and stay off the scale.  I haven’t weighed myself at all.  I don’t have a weight goal.  I have a clothing size goal.  So if I fit into my cloths and they look nice on me, I really don’t care what the scale says.

You don’t even have to go out and buy the DVD.  All of the workouts are on YouTube.  I get YouTube through my DirecTV satellite service so I do these workouts for free right in my living room.  You only need about a 3′ x 6′ space.  You can get YouTube on your computer, tablet, or smartphone for free.   If you need to buy the DVD, it’s only $10 at Walmart. While you’re there, grab some cheap hand weights.  I have a set of 3lb and 5lb.  They’re about $4 to $5 each.  It was 5 days before I could even use the weights in the routine.  I recommend watching each video once before you start the level so you know exactly what to do and can concentrate on just doing it.  You don’t want to be looking at the television while doing some of these exercises–it’s very bad for the neck.  That’s why she keeps it simple.  If you’ve watched it once or twice you know what to do.  I watched the level 3 video 10 days ago and thought “no way am I ever going to be able to do that!”  10 days later, I’m doing it.  This works if you work it.

To your health!


Our Struggle With “No”

Today my friend, Jill Shea, posted this to her Facebook page:

“Everybody is going to want you to do what is convenient for them. Learn how to say the most anointed word ever created: “NO”.

This is an area that has been an enormous challenge to me throughout my entire life.  “No” is not a simple two-letter word.  In fact, it is a huge source of stress and confusion in the lives of almost everyone.  We don’t like to hear it; we don’t like to say it, even though it holds an enormous amount of power.  We don’t say it when we probably should; we do say it when we probably shouldn’t.  Wars are fought.  Relationships are destroyed.  Jobs are lost.  Money is squandered. Health is compromised.  Lives are lost.  All at the hands of that one little word.  REALLY?  Really…

Can’t say no to food?  It’s likely that you wrestle with obesity and serious health issues.  Can’t say no sex?  It’s likely your personal life is a mess.  Can’t say no to cigarettes, booze, or drugs? Can’t say no to a salesperson?  Is it starting to sink in?

I have a theory.  Our struggle with “no” begins when our life begins.  It is innocent and very well-intentioned.  When we were kids we were taught to eat everything that was served to us. Regardless of whether we were hungry or liked it, we were forced to leave our plates clean.  If not, there were consequences and they could be severe.  That’s how our parents were raised, and their parents, and their parents…all the way back to when we killed what we ate and ate what we killed.  There were no leftovers. You ate it or you threw it away.  But as the world changed, this life practice did not.  And look us now.  We are the most gluttonous, obese, and unhealthy society on earth.  No blame here; I’m just stating facts.

When my oldest son turned one, I took him off formula and handed him a sippy cup filled with milk.  He took one drink, scrunched up his face, cried out, and threw the cup on the floor.  For months I was wringing my hands, trying over and over to get him to drink the milk.  My family and friends would call from all over the country to see if I’d forced him to drink the milk yet.  I was strongly  encouraged to thirst him out.  To literally give him nothing else until he drank it.  Children MUST DRINK MILK, right?  Wrong!!  It was his pediatrician who gave me permission to trust my instinct.  Everything in me was screaming that I should not force something that was clearly undesirable.  I didn’t like the message that sent to my child.  Nobody in my life agreed with me but they finally let it go. Guess what; he’s nearly 13 and he’s fine–healthy and thriving without ever consuming another drop of milk.  7 years of elementary school they forced him to take, and me to pay for, milk every day because I refused to sign a paper saying he’s allergic.  I refused to coach him to lie.

As we grow into a world where “no” is rarely an option for us, we begin to use it inappropriately.  Think about a two-year old child. What is typically their favorite word?  It holds a lot of power–that which they have quickly learned they possess very little.  And so it begins.  And as we grow it becomes ever more confusing and complicated.  Can you count how many ways your life might be different if you’d just said “no”–to that last drink, to those credit card offers, to that come-on, that cigarette, that cupcake…

We can’t change anything in our past, we can only learn from it.  Please don’t play the blame game; it is useless and so very destructive.  We can use our past as a tool to move ahead with better habits, rich in the knowledge gained at The School Of Hard Knocks.  Careful now, over-use of “no” is not better than under-use.  The key is in balance.  Tune in to yourself, to your life, and to those who matter to you.  When you start saying “no” to the things that are truly negative you will see your life change in amazing ways you never imagined.  We are all going to do some things we don’t necessarily love doing, but we learn when to say “yes” because it serves a greater purpose.  We feel better about stepping outside our comfort zone–about saying “yes” when we should, when we might have said “no” in the past.

So far I’ve said “no” to food that was making me sick and keeping me overweight.  My health has improved drastically and I’ve lost 40 pounds.  I’ve said “no” to cigarettes and I’m 17 months free from their hold on me.  I’ve said “no” to people who use me shamelessly but don’t appreciate me, and my stress level has dropped immeasurably.  These were not the easy habits to break.  I still do lots of things I don’t want to do, but I do them with a much better attitude.  I do many things I never did before that I really enjoy. I give of myself because I want to, not because someone demands it. I take pride in my accomplishments, work hard to keep changing the negatives, and live in better balance by using (not abusing!) the power of “no”.


When Kids Are Cruel It Breaks Hearts

I have never in their lives counseled my children to lie about anything, until today.  Today I instructed my son to break my cardinal rule of absolutely no lying– and to do it quickly.  I tried not to cry.

Something you may not know about me, I have a child with Autism Spectrum Disorder.  We are so blessed.  He lives a very normal life.  We have had many years of the best teachers and school support staff, along with the best therapists.  If the Autism spectrum is a line that goes from zero to a hundred, my son started out at maybe fifteen, and is now at about five.  He’s going to go on and live a completely normal life.

Today one of his lifelong friends was razzing him about having ADHD, which is information I’m not thrilled his parents have shared with him.  Instead of walking away or ignoring the teasing, my son –with the very best of intentions–made the fatal mistake of correcting this child.  “…it isn’t just ADHD, there’s Autism with it.” Oh my! Let the games begin.

I’m writing this now because this is the outlet that keeps me from doing anything to make this very bad situation worse for him. I have to accept that, at nearly 13 years old, I can’t make this OK for him anymore. I fear he may be learning one of the hardest lessons he’s had to learn in his life so far.  My heart aches for him.  They were so mean.  They called him “mental” and I’m not really sure what else but he was genuinely and deeply hurt.  These are boys my son has literally grown up with since the age of 4.  The friends he made the mistake of thinking he could trust.  This is one of the little nuances that goes along with his “inconvenience”.  He doesn’t entirely understand social queues and behaviors. We spent a great deal of time teaching him over the past 6 years or so.   And since we’ve hammered into his head that truth is almighty, he expects that it shall always set him free.

When I told him about Autism Spectrum Disorder, I all but begged him not to tell other kids.  I tried to explain that kids will be really cruel, even the ones you think are your friends.  Ever so sadly, he thought he would get total acceptance from his “real” friends.  When he didn’t, it hit him straight in the heart, no buffer.  The one child who didn’t say cruel things to him, defended the ones who did from Nick’s counter attack on their abhorent behavior.  There were absolutely no winners in this scenario.

And so I told him to lie, and to do it quickly. I told him to go back to his friends and tell them he was lying about having Autism.  He said they thought he was lying about it anyway.  It’s so undetectable in him that they’ve gone all these years without noticing.  He was reluctant to lie. I pushed him.  “…they don’t believe you anyway, so go tell them you were lying and then just let it go.  You have nothing to be ashamed of.  But you’re learning about a potential negative side of absolute truthfulness.  Sometimes you just keep a thing or two to yourself.”  God help me.  I’m not sure if I made the right choice or not.  I don’t believe this is something to be ashamed of!!!  But he’s only just started middle school a few weeks ago and a thing like this can change a teenager’s life forever.  They’ve made it this far without noticing.  We need to ease them into it.  I pray I helped him make the right choice.

He headed out the front door about 5 minutes later and hasn’t come back yet.  I have to let him handle this alone, and I will, but it shreds my heart into little pieces.  I’ve known for some time that I can’t make things right for him anymore.  It was wonderful while it lasted but that ship has sailed. My role now is to help him make things right for himself.  I never thought I’d be counseling him to lie.

I’m proud of my son for standing up for himself and expecting his friends to step up to the plate.  So far he’s not a follower.  He stands up even if that means standing alone.  The one great thing with kids is that in a day or a week things tend to blow over, and they move on.  I, on the other hand, will never forget this day for the rest of my life and I suspect my son will not forget it either.


The Journey Begins

Many years ago while listening to an audio cassette of a seminar given by a motivational speaker, Dr Layne Longfellow, I learned something very important—life is a journey. Doesn’t sound important to you? Please read on.

Many, in fact most, people lead their lives as a series of destinations. We tend to think that as soon as…I graduate, I find a job, I get a promotion, I get a new car, I fall in love, I get married, I buy a house, I have a child, I buy a bigger house, I get another promotion, I retire…everything is finally going to be OK. Quoting Dr. Longfellow “…we come to the middle and later years of our life and find that we have lived our life as a series of destinations, and not as a journey.”

I want to tell you why I have found Dr. Longfellow’s philosophy to be so important, and why I now feel a calling to share that philosophy with as many people as possible.

Even after I heard it, thought about it, believed in it, I still didn’t live it. Consequently, my own life has been that series of destinations. Some of the destinations for which I have longed I have not realized. Others turned out to be a huge disappointment. Still others have been rewarding BUT I failed to reap as much of the rewards as possible because life was all about finally being there. I completely missed out on all the rewards of getting there.

A real life example: In 2002 I was offered a job that afforded me the opportunity to work from my home. A real job with a salary, benefits, etc. WOW! I jumped on it. This job was a lateral salary move working for a startup company doing something very exciting for the industry I have worked in most of my adult life.

Over the next five years this company literally bled me mentally, emotionally, and financially dry. By the end of the first 6 months they had gotten me to agree to a “salary deferral” to help keep the company floating. I was brainwashed into footing the bill for a lot of expenses the company was supposed to reimburse. I worked ridiculously hard, long hours, never got a raise, never had the proper tools to do my job well, I could go on, AND ON, but you get the idea.

They did all of this by creating a series of destinations for us to reach, always with the promise that as soon as we reached that destination we would all reap massive financial and professional rewards. Then they would either make the destination impossible to reach or change the directions entirely. During this 5 year block of time (the journey) I met some really great people who ran some really respectable, profitable businesses. I had many opportunities to leave the land of insanity for greener pastures. But I had been promised so much and I had worked so hard to get it. Surely as soon as…but it never happened. A merger finally did me in. The new board of directors didn’t want to pay my salary—the same salary I had been paid for 5 long, grueling years.

During those 5 years, my 1 & 3 year old sons became 6 & 8 years old. I was here for most of it, physically. But mentally I was elsewhere—chasing the destination, thinking I was doing this for my sons and my husband, so we could finally have a better life.

I was missing the “life” part; the journey. I know I’m not the only one. There are millions of us. So my goal is to live out the rest of my life as a journey. Feel free to come along. There lots of great things to explore, no matter where you’re going.