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10 Dec

All Children Are Our Children

A study commissioned by the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption showed that nearly 40% of American adults, or 81.5 million people, have considered adopting a child. If just one in 500 of these adults decided to adopt, all of the 134,000 children in foster care waiting for adoption would have a permanent home.

 

I’ve written before about my experiences volunteering at a local group foster home. It’s actually a residential treatment and crisis care center. While there are many children who live there for varying amounts of time, I have been lucky enough to establish relationships with a handful of them. I love these kids. I feel like they are my children. And in a very real sense, they are mine. And they are yours. They are a part of our community, and they are a part of ourselves.

 

When I first committed to this “job” I agreed to come in for two hours a week, for four weeks. I’m now averaging four hours a day, five days a week, and I just was there for eleven days in a row. I’m well into my sixth month, and I can’t imagine stopping ever. Being a volunteer means that I am not paid, and spending this much time at the place actually costs me lots of money each week. I can’t help but bring fresh fruit and books and things like that. I make the time because this is important. I spend the money because I would rather help these kids than save up to buy a designer purse.

 

More and more we are learning that we live in a global community. We see how much of what happens in other communities, and other countries, has an affect on our own lives. And because of the internet and ease of travel, it’s easier for us to reach out and help children not only in our hometowns, but around the world.

 

I recently met Vivian Glyck, an amazing woman who has made a difference by following her vision. She says that after becoming a mother, she developed “a keen sense that the world is so small, it is really just one community, and I realized that taking care of oneself means heeding one’s calling – without hesitation or deliberation.” Vivian’s calling is helping children in Uganda. Why? Because 25 million Africans, many of whom are children, are infected with the HIV virus. Every 30 seconds a child in Africa dies of malaria. 12 million children are already orphaned by AIDS. Vivian travels to Africa and works with children personally, and she says they are “just like my child” which is why she named her organization “Just Like My Child.” The mission is to alleviate the suffering of women, children, and families in rural Uganda by empowering communities to create their own long-term solutions to healthcare, education, and microenterprise. Read more about Vivian’s story at: justlikemychild.org

My friend Lysa Heslov is also helping children with her foundation Children Mending Hearts. Her mission is to give children worldwide the power to find and use their voices through creative expression. This is a global arts exchange between at-risk children in America and children living in conflict zones around the world that educates, empowers and encourages all the participants. People of various cultures connect the different projects, and learn and grow from their experiences with each other. Lysa has traveled to the Congo and worked with children first hand. And now her foundation is traveling around the United States to conduct art workshops. For more information visit: childrenmendinghearts.org

 

My friend Joseph Curiale saw a news story on CNN which compelled him to start a foundation to help orphaned girls in India. Right now there are four girls going to school on scholarships, who would otherwise be living in poverty in a government orphanage. Joe has traveled back and forth to India 12 times to make sure that these children, whom he considers his own, are getting the support, and the love, that they need. Joe is a testament to how one person can make a difference in this world. The work he has done is remarkable. Read more about his story at: josephcurialefoundation.com

 

Through organizations like Plan USA we can sponsor an individual child, and help that child’s family and community as well. Sponsorship helps to provide vaccination and nutrition programs, community water systems and well construction, home and health clinic construction, school and teachers, and so much more. As a sponsor you receive a photo of your child, a family profile to introduce you and provide information about the community, and regular updates on how everyone is doing. You can send letters and small gifts, and you can even visit your child! This sponsored child becomes your ambassador to a place and culture that you might otherwise never know. I began sponsoring Swapna, a little girl in rural India, in 2005. I’ve been able to see her grow and communicate through Plan USA’s field office volunteers. We don’t speak the same language, and the geographical distance is great, but we are connected through our hearts. She is a beautiful child, and I am grateful to be able to contribute to her life in some way. If you’re interested in sponsoring a child, visit: planusa.org

All children are children of the world. All children are our children.

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06 Dec

Another Version of Christmas

As most people know, December is a chaotic month blending shopping, socializing, Santa, and sundry religious observances. Amidst predominantly Christian rituals are sprinkled Chanukah and a variety of solstice celebrations. Not to ignore the latter, this article provides a broader perspective of the Christian Holyday and invites those who resonate with it to engage the season more mindfully, and, reverently.

Christmas signifies hopeful celestial foreshadowing yet is eclipsed by the celebration of Jesus’ redemptive mission at Easter. This is understandable, perhaps, if one views the Savior motif as unique to Christianity. I assert that it isn’t. The birth of a Christ – in this case, Jesus – is never inconsequential but must be viewed in context of a larger ongoing commitment of Spirit to humanity. As such, it entails a deeper significance and merits greater veneration than is ordinarily given.

What is the basis for my position? Let’s begin by exploring terms more fully.

The word ‘Christ’ may have different interpretations according to frames of reference. In mainstream Christian belief it hails from Christos, a Greek word meaning “anointed” and is equivalent to Mashiach or Messiah in Hebrew. To be a Christ, or Messiah, is to be “the anointed of God;” one specifically chosen by God for a special task – often as king. Subsequently Jesus is viewed as a divine ruler. Traditional teachings also maintain that He came into the world to reconcile the fallen children of the Lord with their creator. The redemptive act – Christ’s crucifixion – was payment for the transgression of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.

Less visible but no less ancient is a body of esoteric belief that views Jesus as a spiritual master who attained oneness with God. In this instance, the term ‘only begotten son’ or ‘Son of God’ doesn’t refer to a physical body but, instead, to the consciousness of God that permeates all creation. In Vedic scripture the universal Spirit intelligence is known as Kutastha Chaitanya and is synonymous with “Cosmic Christ,” the “Infinite Christ,” or “Christ Consciousness.” It is this oneness with God that was manifest by Jesus, Krishna, and other divine incarnations.

The reference to “other divine incarnations” implies that Jesus wasn’t the only ‘Son of God’ nor the only Savior to uplift humanity. Consider these parallel scriptures:

  1. New Testament

And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.” John 1:14

For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.” John 3: 17

  1. Bhagavad Gita

“Although I am unborn, the Lord of all living entities, and have an imperishable nature, yet I appear in this world by virtue of my divine power.

Whenever there is a decline in righteousness and an increase in unrighteousness, O Arjuna, at that time I manifest myself on earth.

To protect the righteous, to annihilate the wicked, and to reestablish the principles of dharma I appear on this earth, age after age.” BG 4:6-8

Depicted here is the Son of God as Avatar. Throughout history, spiritual illumination has come to humanity when God manifested in human form. The Sanskrit term, Avatar, literally means “descent of God” or “descent of divinity into flesh.” Religions originated with holy beings, or prophets, like Jesus, Krishna, Buddha, Moses, and Muhammad. Each infused new vitality or redemptive clarity into systems that were sliding towards hypocrisy or worse. Swami Shivananda added a personal and devotional element to the drama: “If God does not come down as a human being, how will human beings love him? That is why He comes to human beings as a human being.”

What’s the purpose of all this? The answer is twofold: First, every Avatar has a specific mission and message. In simple terms it may be said that Christ revealed the supremacy of God’s love over human self-limitation; Buddha rejected hierarchical systems and taught people to be lamps unto themselves; Krishna preached spiritual balance and God-centered activity. Each theme was relevant to the age in which it was given. Secondly, Avatars serve as saviors, i.e. bearers of enlightenment, who re-establish virtue and spiritual truth whenever the world has lost its way. No matter where an avatar appears, their impact ultimately uplifts the world in a fashion governed by and in accordance with God-ordained roles.

The significance of this is paramount: God has an ongoing benevolent relationship with humanity. Paramahansa Yogananda taught that when Avatars incarnate, extraordinary amounts of spiritual energy flood the ethers. There is also an annual recurrence of that sacred infusion on their birthdays. To enhance receptivity to the Christ consciousness, Yogananda instituted an all-day meditation tradition at Christmas time.  This practice – and ones like it – deepen awareness of the Sacred Presence and help one derive uplifting benefit. Let this also be a reminder that God repeatedly seeks to awaken the sleeping divinity in humankind and usher its return Home. As stated in Psalm 82:6, “I have said, Ye are gods; and all of you are children of the most High.” Realize this, in addition to the natural import of the season – however you commemorate it – and rejoice in the caring love of Spirit eternally demonstrated by the Incarnations who bless us with their illuminating Presence.

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29 Nov

Divorce Is Forever

My friend Sandy and I had had yet another one of our philosophical discussions this weekend. She said, “I have a great title for your next blog: Marriage is Temporary, Divorce is Forever.” Having been divorced myself I can understand her sentiments. Yes, divorce is forever. But now, truly happily married, I’m in the state where I once again feel that marriage is forever, too. Maybe there really is no delineation — maybe it’s that these relationships we get ourselves into go on and on, and it’s just the definition of the relationship that changes. Whether married or divorced, there is this person in our lives that we love — or loved — and through whom we are tied with children, or finances, or history.

As celebrities give us this great illustration with which we can all better understand, let’s explore this theory with a few examples. Bruce Willis and Demi Moore: married, seemingly happily, for enough years to produce three beautiful daughters. They divorce amicably, and no bad blood shows up in the press. She later marries Ashton Kutcher, and Bruce shows his support as the three attend many family occasions and holidays together. One big happy family! And when Bruce remarries, of course they’re all there, too. Very civilized, very mature. So Bruce and Demi, although married to different people now, are still tied to each other through their children, and have managed to maintain a functional relationship.

Jennifer Aniston and Brad Pitt do not share any children, although they shared years of their lives together as husband and wife. Will the press ever let them forget that? I think not! Even as Brad welcomed his 5th and 6th child, twins, with his current partner, Angelina Jolie, tabloids speculated about an Aniston-Pitt reunion. What gives? These people have all clearly moved on, but why can’t we? Is it because Brad and Angie have yet to tie the knot? They are clearly committed — and they certainly are looking to the future as they raise these children together. I think it’s because we want to see that Jennifer is okay. We want her to be happy, and in love, like Brad is. That way it seems more “fair.” But life is not always fair. Life gives us lessons, and sometimes they’re tough ones. We just have to trust that somehow, someway, through some power greater than our own, that it all balances out in the end. Karma? Destiny? Maybe that’s it.

From Sandy’s point of view, her marriage was temporary. She didn’t plan for it to be that way. She went in with the best of intentions, until death do us part. But as it goes, things happen, people change, and plans go awry. So now she’s divorced, which she considers to be permanent. This is the new definition of her relationship with her ex. Can she “wash that man right out of her hair?” No. They have kids together. They had a life together. And now all of that has to be shifted to fit this new paradigm. It can be painful, and certainly stressful. There are unfulfilled expectations. There is grief, fear, and uncertainty. And what can we do about it? Somehow we have to manage. We have to redefine the relationship in such a way that it makes sense to us, and that we are okay with it, taking the good with the bad, however we choose to see that. We have to let go of any anger or resentment because there comes a time when we realize that we are only hurting ourselves with it.

So yes, my first marriage is over. But am I over it? Probably not. I’ve still got these two kids as constant reminders of the years we shared in it. Those years don’t disappear. They are a part of my memory, and my psyche. They helped to shape who I am today. But I still wouldn’t change a thing about it. I know mistakes were made, but those mistakes helped both me and my ex to learn and to grow. I know we are both better off where we are today. I love my life, I love my husband, and I know that I wouldn’t have what I have right now had the divorce not happened. So it’s all good. And I am sure that my ex feels the same way.

Life is full of challenges and full of risks. Marriage is a big risk. Divorce is another. Both take a commitment. It’s a commitment to living life to its fullest, to being true to yourself, to doing what you feel is best, and to honoring the wisdom that you have gained through your experiences.

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21 Nov

Taking Care of Our Health and Our Healthcare

The headline in today’s Los Angeles Times caught my eye: “Healthcare insurers get upper hand.” The article is written by Tom Hamburger and Kim Geiger. You don’t have to read the paper every day to know that the healthcare system in the United States is a mess. We’re all living it every time we go to see a doctor or fill a prescription. We can’t keep going the way we’ve been going, there has to be some sort of a change. Unfortunately, the kinds of changes that the insurance companies are proposing just might make things worse instead of better. Linda Blumberg, a health policy analyst at the nonpartisan Urban Institute says that the insurance companies are going to have a very stable pool of customers, “…people getting subsidies to help them buy coverage and… they [insurance companies] will be paid the full costs of the benefits that they provide – plus their administrative costs.”

Einstein famously said that a problem can’t be solved at the same level at which it was created. What created this healthcare crisis was greed. The greed of both the insurance companies and the pharmaceutical companies.

How much of our insurance dollar actually goes towards insurance? That’s got to be a well-kept secret. I haven’t heard anyone talk about this yet. About 10% of every monthly premium goes to the agent who sold you the policy. And then another chunk, probably 20%, goes to the “general agent” or broker who the first agent has to go through to get to the insurance company. Before we even get to the entity that is providing the coverage we have to go through two middle-men. And these agents are doing quite well, indeed. Then the insurance company itself has tons of costs it has to build into our premiums, including all the paperwork and brochures they send us, and all the advertising they do to convince us that they are a reputable company. And of course, there’s the $35 million dollars that the health service and HMO sector spent in the first half of 2009 lobbying Congress, the White House, and federal healthcare offices. This figure came from the Center for Responsive Politics; I didn’t make it up!

Before my divorce, I had health insurance through my ex-husband’s company. I was able to keep the same policy for a little while through a plan they have called COBRA. But then I had to get my own policy, and I contacted an agent. My husband and I met with him one time, for about 20 minutes, to basically sign some papers and write a check. We kept the same policy for many years, even though the premiums went up every year. Every single month this agent of ours was making money off of us. For years we never saw him, or heard from him. Then when our premium went up another huge percentage, I called him to ask what our options were. He told me to look online, and gave me the insurance company’s website.

Now the insurance companies have all of their policies posted online so anyone can shop and compare for themselves. I figured out just how we could switch to a different plan and save some money, and called the insurance company direct. They told me I just had to write them a letter and they would take care of it. I didn’t need the agent to be involved. Then I pointed out that we had clearly eliminated the need for an agent, and hence, the need to continue to pay his monthly commission. I asked if I could have that commission discounted from my monthly premiums, they told me no, it doesn’t work that way. Isn’t this crazy? Even when the two middle-men do no work at all, they still make money every month! It doesn’t work that way for car insurance, or home-owner’s insurance, so why should this be the case for health insurance?

As intelligent people, we know that we are responsible for our own health. We strive to take care of ourselves, eating right, working out, keeping fit. But it seems that the health insurance companies are working against us. Most preventative care, like chiropractic, acupuncture, and massage, are not covered. Many times mental health care is not covered, or covered only up to a certain amount. Doesn’t it make more sense to do what we can to stay healthy, rather than spending tons of money trying to get our health back when we get stressed out and sick? And think of the money lost when we have to take sick days and miss work.

But then, people being sick benefits the pharmaceutical companies. They have all kinds of medications for all kinds of illnesses that are covered by the insurance companies. And just when we think we’re doing well, along comes a vaccine they promote that they insist we need to keep us from getting something else.

Doctors have sky high rates because they are forced to make deals with the insurance companies where they are paid a percentage of their fees. When you look at your “explanation of benefit” statement that comes in the mail from the insurance company, you’ll see what part of the charges are “allowed” and “not allowed” and what part goes toward your deductible. I don’t know how doctors can make much money when all is said and done. Many doctors now have set up “concierge” service, which means that you pay a monthly fee to be their patient. It’s a kind of secondary insurance. But do we really need that extra expense? Not me!

Obama has an uphill climb when it comes to healthcare reform. He’s the David and the insurance companies are the Goliath in this scenario. Gerald Shea of the AFL-CIO is hoping for a change, but knows that the insurance companies will fight every step of the way, with all of their power and all of their money. “They have us beaten six ways to Sunday. Any time we want to make a small change to provide cost relief, they find a way to make it more profitable.”

Health and Nutrition on CoffeyTalk

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14 Nov

No Whining, No Griping, No Complaining: Take the Challenge and Reap the Rewards!

In my CoffeyTalk newsletter this week I put out a challenge for readers to join me in the “Complaint Free World Challenge.” Here’s how it goes:

“Maya Angelou writes: “If you don’t like something change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude. Don’t complain.” Now there’s an organization that is challenging us to go 21 days without a complaint! Can we do it? I’m certainly going to give it a shot. What a great idea! Why 21 days? Scientists believe it takes 21 days to form a new habit and complaining is habitual for many of us. A Complaint Free World has created purple bracelets to help us with this. The idea is that when we catch ourselves complaining, gossiping or criticizing, we move the bracelet to the other arm and begin again. So, it may take much longer than 21 days to get through the experience, but afterward, we’ll find that life is happier, more loving, and more enjoyable. Let’s track our progress on the CoffeyTalk group page on Facebook. Shall we call this Day 1? Game on!”

By taking on this challenge I have become much more mindful of what I say. Which is actually making me more mindful of what I think. I might think of something in a complaining sort of way, but before I express the gripe, I have to re-frame my thinking and find some other way of looking at things so that it doesn’t come out as a complaint. Interesting! What made that annoyance show up in my mind? Why does this bother me, and why do I feel the need to say something about it? Is there something I can do about it, or is acceptance a better approach? How can I communicate effectively to make my needs known without complaining? Of course all of these thoughts take place in a microsecond!

Maybe that’s the whole point behind this exercise. After all, this is not a new concept. Emmett Fox advocated a complaining fast in his “The Seven Day Mental Diet” booklet in 1935.
When we can change our thinking, we can change our life. And this is one very practical tool we can use to do just that.

In a perfect world, a no-complaining challenge would not be necessary. But then of course, we all have a different definition of perfect. These little annoyances and irritations are ways that we learn and grow. If we were comfortable all the time there would be no reason and no desire to change. It doesn’t matter what is going on around us, there’s always going to be something that we don’t like. But our response doesn’t have to be a knee-jerk complaint. We can be thoughtful, and even helpful. Or we can have a more zen attitude, and be accepting. And in any case, we can learn from the experience. Because that’s what life is all about. Here we are, thrown together in this place and time. We can’t help but bump into one another. We might as well look at the reasons why this happens, and what we are hear to learn from each other. Whether we perceive the experience as a positive or negative one, there is some purpose to it.

One of my life lessons has been patience. I have my own timetable, and it usually runs really fast. I can get a lot done in very little time. I don’t “waste” time; I use it efficiently. It has been a challenge for me to work successfully side by side with other people when my pace is so much quicker. And I recognize that my behavior may be annoying to someone with a different pace, especially when I want to speed them up. I have learned that I need to slow down at times, to be more careful and cautious, and take a few moments to notice the details. I have also learned that complaining from either side only slows down the process. Because that keeps us focused on the complaint instead of the task at hand. In some cases it is better to forge ahead, matching each others steps when we can, knowing that we will get past it.

I’m only 3 days into the challenge and I’ve learned a lot already. It would be easier if I tried Emmet Fox’s 7 day system first, but I’m already committed to this one and I’m not complaining! 18 days to go. Are you with me?

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12 Nov

How to Help End Hunger: Feed Your Mind

Food is huge right now. We’ve got The Food Network with programming around the clock, cookbooks flying off the shelves as people spend more time in the kitchen, and chefs are the new rock stars. And yet, for 1 in 8 people in the United States hunger is a reality. Worldwide the statistics are much worse. The World Health Organization estimates that one-third of the world is well-fed, one-third is under-fed, and one-third is starving. Approximately 800 million people in the world suffer from hunger and malnutrition, and about 8 million actually die from it each year.

September is Hunger Action Month. And there’s no better time to take action than right now. Feeding America, formerly named America’s Second Harvest, is one organization that is working hard to solve the hunger crisis. It is a network made up of individuals, local food banks, and national offices, as well as corporate and government partners. Feeding America secures food and grocery products on a national level and distributes as needed to local food banks. For every $1 donated, Feeding America provides 10 pounds of groceries to hungry people.

Many children in the United States rely on free or reduced-priced school lunches during the school year. And this is often the only meal they get each day. During weekends and school vacations these children go hungry. Feeding America has come up with the “BackPack Program” to help these kids. The program started at the Arkansas Rice Depot, after a school nurse asked for help because hungry students were coming to her with stomachaches and dizziness. The local food bank began to provide the school children with groceries in backpacks to carry home with them. Now the program serves more than 90,000 children each year.

Action Against Hunger is working on a global basis. Their program areas include nutrition, water and sanitation, food security, health and advocacy. They have started the Campaign to End Malnutrition. They say that the loss of life from malnutrition is all the more tragic because acute malnutrition is preventable, predictable, and cost-effective to treat. And they have a plan in place to save lives. Visit their website for all the details.

And while we’re online, there’s something we can do, once a day, everyday, to help eradicate world hunger. Just go to TheHungersite.com and click on the “Click Here to Give – it’s FREE” button. Since June, 1999, more than 300 million visitors have given more than 657 million cups of staple food. The food funded by clicks is paid for by the site sponsors and distributed to those in need by Mercy Corps, Feeding America, and Millennium Promise. 100% of sponsor advertising fees go to the aid of hungry people around the world. Besides clicking the button, which costs visitors nothing, we can also help by shopping in The Hunger Site store. With each item purchased, shoppers generate funds for the hungry. The store offers a wide variety of items to show support as well as fair-traded and handcrafted items from around that world that help families and communities pull themselves out of the poverty and hunger cycle.

Here’s another innovative way to help solve the world food problem. I love it when I find a site where I can have fun, learn and also do something good for the world, and that’s just what I found at FreeRice.com. With freerice.com you play a game to improve your vocabulary. For every word you get right, 10 grains of rice are donated to hungry people through the United Nations World Food Program. The game is challenging, even though it is multiple-choice. If you correctly guess the meaning of a word, you get a more difficult one next. If you get it wrong, you get an easier one. If you’re online playing games anyway, you might as well play this one. You’ll learn some new words, and help feed people in need at the same time.

Knowing about all the hungry people in the world gives us more reason to be grateful every time we sit down to eat. And now we can take action to help feed people every time we sit down at our computers. Every dollar counts, every click counts, every grain of rice counts to those who are hungry.

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23 Oct

Stress Much This Season?

‘Tis the season… for stress? NBC Dateline reports that 41% of people interviewed said that the holidays are as stressful as a job interview. In other words, “very stressful.” It’s not hard to imagine why this is the case. Besides our normal work schedule and routine, add to that the traditional holiday obligations: office parties, cooking, eating, shopping, wrapping, traveling, visiting and general socializing, and our capacity for stress tips the scales on the verge of overload.

Then of course, there’s the economy. A Los Angeles radio station does an annual poll of its listener’s resolutions. Every year “Get Fit” or “Lose Weight” ends up being the most popular goal. But this year “Get Out of Debt” ranked the highest. How do we reconcile this with the barrage of store catalogs and television ads broadcasting all the great deals we can get on all kinds of stuff? It’s enough to make a person cringe every time Jingle Bells plays in the grocery store.

We can’t fast forward through the season, even if we wanted to. But we can manage our stress, and find ways to relax and enjoy the beauty of this special time of year.

1. Fold your hands in prayer behind your back. When we get stressed we tend to tense up, and cave our chest in. This opens up our chest, so we can breathe more freely. Pull the shoulders back, tilt the head back, and breathe deeply.

2. Rub the circumference of each ear with your hands. Right hand rubbing the right ear and left hand rubbing the left ear. According to Ayurveda, India’s 5,000 year old Science of Life, there are marma points (like acupuncture points) in the ears that correspond to the various parts of the body. Rubbing the ears in this way is like giving yourself a little mini massage!

3. Stop and smell the flowers. Keep some lavender essential oil in your desk or purse. When you feel stressed, bring it out. Close your eyes and breathe in the fragrance. Count to 5. Then exhale through your mouth to the count of 5. According to Aromatherapy, lavender is very calming, and when we close our eyes it isolates the sense of smell so that we feel it more intensely.

4. Present moment awareness. Most of the time, when we’re stressed it is because we are living in either the future or the past. Bring yourself into present moment awareness by focusing on the now. Use your senses, which connect us to our environment. Hug yourself, to be more “in your body” instead of in your mind where the stress is. Look at something beautiful, a flower, a bird, the sky, and just be with that for a moment. Take a sip of sweet tea, and really taste it, and enjoy it. Be grateful in that moment, and stress just washes away. Gratitude and stress cannot be present at the same time!

5. Sit in your desk chair, or kitchen table chair – left foot on the floor, put your right ankle on your left knee, and learn forward with a stretch. Hold it as far as you can go, then bend forward a little more. This opens up your hips, and again balances that tensed up muscle feeling. Do each side equally.

6. Pay attention. Understand that it is our choice where we place our attention. We can look at the source of our stress, or we can look at the white snow, the blue sky, the green pines, the twinkling stars.

7. Release expectations. Simplify. Is it important to send out 100 cards with personal notes? Or would you be happier contacting a few close friends? Do you need to have the house decorated like something out of a magazine? Do you need to make a seven course meal? What expectations do you have of yourself, and of others? Rather than striving for perfection, allow things to just be, however they are. Know that whatever it is, it’s all good.

8. Remember these words: love, peace, joy. This is what the season is all about. When those other words creep into your consciousness, the ones that set off stress, replace them with what you know to be important: love, peace, joy.

Wishing you love, peace and joy this holiday season, and always.

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15 Oct

13 Romance Ideas to Warm Up the Fall Season

1. Join In On Football Season

For many men, “Fall” is just another name for “Football season.” Since you can’t beat ’em, you might as well join ’em! Get tickets to a local game, pack a tailgate picnic and head out to the stadium. Be sure to bring a warm blanket for the two of you to snuggle under, and maybe a thermos-full of hot chocolate laced with coffee liqueur for half-time.

2. Take Advantage Of Pumpkin Season

Jack-o-lanterns aren’t just for kids — this Halloween, pick up a couple of extra pumpkins and spend the evening carving them up together! Maybe you want to work together to create an amazing masterpiece, or maybe you want to work solo to design special “his and hers” messages for one another. Some ideas: a big set of lips and some false eyelashes on a girl pumpkin for him — an “I love you” message that lights up when the candle is inside for her!

3. Play High Stakes Board Games

Take a traditional board game and make up your own rules. Yahtzee can become “Strip Yahtzee,” by simply adding that for every three of a kind you roll, your partner loses a piece of clothing. For every four of a kind you roll, you get a “wish”: a kiss, a foot massage, etc. And for every Yahtzee, set the timer for 5 minutes (and only 5 minutes!) of “high scorer dominance.” You can do something similar with Scrabble – earning extra points for sexy words, or Monopoly – paying for properties with “favors” rather than cash.

4. Share Firelight

There’s nothing more inviting than the glow of a fireplace on a crisp Fall evening. Spread a blanket out in front of the fire, toss around a few fluffy pillows, and serve up some warm apple cider with cinnamon sticks. Relax and enjoy each other’s company. Soon you’ll be toasting more than your tootsies!

5. Dance In The Dark

Set up an impromptu dance floor in your bedroom. Light some candles, turn on the Harry Connick Jr. CD and hold each other close. Dance the old-fashioned way, cheek-to-cheek, and whisper sweet nothings in his ear. Let the music move you, and melt into each others arms.

6. Want To Make It interesting?

When the weather’s crummy and he wants to spend the day watching sports on TV, make it interesting for both of you! Place bets on how many car commercials are shown in the next station break, which team’s cheerleaders get on camera next, how long it takes five minutes to really play. Bet kisses, massages, sweet treats, etc.

7. Puzzle Him

This takes a little forethought – get a jigsaw puzzle and put it together on a piece of cardboard. Put another piece of cardboard on top of it and flip it over. Now write a message to your significant other, or make it an invitation! Be creative, even naughty! Then flip it back over and pull the pieces apart. Keep one piece hidden in your bra. That night, ask him to help you with the puzzle. If you have a glass top table, do the puzzle directly on the table. Once the puzzle is all assembled, have him look for the missing piece under the table. When he can’t find it, crawl under the table to help, and show him your message. It won’t take long for him to find that missing puzzle piece now!

8. Create Your Own Starry Nights

Get a pack of glow-in-the-dark stars to stick on the ceiling over your bed. Have them spell out a love note to your honey. When the lights go out, you can lie under the stars and cuddle.

9. Wash Your Cares Away

How about a soothing bath for two? Make bath sachets by wrapping cinnamon sticks, cloves, and orange peel in pieces of fabric and tying with a ribbon. Drop into a hot bath, add a few capfuls of almond oil. Indulge!

10. Tea For Two

Take a little time-out with an afternoon tea party. De-stress over chamomile and banana bread, and take turns with the shoulder rubs.

11. Recipe For Romance

Cool Autumn breezes call for simmering stews. Spend time in the kitchen together chopping up herbs and veggies and create your own cold-weather feast! Serve with corn bread and your favorite wine.

12. Bicycle-Built-For-Two

Enjoy the last few sunny weekends by renting a bicycle built for two and cruising the neighborhood!

13. Story Time Together

Grimm’s Fairy Tales take on a whole new meaning when read aloud by the one you love. Curl up on the couch and revisit some of your favorites, and love happily ever after.
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02 Oct

Health Care Reform And Mental Health Services

Years ago, when my son was diagnosed with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (AD/HD), my life changed. I went from being a mother to also taking on the additional roles of advocate and mediator. In order to help my son get the help he needed and the services he was entitled to in school, I had to learn everything I could about the educational system, the healthcare system, and the law. It is a challenge, yet it is essential in order to work with teachers, administrators, doctors, and therapists as part of a team. I learned a lot, thanks in large part to an organization called CHADD, Children and Adults with Attention Deficit Disorders. This is a national, non-profit organization with local, volunteer-run chapters. Our local chapter held monthly meetings, which allowed parents to keep up with the various issues and changes. Most importantly, the meetings provided a forum for parents to network with each other and share experiences and resources.

We got over all the hurdles, and managed to get through the system despite the complexities. My son is in college now, and he has the tools to advocate for himself. But there are new kids coming up, and new parents who are starting from scratch to figure all of this out. Luckily, CHADD is still on it, providing us with the ongoing information we need to help our kids.

Following is an e-mail I received from CHADD regarding the current Healthcare Reform Legislation. I am happy to share it with you, and hoping that it will encourage all of us to look at the many children and families who will benefit from healthcare reform. To those of us working so diligently to take care of our children, this is most welcome, and long overdue.

“House of Representatives Passes
Comprehensive Healthcare Reform Legislation

Many Provisions Will Benefit
Children and Adults with AD/HD and Related Disorders

On Saturday, November 7, 2009, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a comprehensive healthcare reform bill, the Affordable Health Care for America Act (HR 3962) by a vote of 220-215. It is expected that the full Senate will debate and vote on its version of the bill in the coming weeks, which will then be followed by the House and Senate having its leaders meet in a conference to reconcile differences and produce a final piece of legislation that can be sent to the President.

CHADD, through its membership in the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities, Campaign for Mental Health Reform, and the Mental Health Liaison Group has sent letters to members of Congress in support of the bill. CHADD’s views on and support for healthcare reform legislation can be viewed on the Healthcare Reform 2009 webpage and CHADD’s Leadership Blog. CHADD has no position on many of the provisions contained in the legislation. The three primary disability coalitions CHADD participates in, believe there are significant key provisions warranting support of the legislation.

A few key provisions in the final House bill that will benefit children and adults with AD/HD and related disorders include:

* Requiring most Americans to obtain health insurance, and mandating that most employers provide insurance to their employees, but also providing substantial federal subsidies to make coverage as affordable as possible;
* Providing coverage of critical services for people with disabilities in the new Health Insurance Exchange’s essential benefits package including behavioral health treatment, and mental health and substance abuse services in compliance with the Wellstone-Domenici parity law, rehabilitation and habilitation services, equipment and supplies for children under 21 years of age;
* Inclusion of “disability” as a category for purposes of health disparities;
* Inclusion of the Community Living Assistance Services and Supports (CLASS) Act, a new national long term services insurance program to help adults with severe functional impairments to remain independent, employed, and a part of their communities; and
* Not allowing individual or group health insurance policies to establish lifetime or annual limits on the dollar value of benefits and the elimination of discrimination based on health status or a pre-existing condition.

CHADD continues to actively monitor developments in healthcare reform. Updated information on the legislation, CHADD’s 13 principles for healthcare reform, children’s mental health coalition’s five principles for healthcare reform and CHADD’s work with other partner coalitions can be viewed on CHADD’s website: http://www.chadd.org

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29 Sep

“WHICH GOD IS WHICH?”

“God has no religion.”

         ~Mahatma Gandhi

When most people think of God, they think of religion. But really, can God have a religion? Did God create religion? No…man did.

There are over 4,000 religions in the world today, according to Adherents an independent, non-religiously affiliated organization that monitors the number and size of the world’s religions. Adherents divides religions into churches, denominations, congregations, religious bodies, faith groups, tribes, cultures and movements.

Nearly 75 percent of the world’s population practices one of the five most influential religions of the world: Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam and Judaism.

If non-religious people were classified as a group, they would be the world’s third largest group.

It’s human nature to believe that a chosen religion is superior because it’s, well, chosen. But lets think about who’s doing the choosing.

Most of us are born into a religion through a familial lineage. Some stay with the beliefs they are taught growing up and others either convert to another religion or drop out all together.

But why do we have religions in the first place? There are a lot of thoughts on that subject. Some feel that religion is a way to control large groups of people; others feel religion helps shape character and teaches morality. And then there are those that see religion as a path to God, Heaven, Eternal life etc.

If you study the early writings and philosophies of all religions, you find common themes. They all acknowledge that there is a creative, divine force of some sort. They all seem to have the goal of getting back to that divine place with The Divine Creator.

There’s a common rule across the board:

“All things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye so to them; for this is the law and the prophets” – CHRISTIANITY

 

 

 

 

 

“This is the sum of duty; do naught unto others what you would not have them do unto you.” HINDUISM

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Do not do to others what you would not like yourself. Then there will be no resentment against you, either in the family or in the state.”  CONFUCIANISM

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Hurt not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful.” BUDDHISM

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“No one of you is a believer until he desires for his brother that which he desires for himself.” ISLAM

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“What is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow man. This is the entire Law; all the rest is commentary.” JUDAISM

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Regard your neighbor’s gain as your gain and your neighbor’s loss as your own loss.” TAOISM

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“That nature alone is good which refrains from doing to another whatsoever is not good for itself.” ZOROASTRIANISM

 

 

 

 

 

I’m a religious person. I know that the path I have chosen to follow is sacred for me. It teaches and inspires me. It also tells me that I may not try to convert others away from their paths and on to mine. I must honor the walk and the dreams and the aspirations of my fellow brothers and sisters.

There is as much brilliance and vibrancy in religious traditions worldwide as there is in world music, art and literature. It’s fascinating to learn what inspires greatness in others.

So if you believe that your religion makes you a better person and I believe that my religion makes me a better person, why would either of us want to change the other?

 

 

 

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