conceiving-family

Conceiving Family

I had the great pleasure of watching a new documentary today called “Conceiving Family“. The film chronicled four couples through their journey to build their family. All four couples spoke of their desire to be parents and the love they want to share with a child. They spoke of the options they considered — including surrogacy and donor insemination — and how they came to their decisions to adopt — domestic, overseas, special needs, private and public. They share their anxiety, frustrations, challenges and finally their joy of realizing they would be parents.

Did I mention these four couples are gay? Oh yeah, the couples in the film are all same sex couples. How does that make you feel?

There are thousands of children, from newborns to teens, in need of a permanent family. However, there are still a lot of barriers to gays and lesbians adopting a child. Interestingly, the number of gay and lesbian households that are choosing to have a family is rising exponentially. In the USA, the Child Welfare Information Gateway says there are between 8 and 10 million children are being raised by gay parents — An estimated two million Gay/Lesbian/Bisexual people are interested in adopting.

I went looking on the internet for some information and statistics to write this article. Aside from objective information, facts, and figures, I found a lot more.

One website says: “The implications are severe. With the acceptance of two homosexuals as joint parents, the family is torn from its traditional and God-inspired balance of a mother and a father both giving of their commitment, love and essence to the children.”

Wow. I didn’t realize that just being a heterosexual couple automatically makes you a great parent! Phew, that’s a relief. No need to worry about those parents — we need to focus on the torn families that will surely result from same sex parents.

This was just the tip of the iceburg, and frankly, although I knew there was a lot of opposition to same sex couples having children, I guess I didn’t think it would be so hateful.

Interestingly, one of the couples encountered simular beliefs. The Christian Fundamentalist foster parents who had cared for the children that one couple hoped to adopt expressed fear that the children would, “grow up to be gay” with parents who are “going to hell for their sins.” I don’t want to spoil anything for those of you who may wish to watch the film, so you will have to see for yourself how this turns out.

There is a lot of prejudice out there regarding same sex couples and whether they should be allowed to adopt a child at all. There are others who say that sexual orientation doesn’t matter, as long as the child will be in a happy home filled with love. There are also people who find themselves somewhere in the middle.

The film is enlightening, entertaining, humorous, and also pulls at your heartstrings. Some will rejoice in the message; others will be uncomfortable. I recommend the documentary no matter what your beliefs.

arm wrestle

Facebook Controversy

When do you speak up and when do you walk away?

For so many of us, Facebook is a great way to stay connected with family, friends, and acquaintances. A place to discover different worldviews and discuss a variety of topics. A place to share thoughts, photos, and little bits of our lives.

Recently I expressed a different opinion from a friend on a topic she posted on Facebook. I am a bit outspoken about my opinions. I endeavour to be respectful, stick to the issues, and have meaningful debates.

I ended up being called negative, snooty, “high and mighty” and always think I’m right, and sheltered. We have been on opposite sides of issues before.

So, I went back and reread my original comment. I tried to look at it from her side. Maybe my comment was a bit flippant. That wasn’t my intention, but the written word sometimes comes across differently than the writer intends.

Based on our history, I replied that since it was apparent that we wouldn’t be able to have a discussion on controversial topics, I would no longer read or reply to those. And then I logged off and went about my day. I chose to walk away.

Since it was a public post, others jumped into the conversation (most of which are people I don’t even know). Many disagreed with her viewpoint, and from what I gather responded strongly, partly fuelled by the earlier parts of the conversation. The original poster sent a private message to one of the respondents. This made it’s way to me.

Here it is.

poor little retarded fat girl stay off my page your age is showing

poor little retarded fat girl stay off my page your age is showing

How did she think this was ok? How many other messages did she send? How often does she do things like this?  This is when I do feel “high and mighty”. This is in no way acceptable.  How many people receive messages like this every day? How many stay silent? This is when I feel I need to speak up.

Eventually she deleted all the replies. When I became aware of the situation later in the day, I was appalled. I then saw that she named me in a post, blaming me for the controversy and calling me a liberal (as an insult), and a bully.  I gave no response. I chose to walk away. By the next morning, that topic was deleted as well.

I’m sure there are many of us who have had similar experiences online. How do you react? Fight or Flight?

I feel compelled to talk about it. To share the experience. To draw attention to what goes on behind the scene. Bringing it out into the open sometimes can help others know that they are not alone if they ever are on the receiving end of such vitriol.

This was all a good reminder to me that:

  • If you don’t want to hear different opinions, don’t post controversial topics. Not everyone will agree with you, and some may let you know it.
  • There are those that, no matter how politely you state your opinion, will see it as an attack on them. They are unable to differentiate between the issue and the personal.
  • Sometimes it’s best to just ‘walk away’.
  • Don’t feed the “trolls”. Sometimes the best response is no response.
  • People are not always what they appear to be online – some are kinder than they are in person, and some are nastier.
  • There are a lot of good people out there who will jump in and try to stick up for someone they feel is being attacked.
  • If you feel a strong emotional response to something you see, take a deep breath, and really think about if you want to engage in a conversation or argument.
  • Don’t post anything you wouldn’t want your grandma, mom, or children to see.

It’s ok to disagree! It’s not ok to belittle, call people names, or send hateful messages. Ever.

happy

Be Happier in the New Year

Is this going to be your year? As we leave another year behind and turn to a fresh new year, many of us make resolutions with the best of intentions. All too often, within a month or two, those resolutions have been broken. I had a friend who said she resolved not to make any resolutions. This way, she wouldn’t break any of them!

One thing we can all really try to do is have a positive outlook. Some experts think that happiness is a choice and is not something that is really influenced by external forces. If we decide to have appositive outlook and be happy, we can then live a happier life. So, rather than make resolutions to do specific things, why not try to resolve to be happier? Here are some ways to be more positive.

Say “Thank You”

Gratitude can help you look at the positive things and the people in your life who you are thankful for. Write a heartfelt thank you note to someone you appreciate. It will make both of you feel good.

Look for the good

In many situations, there is some good to be found. Try to look on the brighter side. As long as our troubles are not life and death, they can more than likely be overcome and will someday be just a memory. I had a coworker once who helped me see this. There was a lot of stress, deadlines, and frustrations with our job, so it was not a good situation. When things would get bad, she would say “Well, it’s not blood or air.” This helped us both relax and put things in perspective. The good in the situation was we could share our frustrations and we had each other to turn to for support and understanding.

Don’t count on someone else to make you happy

We are all responsible for our own happiness, so take ownership of it! That is not to say that we can’t find happiness from being with other people. Being with others and enjoying their company is good for us and one of the pleasures in life for many. But, we should not count on others to make us happy because that has to come from within ourselves. If you aren’t happy within yourself, you can’t expect anyone else to be able to make you happy.

Put on some music to dance and sing

Singing and dancing can be a mood booster! Put on some of your favorite music and sing and dance loud.

Breathe in the fresh air

Get outside! Some experts say that just being outside can help with your mood and help your outlook on life.

Play

Got kids? Play with them! If you don’t have kids of your own, spend some time with relatives or friend’s children. Kids often have a great attitude and their positive attitudes can be infectious.
Got pets? Play with them! Pets can help boost happiness and reduce stress.

Smile and laugh

We’ve all heard the sayings that “smiles are contagious” and “laughter is the best medicine”. Look at yourself in the mirror and smile – just do it – even if it makes you feel silly (that’s kind of the point). Watch a funny movie or share a joke. Do whatever it is that you know will make you smile and laugh. Sometimes this takes effort, especially when you don’t feel like doing anything.

Feeling down?

I don’t just mean the occasional blues. If you are feeling like you just can’t be happy, you could be depressed. If that is the case, please talk to someone or seek professional help. You owe it to yourself, to those you love, and to those who love you.

All the best for a really happy new year!

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Taking the Dis out of Disability

Imagine the birth of your baby. You anticipated the baby’s arrival and dreamt about how life will be when he or she is born. You love your baby with all your heart, even before birth. Now, imagine your baby is born with a disability. Imagine further the doctor or nurse wanting to take your baby from you and send him away before you even hold him. Sound unbelievable? Not so long ago, if someone was born with a disability, the family was encouraged to send them away. It was viewed that disabilities were something to be ashamed of and families couldn’t possibly be equipped to care for someone with a physical or cognitive disability. So, our society built special homes and schools and locked people away in institutions.

Saying No to INSTITUTIONS

A few brave souls determinedly said “no, I will not send my child away”, but they were the minority. There was often no help, support, or understanding for them from the community.
I do not for one minute want anyone to think I blame the parents who did send their children away. For the most part, they were told, and believed, that what they were doing was for the best for their child. I have spoken with some of these parents and know the heartbreak they went through. I have also talked with some of the grown children who were raised in institutions, and know their story too. I have not heard a story yet of a happy childhood in an institution. The stories are ones of neglect, abuse, loneliness, and hopelessness.

Changes Still Coming

Thankfully, our society has changed, and these institutions are no more. We have come a long way, but we still have a long way to go. Talk to 10 people about what a disability is and I bet you will get 10 different answers! Ask them about the place of people with disabilities in our society, and that’s when things get even trickier.

There is still a lot of fear and misconceptions surrounding many types of disabilities that people face. There are still children at school who will call a child with a learning disability “a retard”. There are still adults who call someone in a wheelchair “a cripple”. There are those who feel that the disabled have no place in our schools or workplaces. People with disabilities are often the victims of bullying and feel lonely and isolated. Many pity those with a disability.

Look at Abilities

We need to take the dis out of disability and look to what abilities people have! Just because someone thinks or processes information differently, or because they move through the word differently does not mean it is a bad thing. It is just different and we need to embrace the differences in all of us. Look at the person first, not the disability.

When it comes down to it, people with a disability just want to be loved and accepted for who they are – is this any different than what you want for yourself or your children? With compassion and understanding, we can make it a better world for all of us.

resolutions

Keeping Your New Years Resolutions

How are those New Years Resolutions Doing? How many of you made some great resolutions at the start of the year? More importantly, how many of those resolutions have been kept?

We often start off with the best intentions – this year I am going to stick to those resolutions! A few weeks pass, the afterglow of the holiday season fades, and reality sets in. Busy lives with our families, work, and whatever else you may have on the go can really derail the best of intentions. This can leave us feeling defeated.

So, how do you keep those resolutions?

Keep Them Small

One of the best ways to stick to a new years resolution is to start small. Instead of saying “I’m going to go to the gym every day,” why not start with a couple of days a week? Or start with something that you know you can fit into your daily routine, such as a 15 minute walk, run, or whatever.

Or instead of “I’m not going to spend any money on x (when “x” is something you have routinely done or bought on a regular basis), how about “I will only spend money on x twice a week.”

Whatever it is, you are more likely to stick to a small change than a change that is really drastic. Set yourself up to succeed, not to fail! You can then build on your resolution throughout the year.

Plan Ahead

Resolutions we make at 12:01 am on New Years day without any prior planning or thought will more than likely go by the wayside very quickly. Any time is a good time to make positive changes in our lives. If you don’t make a plan before the new year, that’s ok! Give it some thought and realize that a change made on February 1st is just as good.

Let Others In On It

Tell others about your resolution. If those close to you know what it is you want to accomplish, they can help support you in your efforts.

Be Patient With Yourself

Apparently, it takes 21 days for a new habit to become routine – and 6 months or more before it is really ingrained into your life. It’s okay if you slip, just try to get back on track and don’t beat yourself up over it.

Make a List

Make a list of the reasons why you made the resolution – and a list of why you shouldn’t do it if there are any. You will be able to look at this list and it can help you with your resolve.

Have a healthy and happy year ahead!

new-year

Involving the Kids in the New Year Celebration

A lot of New Years Eve activities are adult oriented. But what if you want to spend the evening celebrating with kids? You can help the kids ring in the New Year with these fun activities.

1. Make their own Times Square Ball. Simply get a large paper grocery bag and paint it silver,gold or whatever colors they desire and then add stickers ,streamers,etc. fill with candy,confetti,toys,etc and tie with a ribbon. Hang with ribbons that are attached in each corner of the bottom of the bag through holes that you have punched when midnight strikes let them pull the ribbon and all the candy and confetti will come pouring out.

2. If kids can’t make it until midnight before falling asleep find a country with a time zone that has midnight arrive at a better time for them. visit this website:
http://www.timeanddate.com/counters/newyear.html

3. Make a float for New Years Day. Use a cardboard box or decorate a wagon with streamers, crepe paper, balloons and poster boards.Then they can have their very own parade .

4. Make hats by rolling up paper to form a cone and then stapling or taping it and decorating it.

5. Give them gift poppers that you have made. Take a toilet tissue roll and cover it in silver or gold wrapping paper by rolling it on the tube then twist one end of the paper and tie with lots of curly ribbon then the end that is left open simply fill with small candies, treasures and confetti and then twist that end and tie the same as the other end. Take a push pin and poke tiny holes around each end of the ribbon so when the kids pull it it pops off easier and out come the goodies inside!

Start the New Year off with activities for the whole family and vow to do more and be closer as a family this year and every year to come!

Angela Billings is a stay at home wife and mother who publishes an online newsletter Home and Family Ezine. http://www.homeandfamilyezine.com

boxing-day

Bucking the Boxing Day Trend

Alternatives to the Boxing Day shopping trend

Do you go shopping on Boxing Day? Battle the crowds for a deal? Talk shopping strategies with your family over Christmas dinner? Camp out overnight to be the first in line for a bargain? Or perhaps you work on Boxing Day.

Not me. For as long as I can remember, I have been “anti-boxing day” in the sense that I refuse to step into any kind of store on Boxing Day. I figure there is nothing I need that badly that can’t wait another day! When I was a retail store owner, I also had my own store closed so my staff and I did not have to work the day after Christmas. I know some store owners that used to have their Christmas dinner early in the day then head down to get their store ready for a big sale on boxing day! No thanks.

So, if you want to join me in bucking the Boxing Day shopping trend, here are a few suggestions for other ways to spend the day.

Other Ways to Spend Boxing Day

  • Go for a walk – enjoy the company of family and friends as you go for a quiet walk in a local park or wherever you choose.
  • Play with your kids – Odds are your kids received some Christmas gift that they would enjoy sharing with you! Play with Lego, play a board game, put together a puzzle. Your kids will remember the time you spent with them and have fond memories of Boxing Day for years to come.
  • Go tobogganing, skiing, or skating – if you live in a snowy place, grab your woolies and hit the slopes or head to the rink!
  • Visit friends and family – to me, this is what the holidays are all about; cherish your time together.
  • Visit a neighbour – do you have a neighbour who may not have any family around for the holidays? They would probably enjoy a visit.
  • Visit a senior’s home – sing a song, play some cards, read a book! Many seniors would love to have someone visit with them.
  • Watch a movie – pop some popcorn, sit back, and enjoy!
  • Read a book – curl up with a good book and relax.
  • Bake – enjoy a day where you do not have anything else scheduled and bake some cookies or other goodies with your kids (or someone else’s!).
  • Make turkey soup – make it a family event with everyone helping.
  • Volunteer at your local food bank or soup kitchen – giving back to the community helps those who may not have as much; an added bonus is that it feels good!
  • Host a party – if you went somewhere for Christmas dinner, why not invite people to join you for a get together on Boxing Day.

Essentially, I encourage everyone to do anything other than shop on Boxing Day. If enough of us were to do this, maybe all those retailers who have their employees working on Boxing Day will instead give their employees two days off in a row at Christmas time to make their own memories!

How do you spend Boxing Day? If you could do anything, what would it be? Tell us in the comments below!

cartao-de-natal

Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays?

‘Tis the season! At your home, the stockings are hung by the chimney with care…. the nativity scene is on the fireplace mantle…. but someone at the supermarket wishes you “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas”. You grumble and wonder why the heck can’t people just say Merry Christmas! Political correctness has gone too far!

We live in a multi-cultural society. People celebrate many, many things this time of year, not just Christmas. Some people embrace more than one holiday or celebration. Others, while only celebrating one, are curious and like to learn about others beliefs and traditions.

Many employees are required by their employer to use a specific greeting with their customers. Cut them some slack! Imagine working (and more often than not for minimum wage) and having people grumble at you all day just for wishing them a happy whatever! When did a simple greeting become such a political statement or a religious battleground?

If someone wishes me well with any kind of greeting, I say thank you and wish them the same. I am not offended any time someone offers me a kind word. If that offends you, I really think it says more about you than the person who offered you the greeting.

Try it! Even if you don’t like or believe in what they wished you, smile, thank them, and wish them the same. You will surely put a smile on their face and instil some “goodwill toward men”. Isn’t that all a part of what the season is about?

So, I hope you all have a Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Festivus, Happy Kwanzaa, and a Wonderful Solstice – or even just a nice day! Peace and love to you and  yours.

Scroll down and tell us what you think!

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Holiday Soul Snacks

Soul Snacks are spontaneous time-outs: creative ways you can nurture your spirit in 15 minutes or less. Here’s a week’s worth, specially designed to help you balance the busy-ness this holiday season.

Day One
What are your favorite holiday memories? Pose the question tonight at the dinner table. Use your family’s answers to plan this year’s celebration. You may be surprised at the special memories that have nothing to do with gifts or elaborate events.

Day Two
Last minute shopping still to do? The Flylady, who is committed to helping us all simplify and de-clutter, offers these lists of creative, clutter-free holiday gifts: http://www.flylady.net/pages/ClutterFreeGiftsW.asp

Day Three
Bundle up and head outside. Make snow angels or build a snow fort with your kids. When it’s time to warm up, build a cozy fire and roast marshmallows in your living room.

Day Four
What’s your favorite homemade holiday treat? Write down the recipe, and share it with your friends. Encourage them to do the same.

Day Five
Challenge each member of your family to fill a box or bag full of items to give away. Decide as a family where to make a donation.

Day Six
Get out and enjoy the crisp winter air today, all by yourself. Listen to the crunch of snow underfoot. And treat yourself to a steaming mug of hot chocolate (with marshmallows) when you return.

Day Seven
What was the favorite book you read this year? With whom would you most like to share its message? Purchase a copy for them and drop it off…anonymously. Taking just a bit of time each day to nurture yourself will ensure you enjoy every last fa-la-la during this magical season. Happy holidays!

Susie Michelle Cortright Susie Michelle Cortright is the creator of the Soul Snacks booklet series: http://www.momscape.com/soulsnacks and the founder of the award-winning website Momscape.com Visit today to get her free course-by-email, “6 Days to Less Stress”: http://www.momscape.com

end-friendship

Breaking up with a Friend

Ending a Friendship

I am fortunate to have many great friends in my life. I know that they will be there for me, and that I will be there for them through good times and not so good times. We can laugh and cry together. These are people I enjoy spending time with, and enjoy spending time with me. Sadly, I have also had friendships that were not so great. I’m sure this is true for most of us.

Sometimes we find ourselves in unhealthy relationships – and often we are not sure how we got there or when it happened. Sometimes friendships start out great and then over time things change. Other times, we just don’t see the dysfunction for a long time. Many times we keep up with these friendships because we have invested a lot of ourselves into the relationship. How do you know when to just walk away?

First thing, it’s ok to end a friendship. Just like it is ok to get out of a romantic relationship if things are not working for you, it is ok to end a friendship too. It hurts (a lot!), it doesn’t feel good (that’s an understatement!), but in the end you will be better for it.

Break the Habit

Sometimes we remain friends with someone because we have been friends for so long. Long time friendships can be wonderful and very rewarding. It is natural for any long term relationship to go through ups and downs and periods of closeness and distance. We may have friends that we don’t see often, but when we do see them, it is like no time has passed. There is a closeness and connection!

However, there may be times when you just don’t have any connection to the person anymore and you just see each other out of habit. It’s ok to break the habit if you don’t feel you want to spend time with that person anymore. It’s doesn’t need to be drastic, sometimes these relationships can just gradually fade away.

Feeling Unvalued

Have you ever found yourself remaining friends with someone even though you no longer feel good about spending time in their company or feel that you are not valued? You are not alone by any means. It can be heartbreaking! When you realise this, it’s ok to distance yourself from that person or end the friendship all together.

One sided friendships

Have you ever been in a friendship where you feel as though you are the only one really making an effort to maintain the friendship? Are you the one initiating contact most of the time? Does being this persons friend make you sad, wondering why they don’t make an effort? If so, it’s ok to stop making contact. You may not even need to ‘break up” as often the friendship will just fade away without you making all the effort.

Negativity Bringing You Down

If you find that you are brought down by being with someone because of a negative attitude, or are brought down by listening to them talk negatively about others, it is time to look for more positive people to spend your time with.

Feeling Judged

It’s ok for people to have different viewpoints, beliefs, and values. It is not ok is when someone is judging you for being different from them. You don’t need this person in your life.

How to End it?

Sometimes you can just let a friendship fade away. Other times, you may have to just be blunt and let the person know you do not wish to spend time with them. Be honest with yourself and with them, and try not to blame. Try to not let your emotions run wild; if you can be matter-of-fact and not get into an emotional roller coaster ride with your friend, you will feel better for it in the long run.

Enjoy the Good Friendships

When you stop being friends with people who are not good for you, you will have more time to enjoy the healthy relationships in your life!

christmas8

What to Do When You Are Alone for the Holidays

Being alone for the holidays is a major challenge for many people. Holidays often conjure images of family, of warmth and the sharing of special time. Loneliness can be overwhelming when you have no one with whom to share holiday time.

Many people, however, miss the point of what holidays are really about and what makes them special. Holidays are not about what you GET – they are about what you GIVE. Many people are under the misconception that the joy of holidays is about what you receive rather than about what you share.

Our hearts get filled with love when we give and share love, rather than from getting love.
This may seem like a paradox. Many people spend their time with others attempting to get love, attention and approval, thinking that this is what makes them feel happy and worthy. But getting attention from others to fill ourselves is like eating chocolate when you are lonely – it works for the moment but then you need more and more of it. Eventually it becomes an addiction.

What really fills the emptiness is the giving of love. If you are alone over the holidays, the question becomes, “How can I give love in ways that will bring me joy?”

Below are some suggestions for sharing your love and caring over the holidays:

* Gather toys from friends and store donations and bring them to children who would not otherwise have toys. You can find these children through schools, churches and various other organisations.

* Find a battered women’s shelter in your area and help to create the holiday there – preparing food, decorating the tree, and just spending time with them. Last year a friend of mine organized a number of her local markets to donate food over Christmas to the local shelter that housed mothers and their children who had left abusive husbands. She got to know the mothers and children and received great fulfilment in providing them with an abundant Christmas.

* Spend time with old people in nursing homes, especially those who have no family. Spending time caring about another lonely person will go a long way toward taking away your loneliness!

* Volunteer to help with serving food to the needy over Thanksgiving and Christmas. Many churches and other charitable organisations welcome volunteers to help in food lines over the holidays.

* Locate a retreat center near you that has a special event over the holidays and share your time with other people who are also alone for the holidays. Last year a friend of mine, who had just left her husband and was alone for the first time with no family around her, went to a beautiful retreat center on the East Coast. Twenty people gathered there to share Thanksgiving together. There was a wonderful ceremony of gratitude that she said filled her heart, and she enjoyed sharing time with new people.

* Find a church, temple or 12-step group in your area that has special events for singles over the holidays. Go to these events with the intention of sharing your caring with others, which you can do just by being interested in listening to another person. We all love being listened to and understood, and all of us have the capacity to give this to another.

One of my all-time favorite movies is “A Christmas Carol,” – the one starring Alistair Sim. I just love the scene on Christmas morning when Scrooge realizes that no time has passed and he has the opportunity to give. He feels such joy at the prospect of giving, that he can hardly stand it! He dances around and stands on his head and laughs and laughs with the joy of giving! In one night he went from being a miserable old man concerned only with getting, to a man now focused only on giving, and he became a joyful person.

While you might not have money to give, we all have caring to give. You have no idea how much you might enrich your own life as well as another person’s life just by giving your time, your attention, your interest, your smile, your understanding. Whatever your life circumstances, you always have the opportunity to give your caring. You will discover that giving your caring to others, especially over the holidays, is a profound way of caring about yourself.
Margaret Paul, Ph.D. is the best-selling author and co-author of eight books, including “Do I Have To Give Up Me To Be Loved By You?” She is the co-creator of the powerful Inner Bonding healing process. Learn Inner Bonding now! Visit her web site for a FREE Inner Bonding course: http://www.innerbonding.com or mailto:margaret@innerbonding.com. Phone sessions available.

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Pregnancy and Infant Loss

October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. For some, the joy of pregnancy or parenthood turns into a time of great loss and unbearable grief.

Sadly, many people are afraid to talk about this, leaving those who have experienced infant loss feeling very alone. Silent, unprocessed grief from previous pregnancy loss can have a huge impact on their lives going forward.

For friends and family, it is so hard to know what to say or do. It is important to remember that for many who have experienced loss, they want to recognize the birth of their baby, not just their baby’s death. They need love and support.

Family and friends should acknowledge the loss of a baby like any other member of the family. Never dismiss it with comments like ‘you can try again’ or ‘don’t worry, it happens all the time’.

It’s ok to express that you don’t know what to say. Just being lovingly present is often the best thing you can do.

Keep in contact, even though you don’t know what to say, or how to offer support. Here are some suggestions of ways to start the conversation:

“I am so sorry for your loss of your baby. I just don’t know what to say or do but know that I care about you and am thinking of you”
“I am so sorry for the loss of ……..…. Is it a good time to call?”
“It just breaks my heart to hear you lost your baby. How can I help you through this?”
“How are you really feeling today?”
“When you are ready, I would like to hear more about your baby”

You also may want to do more practical things to offer your support. Instead of asking if they want help, which is often met with a response of “No, it’s ok”, suggest ways that you can help. For example:

“I’ll come over later and do your laundry for you”
“Can I pick something up for you from the store?”
“I’ll cook dinner for you tonight”

Don’t forget the father. Often the focus is on the mother, but we need to remember the father is grieving too, even though they may be trying to be strong and support their partner.

Copyright Free - Stock Free images.  Public Domain image dedication. CC0 1.0 Universal Licence - http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/

How to Make More Money

Could you use a little more cold, hard cash? Who couldn’t? Generate (or free up) some quick bucks with these savvy tactics.

Hold a garage sale. Make sure you do it right. Get the word out through signs, flyers and ads to ensure plenty of traffic. Fill a cooler with cheap sodas and charge fifty cents a can. You can even scour others’ garage sales the week before yours for the ‘deals’ you’ll be re-selling!

Go over your budget. Are you cringing? Don’t be. By simply keeping track of where your money goes for a month or so, you’ll quickly see a few easy places to free up cash. When you know that it’s temporary, it’s very easy to do. No pizza for just this week; instead have a picnic with leftovers while watching a video. Combine errands for a couple of weeks and deposit the gas savings into your ‘extra cash’ account. Reward yourself in a non-monetary way for the ‘sacrifice’ you’re making and you’ll find this can be a lot of fun!

Give lessons. You don’t need to be a pro to share your knowledge with others. Keep your prices low so people will respond favorably and remember, it’s more than you were making otherwise. Sewing, gardening, cooking, musical lessons, you name it. You may find you really enjoy teaching others!

Create a summer job. You don’t have to be a teenager to mow lawns or baby-sit. Many people do handyman-type work in the summer such as painting, mowing, or general fix-it work. Deliver newspapers. Offer to cook a meal a week for a busy family. If you’re going to be working on someone else’s property, be sure you get the proper insurance first to protect yourself as well as check on the necessary licensing in your area.

Start a business. Everyone knows that most businesses are not profitable right away, but there are exceptions. Join a party-plan or direct sales company and you could be making money very quickly. Just make sure you have a plan of action first, since these types of jobs require significant personal motivation to work.

Barter. Maybe what you really need is not cash, but a particular project done. If you can do top-notch work yourself in a different area of expertise, offer to trade services/products with someone in the field you need. The key is to keep the retail value of the traded work or product equal so that everyone comes out a winner. Be creative! For a little investment of time and energy, you could have the extra cash you need!

Colleen Langenfeld delivers deals, tips and creative resources to working moms who want the most out of their homes, families and careers at http://www.paintedgold.com . Sign up for our free newsletter and get an online Creativity Toolkit as our gift to you!

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Learn to Love Your Body

Twenty-four percent of women and 17 percent of men say they would give up more than three years of life to be thinner. That’s according to a poll conducted by Psychology Today magazine.

At the same time, studies show that half of American women overestimate the size of their bodies.

Sociologists who study the western-world phenomenon of poor body image attribute the problem to a variety of factors, including media and cultural influences, as well as parental and peer messages.

The advertising industry ties the already complex issue of body image with materialism. A slender body is associated with wealth, health, and attractiveness. A heavier body is associated with sloth, indulgence, and a lack of self-control.

Psychological factors can add to the effect of media and culture. Girls who experienced sexual abuse or an emotionally difficult puberty are more prone to body dissatisfaction as adults. So are women who feel they have little control over their lives.

Women who have felt the most brutal blows from poor body image say it is not a single factor acting in isolation. Jenifer Tracy, who battled bulimia for nine years, says a combination of factors, such as a non-supportive family environment and a poor self-image, snowballed in the presence of cultural influences.

“If I had love for myself or love from my family,” Tracy says, “it would not matter what a model looked like, and it would not affect my personal self-esteem.”

The Dangers of Body Dissatisfaction
When we realize that it is a combination of influences that lead to body dissatisfaction, we empower ourselves to solve the problem. We can seize power by breaking the chain of these influences wherever we can.

Carolyn Strauss is a top plus-size model, author of Specialty Modeling, and a nationally recognized expert on body image issues, from fashion to self-esteem. Her accomplishments now include her own clothing collection featured on the Home Shopping Network. Through it all, she helps other women move toward a more positive body image. Strauss says the biggest danger of a negative body image lies in the power it gives away.

“When someone has a poor body image, she will try to find validation from outside to make her feel better. The next diet, the next fashion fad, the next boyfriend, anything but where she is now. Instead of living in the moment, she may find herself living for ‘when I look better,” Strauss says. “Remember, the goal of most advertising it to make you ‘not OK’ so that, upon using that product, you will become OK. I say, start OK and then you’ll only buy what you choose to have for yourself.”

Most of us can think of a time when we thought a new haircut, diet, or lipstick would turn everything around for us. But that mindset can lead to a lot of wasted time and money. Constant self-monitoring can also drain your energy, and it can even lead to depression and hostility.

A University of Toronto study, published in the International Journal of Eating Disorders, found that women who were interviewed after seeing magazine ads that featured female models showed a significant and immediate decrease in self-esteem.

Poor body image can lead to crash dieting and excessive exercise, which can, in turn, lead to poor nutrition, injuries, and depression. In it’s most dangerous form, a negative body image may fuel an eating disorder or Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD).

When you are continually distracted with physical appearance, the energy of your mind, body, and spirit is diverted from more salient endeavors.

Solutions
Seek help.

If you feel that your body image has become a pre-occupation, don’t hesitate to talk to a counselor or therapist. Amoreena Brewton, a mother with a background in sociology and counseling, has conducted research on women and body image. She says, “Some people are too deeply entrenched in their body issues to resolve them on their own. Often, there are personal or familial issues at play when a person has an eating disorder, so seeking professional help is highly recommended.”

Tracy agrees. “In the end, my success came from the deep desire to stop, which had been inside of me for years, and then getting into serious therapy with an eating disorder specialist. Having someone who focuses on just that area was a true lifesaver.”

Make small changes.
A global change in cultural and economic structures would, no doubt, help us all achieve a more positive body image. But there will likely always be supermodels, paid endorsements, and the unstoppable “quest for the best” bandwagon.

Instead, enforce changes on a smaller scale. Brewton suggests we stop allowing those negative forces into our lives. “Don’t buy Cosmo, buy Redbook,” she says. “Look at really powerful, intelligent successful women whom you admire as often as possible. For example: Oprah, Rosie, Hillary, Martha, your mom, your grandmother, your daughter.”

Use positive affirmations.
When you catch yourself commiserating over tight blue jeans, don’t let your mind get stuck in the negativity. When that negative voice does emerge, follow it with 10 positive thoughts.

Tracy says repetition is key. “It begins with re-recording the negative messages in your own mind, which are so painful,” she says. “I have probably re-recorded that message over 500,000 times, and I keep losing it. But it’s easier to find for the next time.”

There are tools to help you re-program the thoughts you direct at yourself. One successful example is the “Think Right Now” series of audiotapes and software programs:
http://www.bestselfhelp.com/toprated/thinkrightnow.htm

Once you navigate yourself out of the negativity rut, you’ll feel better about yourself, and you’ll better understand your power to create and maintain a healthier mind, body, and spirit.

Remember your spiritual connection.
“The first thing to remember is that the Universe does not make mistakes,” Strauss says. You are where you are for a reason. Acknowledge this and then choose how to proceed with the next minute, hour, day, of your life.”

For the religious and spiritual among us, body image may instantly improve with the simple reminder that God gave you the body you have for a reason. He didn’t make you to look like Cindy Crawford because you aren’t Cindy Crawford. He wants you to be healthy enough to do your life’s work. To live and work at an optimum level. So, accept His creation,
and nurture it.

Surround yourself with supportive friends.
“As I began to recover little by little from bulimia,” Tracy says. “I did not surround myself with people who were as concerned about body size. I put myself among beautiful, strong, and intelligent women who really put little emphasis on looks.”

Brewton also recommends surrounding yourself with friends whose focus is not on exteriors. “Other women can make the biggest difference in our lives by being mentors and leading by example,” Brewton says. She suggests we find a group of women to meet with regularly to discuss issues important to our lives, but, she says, don’t focus solely on body issues. “Obsessing as a group is no better than obsessing as an individual,” she says.

Find a group of supportive women, either in your neighborhood or online. Then use this safe, non-critical environment to empower one another.

Focus on health.
Change your relationship with food. Food is fuel for active living. Strive not for a number on the scale but for a weight at which you feel strong and energetic. Ask yourself if your diet contributes – or takes away from – your health and energy levels.

When we stop focusing on our bodies, and begin to focus on our health, our bodies have an easier time finding our optimal weight. Researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine have discovered that people who start a weight-loss program when they feel happiest about their body are more than twice as likely to lose weight as people who are less satisfied.

Tracy proves that we can control how much power food has over us. “One of the most important factors in my success has been to eat everything and anything I want, whenever. I do not diet, restrict, or make rules for myself in any way. This sets my life up so that I don’t ever feel restricted and needy for food. It has taken a lot of the importance out of food for me,” Tracy says. “Since I quit my bulimic behaviors, I have lost 15 pounds, my face and cheeks are not swollen, and I feel really good.”

Change your relationship with exercise.
Regular exercise creates power and endurance, which can help you enjoy more activities. Can you hike as far as you like? Would you like to try kayaking? Do you know the joys of a “runner’s high”?

Find an exercise you enjoy. If you hate aerobic dance, don’t join an aerobics class. If you hate the gym, don’t spend your time there. Instead, experiment with exercises you’ve never tried before. Is there an exercise that makes you feel physically empowered? Do that one.

Motivate yourself to exercise by reminding yourself about the burst of energy that inevitably follows a workout.

Change your relationship with your body.
When food becomes a tool for active living, and exercise becomes a tool for increased strength, your body becomes a tool for your mind. Suddenly, your body has the endurance and power to do what the mind wills.

“Our bodies are miracles, walking around in skin,” Brewton says. You will never come across a finer work of art or machinery.”

Befriend your body, and ask yourself how you want to spend your life energy. “Imagine for a moment that you took all that time you spend thinking about appearance and focused on how much you love your ability to communicate well, or what a great mom you are, or ways to solve the issue of homelessness,” Brewton says. “If you took that negative energy and used it for good, not only would your life improve, but the world would improve, as well.”

 

About the Author
Susie Michelle Cortright is the author of several books for women and founder of the award-winning Momscape.com, a website designed to help busy women find balance. Visit http://www.momscape.com today and get Susie’s *free* course-by-email “6 Days to Less Stress.”

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Bullying – The View from a Five-Year-Old

I was working at the school where I went to kindergarten today. It is funny how so much has changed, and so much is the same! As I was walking around outside, I saw that the same treed lot is still across the street from the school. When I was 5 years old, it seemed like an entire forest! Now, I see it is just a small city lot.

But, this treed lot was so much more to me back then. It was a place to hide from the older kids who bullied me every day on the way home from school.

Why Me?
I don’t know why they chose me to pick on me – looking back and talking to others, I think that they picked on a lot of kids, but of course I didn’t know this at the time. I guess I was a handy target as I walked home the same way that they did. At first, they seemed nice and I thought maybe they were my friends. I was very confused when they would tease me, push me down, and pull me up by my bag strap only to push me down again. I didn’t understand this at all! I wondered what was wrong with me and it took me a long time before I told my parents about any of it. My mom started walking to the school to meet me every day to walk home with me. I don’t think anything was ever done to the bullies and I bet they continued bullying other kids. While I don’t think bullying was accepted back then, I think it was seen as a part of life and not something you could do a whole lot about.

Is Bullying Different Today?
Things are so different today. People speak up about bullying more and we are teaching our kids that it is not ok and to talk to a trusted adult if they are being bullied. We have bullying awareness campaigns and the schools play an active role in bullying prevention.
However, bullying still happens. At least when I was home, I knew I was safe from the bullies; this is not always the case for kids today. With the Internet and social media, our kids are exposed to bullying in different forms. If they are being bullied, they often cannot get away from it. It follows them into their homes through their computers, phones, or other electronics.

Get Involved and Stop Bullying
People have asked me why I am so involved in our anti-bullying campaign here. I guess it is my hope that no child will feel they have to hide from the bullies and that they will see that they are not alone. And if we can help the kids with bullying, maybe those bullies won’t grow up to be bullies, because bullying is not just a problem in our schools, but in our workplaces as well. We encourage you all to wear pink on Pink T-Shirt Day to help bring awareness to the issue of bullying and give support to those who have found themselves the victim of bullying — now, or at any time in their lives. Remember the message all year, and if you see someone being bullied, speak up.
I, and my 5-year-old self, thank you.

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Winter Time Fun with Kids!

Winter is the time of year when many of us, due to inclement weather, are forced to stay inside. If you have kids underfoot during this time of year, you are all likely to suffer a bout of cabin fever. If the winter season has left you feeling a bit down, here are a few activities to brighten your mood, and lift your spirits!

Let’s go skating!

Your little ones may be too young to ice skate, but they can enjoy an afternoon of skating right in your own home. Just slip some socks onto your child’s feet and find a non-carpeted floor. Turn on some holiday music and “skate” around the floor together. (Someone has also suggested tying coloring books to the child’s feet and “skate” on the carpeting, but I would stick to the non-carpeted method! Also, this could be a unique way to clean the floor, too!)

Match the pictures!

Find some holiday stickers. Place two identical stickers on the left and right sides of an index card and then cut the card in half, in a jig-jag form. Use a highlighter to highlight the edges. Do this with a variety of stickers. Have your child match the stickers and line up the two halves of the index cards.

Play in the snow!

If you live in an area where you get snow and you are feeling adventurous, bundle up your child and head outdoors for some snow building! You don’t have to build the traditional snowman — be creative! Try to build an animal or a house! Let your child decide what to build and then jump right in and get to work! Be sure to have a camera on hand for the finished product! Who knows? This might be a fantastic time to get that perfect holiday picture for those holiday cards you send.

Make your own cards!

You don’t have to rush out to your nearest card shop for the best holiday cards in town. Gather up some art materials, such as wrapping paper, construction paper, ribbons, bows, glitter, crayons, stickers, and more, and let your child create a personal holiday card. Help them prepare it, for mailing to that special relative or friend.

Make a holiday video!

Videotape your child while asking him or her a variety of questions. “What is your favorite holiday song?” “What is your favorite holiday food?” “What would be the best present you would like to get this year?” “How do you make holiday cookies?” You can come up with your own assortment of questions. You will be surprised and tickled by the response. This videotape would make a great gift for that out-of-town relative who does not often get the chance to see your child! What a precious keepsake, too. Imagine looking at the tape again in ten or twenty years!

Build a snowman….inside!

Grab some cotton balls and some construction paper and glue and let your child make a snowman on paper. Older children can add beads for the nose, eyes, mouth, and buttons.

Have an indoor picnic!

If you traditionally decorate your home for the holidays, spend an evening in the family room and spread out a blanket on the floor. Pack a picnic basket and enjoy the holiday spirit.

Get up and move!

I am not telling you to pack your bags! I am only telling you to re-energize yourself and get some of that excess energy out of your kids by turning on some holiday music and dancing to the beat. My three boys love to do stretching exercises with me to music. We will also do jumping jacks, run in place, and play Follow the Leader, to the beat of the music.

Wrap it up!

Too many presents to wrap and not enough time? Have your child help you wrap the gifts! (Just be sure none of the gifts you are wrapping are for your child!) My boys love to place bows on the packages and attach the gift cards. They even enjoy putting stickers on the packages. For more fun, buy plain paper and let your child decorate the paper with crayons, markers, stickers, etc., and see the joy on his or her face as you wrap gifts in the paper your child has designed!

It’s cookie time!

While making that holiday assortment of cookies, cakes, and pies, let your child sit close-by and make his or her own “treats” with Play-Doh. Your child can imitate what you are making and come up with some pretty fascinating treats, too! (Just make sure they do not eat the treats they made!)

Wintertime can be a fun time! Just look around you. There are plenty of things to do. Sometimes, you might get lucky enough and find the temperature rising to a place where you and your child can comfortably dash outside. But, once those cold winter winds come around again, just enjoy the precious time you and your child will have together. These days come around only once. Be creative. Let your child have some input as to what he or she wants to do. Sometimes, they can be much more creative than we can!

Have a beautiful and blessed holiday season!

Ann E Butenas is a stay-at-home mom of three preschool-age boys. She has an undergraduate degree in Communications, a post-bachelor paralegal certificate, and a Master’s in Business Management. She earned the latter during her first two pregnancies while running an at-home business at the same time. She has been professionally published as a writer since the age of 12. Ann currently owns and operates ANZ Publications, a publications business specializing in family-riented projects. Her most recent project includes a very unique medical and dental records binder….a great way to keep track of a child’s complete medical history from birth through adolescence. Visit the site at http://www.anzpublications.com. ANZ is an acronym, by the way, for her son’s Alec, Noah, and Zach. It is pronounced as “Ann’s,” for her first name, but spelled as such to include the boys! Her website showcases her new book.

Transgender – Coming Out Isn’t Easy

With Bruce Jenner coming out, the internet is once again buzzing and talking about what it is to be transgender. In a recent 20/20 interview with Diane Sawyer, Bruce Jenner revealed that even as a child, he felt he didn’t fit in and that he never felt comfortable in a man’s body. He says “for all intents and purposes,” he is a woman.  How do you feel about this? Read More…