August 31, 2011

What IS Normal?

READY… “Normal is nothing more than a cycle on a washing machine.” ~ Whoopi Goldberg

AIM… Do you ever feel like you’re not normal? Truthfully, I’m not really sure what normal looks or feels like anymore. As a parent, I have high expectations of the manners, morals and behaviors I want to see displayed by my children. My husband and I have rules we expect our children to follow. We also have limitations on some of the conveniences and freedoms we allow our children to enjoy. However, after talking to our children and listening and observing their peers, I often feel like we are not normal. Perhaps we are the minority: setting limits, commanding respect and not saying yes all the time. There are days that I feel guilty about our parenting decisions. Then there are days when my children are complimented for their politeness and good behavior and I know our “abnormal” choices are paying off.

I think in our ever-changing world, normal simply has to be defined by what’s expected and comfortable for YOUR family and your environment. Being normal doesn’t mean being the SAME as everyone else. Being normal is doing what is best for your family, whether in your home or out in public, as well as staying within your financial means and your personal limits. What’s best for your children isn’t always what’s best for their friends and vice versa. Embrace the responsibility of parenting and enjoy knowing that whatever decisions you make for your family is what normal looks like.

FIRE! Stop worrying about what everyone else thinks is normal and do what you feel is best for yourself and your family. Choose to set yourself apart by stepping up to stand firm in one area of importance for your family this week.

Be Excellent!

August 23, 2011

School Rocks

READY… “Much education today is monumentally ineffective. All too often we are giving young people cut flowers when we should be teaching them to grow their own plants.” ~ John W. Gardner

AIM… How many of you remember the School House Rocks jingles that were played on Saturday mornings in-between our favorite cartoons? You know the ones like “Conjunction Junction, what’s your function?” How about “Lolly, Lolly, Lolly get your adverbs here” or “I’m just a bill.” I have to be honest; I loved those little jingles and can still sing most of the choruses to them. Even though, at the time, I probably had no idea I was learning valuable lessons, I realize now what a brilliant idea it was to show those School House Rocks commercials during kid TV time because I really DID learn something.

Too bad our children’s TV time doesn’t have those great little songs or educational commercials. Now during commercial time, our kids get to learn about the best dating websites, finding their perfect soul mate, what type of medications to take for depression and the glories of male enhancement drugs. Wow, aren’t they lucky! Wonder if they’ll grow to be thankful that they really learned something during those commercial breaks? Even if we are diligent about the shows are children watch, it’s hard to censor family television time due to all the questionable advertising attacks.

The truth of the matter is, regardless what your children watch on TV, it’s up to you, their parents, to really teach your children what they need to know. Yes, they are required to go to school to learn the basics of education. However, the schools are not required to teach your children common sense, or about making good decisions and how to grow up with morals. It is not the teacher’s job to instruct your children in the ways of good manners, how to treat other boys and girls, and sexual responsibility. It’s time that we, their parents, realize that the best teachers in the world are the ones our children look at every single day when they wake up and right before they go to sleep. It’s time to take responsibility for making sure our children know how to behave in public, how to treat other people with respect and how to become responsible young people. If WE aren’t setting a good example, then how can we expect them to grow up and be any different? Remember, school does rock, but great parents blow the socks off school any day!

FIRE! Take time to talk to your child this week. Don’t just ask him about his day, ask direct questions about how he gets along with the other students and what he’s most excited about or what he’s most afraid of this year. Be encouraging and use your time together as a teachable moment for both of you to learn something new.

Be Excellent!

August 17, 2011

Be Generous

READY… “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” ~ Matthew 25:40 NIV

AIM… I was given an opportunity to serve in an incredible way last week. My friend is the assistant program director for the United Way in our area. One of its most successful and meaningful programs is called Lace Up For Kids. It’s possible because the United Way receives donations from Wendy’s, a local TV station, and other private donors; in turn, they use the money to purchase new shoes for children who need them and whose families cannot afford them. What better way to give children a positive self-image than to start them off with brand new, fancy shoes?

I must admit, I had never been to the Catholic Charities Neighborhood Center, where they were doing the shoe fitting and distribution. As I approached the center, wearing my clean clothes and fresh deodorant, I started sensing the defensive posture of the people hanging around outside the door. I simply smiled and said “Good Morning” to a few of them who probably wondered why I was even speaking to them. My motive…to be positive and make one of them feel better about herself that day.

Once inside, I realized I came while folks were finishing up breakfast. It was a sight I was not prepared for. I didn’t know that this location offered a hot breakfast to anyone everyday; no questions asked. As I looked around the dining room, I saw a few elderly men cleaning up plates and heading toward the dish return; I saw a young, single man eating the rest of his breakfast alone; I saw a mother feeding her baby in a highchair. It saddened my heart to see the reality of our world in so many generations at one location. However, I was quickly overjoyed with the realization that these people DO have a place to come where they can get a hot meal twice a day and are given the other necessities they need to get by day to day. The assistant director at Catholic Charities Center gave my friend and me a tour of their facility and I was overwhelmed by the wonderful way they continue to serve our brothers and sisters in need.

After I composed myself, I was able to assist several families with fitting their children with new shoes. What joy and smiles I got to see on the faces of the little girls who tried on the sparkly new pink Sketchers or the confidence in the boys’ attitudes as they felt cool in their new Nike high tops. We were able to empathize with the grateful parents who have a hard time keeping their growing children in shoes that fit properly. No matter our economic situation, we can all relate to our kids growing feet.

I walked away feeling so good about helping my brothers and sisters. I was able to be the hands and heart of Jesus that day. I know I was moved and changed in ways that will benefit my life for years to come. I am truly blessed beyond measure and am eternally grateful for the favor I have been granted. Yes, even the small things, such as sparkly new shoes and fresh deoderant make me thankful.

FIRE! Do something to help others in need this week. Maybe you can purchase extra school supplies while they are on sale to help a family get their kids started off on the right track, or anonymously leave a bag of groceries on the front step of a family who needs an extra meal. As Jesus told us, helping those in need is indeed helping Him.

Be Excellent!

August 9, 2011

In Sickness and In Health

READY… “Love is a medicine for the sickness of the world; a prescription often given, too rarely taken.” ~ Anonymous

AIM… When you got married and were taking your vows at the altar, most people repeated and agreed to watch over their betrothed “in sickness and in health.” However, I seriously doubt any of us ever considered that we might actually be wiping vomit from the mouths of our soul mates. True? Those moments of true love come when you really aren’t planning for them. So often we are blessed with good health that we take our health for granted; not only do we need to consider our physical health, but also the health of our relationships. However, when sickness strikes, in whatever its form, we are catapulted to a new level of love. It’s in those critical hours of waiting for a fever to break, or for those lab results to return, or for the doctor to walk out of the operating room when you truly realize how deeply you care for your loved one. It’s a moment when we freely sacrifice our priorities and make our spouses the center of our attention because they need us and can’t do everything for themselves. Sometimes it’s temporary, or sadly, sometimes it’s permanent. These moments remind us that marriage is a partnership.

I encourage you to evaluate your physical health and the health of your relationship. Are you in a state of sickness that needs some attention or healing advice? Perhaps a simple appointment with your loved one will allow you to address any potential issues you may be dealing with, physical or emotional, and allow each of you the opportunity to take care of each other whether you are “in sickness, or in health.”

FIRE! Make a decision to do something nice for your spouse or a loved one, just because you care about him or her. Your kindness investment will be worth every penny of effort, guaranteed!

Be Excellent!

August 3, 2011

God's Detours

READY… “A truly happy person is one who can enjoy the scenery when on a detour.” ~ Anonymous

AIM… So, I’ve encountered a few detours in life lately. I’m sure you know what I’m talking about; those days or weeks when your plans are sidelined by other events that have to take precedence over your previous schedule. Sometimes when we run into a life detour, it’s frustrating, disappointing and down-right unfair. Yes, pity parties are allowed but only for about five minutes. We need to have the personal strength to look at the circumstances of the detour and realize that it is what we are supposed to do; that everything really DOES happen for a reason. Sure, when we don’t see or know the reason for the detour, it’s tough to accept the changes. However, if we embrace the opportunity to recognize God’s hand in changing our course, we WILL experience great blessings and favor. Think back to the wonderful things that have happened or disasters that were avoided because God put up a detour sign. So, this week, I’m living with great expectations of what is to come!!

FIRE! Don’t waste your time pouting about the changes God places in your life. Stop, look and listen for the rewards He’s sending your way as a result of that detour!

Be Excellent!