words that nourish

Words That Nourish, Friends That Write

I can count on one hand the number of women I trust will always be in my life. They each entered my world at different, crucial, life altering times, and while not one of them lives within walking distance of my home, our connection remains – through words that nourish.

I’ve been a pen pal, a journaler, a poet, a blogger, a note-take, list maker and a lesson creator. Words make my world centered, they offer me a chance to slip away and at the same time, ground myself. Words are solace in a life that I struggle to understand and often, to trust.

One of these phenomenal women is my friend Michelle. We met during our early years of teaching English – a time in our twenties when life as we know now was merely a whisper. Our paths crossed in an interview for a teaching position – I, the interviewer, she the interviewee. I was captivated by her quiet grace, her creativity, and her absolute desire to share her love of language and words and books.

That was over two decades ago, and despite many moves, some marriages, a divorce, numerous job changes and a few precious children thrown into our realiity, our friendship ebbs and flows like the tide, constant, reliable, soothing.

Michelle may not realize what an inspiration she’s been to me; she may not know that when I bake bread or dig in my garden, or read about her treasured Lousisiana or find myself succumbing to fine food and wine, she’s with me.

words that nourish

Today, we were on each other’s minds. Close friendships work like that – I mailed her a book she needed on her shelf this morning, and this afternoon she called to talk writing and summer travel plans.

Today, I’m happy to share a beautiful blog post written on Michelle’s new blog, A Power 4 Good. I know you’ll love her words that nourish – she’s one of a kind! Please welcome her to the blogging community with open arms!

Words that nourish; words that heal by Michelle St. Romain

“Wherever I’ve lived my room and soon the entire house is filled with books; poems, stories, histories, prayers of all kinds stand up gracefully or are heaped on shelves, on the floor, on the bed. Strangers old and new offering their words bountifully and thoughtfully, lifting my heart.” ~ Mary Oliver

I have been thinking recently about why we write stories, why anyone writes their thoughts on paper (or computer screens). In my days as an English major in college, I was always amazed by my classmates and even my professors who chose to put their written hats in the ring and try to publish their writing. Why would anyone pick out of the millions of things that have been written this particular piece or that particular poem? Why would anyone care about my writing, or anyone’s, for that matter?

And so I chose to do other things. I continued to write, because I cannot help it. I wrote in journals. I wrote essays. I wrote for a newspaper for a short time and I found quickly that my writing could be used in almost any profession, to entertain, market, raise funds, make a case, explain, take a stand.

At this point in my life, I find that the writers I have loved have become my teachers, their words the medicine for my soul. These are the ones who have the power to change my mood and my thinking in an instant. These are the ones with a power that transcends everything that is happening in our world, at any time, no matter how ominous or depressing.

They are Mary Oliver, Toni Morrison, Barbara Kingsolver, Amy Tan. David Whyte, Alice Hoffman, Joanna Macy. Clarissa Pinkola Estes. Marge Piercy. Alice Walker and Maya Angelou. Sandra Cisneros and Kate Chopin. This list could go on, go deeper, go farther into the past, more fully into the variety of cultures and stories that inform our world, whether we are conscious of it or not.

words that nourish

It goes to Ovid and Shakespeare, Richard Wright and Steinbeck. Their classics shaped my view of the world, challenged what I was taught about class and reality. They are immortal inside me and the influence of their words on paper cannot be known, even in the singular strand of my life – of decisions I have made, paths I have taken, words I have spoken. Of stands I have made on issues that seem larger than my small life.

I am making these decisions today.  And their words are my solace and guidance. They are my living teachers. Their stories and reflections shape me still, in this time of great change in our world.

I believe that stories and words will heal us from all that is hurting around and within us. I believe that every story that has ever been lived or spoken is still alive today. I believe that every story we are now living, every truth and broken moment, every travesty and victory, no matter how small or large, has been lived in one way or another and we can learn from what has happened before us.

We may have to go deep, go far into the past. We may need to journey to cultures far from our own, or perhaps simply allow ourselves to imagine what it is like today, in this moment, in a country where running water is a luxury and homes have dirt floors. If we expand our thinking to include the larger stories of those who have gone before and of those who are now living lives much different than our own, we may find our way. We may find hope.

We will most definitely find sorrow and grief, but we will also find companions on the path. We must only look, be curious, be patient enough to step back and open to seeing the larger shape of what is happening in any moment of our own life stories.

Thank you, great writers and thinkers and teachers. Thank you for the living gift of words that heal and uplift, teach and guide and make us question ourselves. I bury myself deeply in your wisdom. I offer my own words as an offering of gratitude, and as a prayer.

(this post originally appeared on Michelle’s blog, A Power 4 Good)

http://www.pasta-recipes.com

Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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Top Tips For Creating The Perfect Small Family Yard

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You all know how much my garden means to me, but some people aren’t so fortunate. Whether you’ve got an apartment with a balcony, or a small inner-city townhouse, sometimes outside space is at a premium. When you’ve got little ones, it can feel a little bit claustrophobic keeping them indoors all the time, so it can be liberating to make the most of the outside space you have, so that they have room to run around or just get some fresh air. The size of an outdoor area can be restrictive, but it’s not impossible to make a child-friendly garden which is only a few square feet, it just takes a bit of imagination. Check out these top tips for creating the perfect small family yard!

Make space

First things first, you’ll want to get rid of all the clutter. When you’ve got limited space, you need to make sure every inch is accessible. That means finding alternative arrangements for anything you’re storing there, at least when the garden is in use, and trashing anything which is just there for the sake of it. The more space you have available, the more space there is to play with.

Bring in some grass

Every garden should have some sort of grass, even if it’s a tiny balcony garden. Grass is a far safer surface on which children can play, unlike asphalt or concrete, and it can bring freshness and life to your yard. If your yard gets no sunlight, or the space just isn’t big enough to justify turf, why not consider an artificial grass such as Multiturf instead? They look and feel like grass, add softness for children when they’re playing, and they require far less maintenance than real turf, and they can be installed anywhere.

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Create a vegetable patch

However big your garden is, you’ll always have room for a tiny vegetable patch. It’s a great way to get kids outdoors, engaging with their food, weeding the yard, but also learning a bit of science in the process. You don’t have to dig up your entire yard, just a pot with a couple of tomato plants, some strawberries, or even a trashcan full of compost for growing potatoes is a fun way to get your kids interacting with the yard.

Use fold-away furniture

Chances are, mom and dad are going to want to use the yard too, but yard furniture tends to take up valuable playing space. Using fold-up furniture allows you to store it handily so that children can play in the yard, without the risk of tripping over or limiting their playing area.

Keep it safe

Whatever type of yard you have, there are going to be security concerns if your children are using it for recreational purposes. Keeping it safe from intruders, and ensuring they’re not able to get out onto any roads are a priority, so suitable fencing and a gate is an absolute must. If you’re using a balcony, ensuring that your children are not able to climb to the height of the barrier is essential, so avoid placing any garden furniture near to the edge that they can climb on. Keep water away too – even the smallest puddle can be dangerous when a child is around it unsupervised.

Making the most of your yard can be tricky when it’s tiny, but with a bit of imagination, it can be the perfect kid’s playground.

 

Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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You and Your Teen = A Perfect Partnership

Do you partner with your teen in accomplishing the tasks or day-to-day needs of the household? Do you and your teen = a perfect partnership?

Of course, you do.

In many ways, teens are treated as a household partner. For example, when we require them to take out the trash, help with dinner prep or cleanup, take a sibling to practices, and so on. What I just described is a kind of a youthadult partnership.

Technically, a youthadult partnership is one in which adults work in full partnership with young people on issues facing them and/or on programs and policies affecting youth. It is a common approach used by coalitions, networks, schools, faithbased entities, and others to address specific issues adolescents face in local communities. This approach works just as well in our homes and can be effective in helping to shape what our kids do outside the home.

parent teen partnersAs adults, we can share the power to create strategies and make decisions with our teens. This helps to show them that we respect and have confidence in their judgment, which is something so important to them. Additional research data from formal organizations (e.g. 4-H clubs, locallevel school based parent-student (PTA), and Girl/Boy Scouts) has found that youth-adult partnerships help young people resist stress and negative situations.

Specifically, youth-adult partnerships can help *:

Social competence including responsiveness, flexibility, empathy and caring, communication skills, a sense of humor, and other pro-social behaviors

Autonomy, including a sense of identity as well as an ability to act independently and to exert control over one’s environment

Problem-solving skills, such as the ability to arrive at alternative solutions to cognitive and social problems

Sense of purpose and future, including having healthy expectations, goals, an orientation toward success, motivation to achieve, educational aspirations, hopefulness, hardiness, and a sense of coherence

* Pittman KJ, et al. Youth Development and Resiliency Research. Washington, DC: Center for Youth Development and Policy Research, 1993.

I would be willing to bet that these factors are also present in teens who have youth-adult partnerships at home.

Building effective partnerships with our kids is really quite easy:

Work together to develop rules and consequences about risky behaviors and decisions. Develop agreements about risky behaviors that reflect your and your teen’s beliefs and values. Be specific on how their bad decisions affect the family as a whole, especially an impact on their younger siblings who often look to them as a role model for how to act. One of the most important things about rules and consequences is to use them as a response to your child’s behavior, not as a response to your child in general. All kids (including teens) need to feel your love. By co-creating agreements and demonstrating your love, your child will feel precious and safe – even when you’re using consequences.

Lead by example. Don’t come home from work and say, “I had a rotten day. I need a drink”. Instead, show them and, even better, engage them in healthier ways to cope with stress, such as exercise, listening to music, or talking things over. Likewise, be honest and tell your teens about risky choices you have made (without glamorizing them) and the consequences that occurred as a result.

Role-play with your teen on how to handle alcohol, drugs, distracted driving, and other risky behaviors. This can help your child can learn how to resist alcohol or anything else he or she may feel pressured into. Work on more than just saying “no” – for example, discuss how to say “no” an assertive manner (stand up straight, make eye contact and say how you feel). It’s also important to accept that your teen may need an “out,” so develop a strategy together – for example, have them text you a sign so you know to call them with a reason to come home.

Respect your child’s feelings and opinions. Try to tune into your teens feelings. Take their opinions seriously, but be prepared for the fact that their views might differ from yours. You can use this situation as a chance to talk about how people often have different perspectives.

Being a parent is so hard. We want to protect our kids, keep them close and safe, but also give them wings at the same time. Developing familybased, youth-adult partnerships is one way we can do both.

Need help getting started? There are several parent resources and toolkits that can help, start here:

Talk2Prevent

Parent Toolkit

Stop Medicine Abuse

Parent Engagement

If you have any of your own suggestions on youth-adult partnerships at home, let us know! It truly takes a village!

This guest post was written by LeeAnn Weniger-Mandrillo, the mother of her young son, James, and raised her nephew Andrew, who is now 23. As a social marketing and media leader, she has worked in prevention for over 15 years, with the past seven years focused on educating parents and adolescents about substance abuse, tobacco, and alcohol. LeeAnn is passionate about empowering individuals, healthy families and communities through her work with Stop Medicine Abuse and the Five Moms.

Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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Educators and Preventing Medicine Abuse

As a teacher, I know that teens face difficult choices and various pressures – I see it every day at school. But what many educators aren’t aware of is that teens are turning to the medicine cabinet to get high. Teens are misusing and abusing over-the-counter cough medicines by taking more than 25 times the recommended dose. Dextromethorphan (DXM), a main ingredient in cough medicine, can be found in over 100 over-the-counter products. And, since these products are often more easily available than other substances, teens are abusing medicines containing DXM because many believe it is “less dangerous” to use than illegal drugs.

As scary as this trend sounds, the good news is that educators can actually have an impact on students’ decision-making and behavior. Believe it or not, teens may be more likely to listen their teacher than anyone else when it comes to sensitive issues like drug abuse.

While from the onset it seems like medicine abuse can be an intimidating issue to call attention to, it doesn’t have to be. Here are some steps you can take right now towards preventing medicine abuse in your school:

Learn about the dangers of medicine abuse: First and foremost, it is important to fully understand the issue at hand. Educating yourself about DXM and the serious risks of medicine abuse will allow you to effectively talk to teens, parents and other educators about this dangerous trend.

Learn the slang terms: There are a variety of terms that teens use when referring to medicine abuse. These can include words liketussing”, “robo-tripping” or “skittling. If you overhear students at your school mention these terms, they may be discussing over-the-counter cough medicine abuse.

Look out for warning signs. Declining grades, uncooperative attitudes and changes in friends or physical appearances could be signs of cough medicine abuse. Since educators see students frequently, they may be more likely to notice changes that others don’t. Know that it is okay to pull a student aside and ask if everything is okay, or if he or she would like to talk. Sometimes, teens simply need someone who they can confide in, and this is a good way for you to figure out if there is a problem – and how serious it is.

Talk to other educators. Awareness leads to prevention! If there are other educators at your school who are not aware of this dangerous problem, talk to them about the risks. Educators have the power to bring this issue to the attention of the rest of the community. At Stop Medicine Abuse, we have tools for educators to help spread the word and fight over-the-counter cough medicine abuse.

Do you have tips for talking to teens about medicine abuse? Let us know in the comments below!

This is a guest post from Tammy Walsh. Tammy is a mother of two, a high school math teacher and a contributor to The Five Moms blog on StopMedicineAbuse.org. Tammy has a passion for addressing the issue of substance abuse openly and honestly with parents and teens. Through her work with The Five Moms, she hopes to reach more parents on a national level, educating and empowering them with the tools to make positive change in their communities. Join the conversation by following Stop Medicine Abuse on Facebook and Twitter.

 

photo credit: Heiwa elementary school 平和小学校 _22 via photopin (license)

 

Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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Is Your Child Dyslexic? How To Spot The Signs & What To Do About Dyslexia

Although our understanding and acceptance of dyslexia has improved a lot over the past couple of decades, it is still a relatively mis-understood disorder and one that is much more common than you might have thought.


Image Credit: Dyslexia

So as a parent, what should you do if you suspect that your child might be dyslexic?

Don’t Jump To Conclusions

Dyslexia symptoms typically begin showing up during elementary school years. They can appear sooner, so being vigilant is a good idea. But due to the nature of the condition it is hard to diagnose earlier than this.

If you suspect dyslexia, you should also consider other causes. For example, a hearing or sight problem could produce similar symptoms in young children.

Misdiagnosing dyslexia can be just as damaging as having dyslexia, so be cautious before labelling your child as dyslexic.

The Early Symptoms

As mentioned already, early diagnosis is hard, but not impossible. Symptoms can show before school starts and being prepared can be helpful even if you can’t have a definite diagnosis. So what are the early symptoms? Here are a few to look out for:

  • Your child is slow to learn to speak
  • An obvious stutter when speaking
  • Regular ear infections or other ear problems
  • Difficulty with directions (left vs right, up vs down…)
  • Mixing up consonant sounds in words
  • A Lack of interest in learning letters & words

At Elementary School

Once your child arrives at elementary school, problems can become much more evident and even if you didn’t notice any of the early symptoms during the first few years, it is worth looking out for these ones.

  • Mixing up particular letters on a regular basis (I/E or D/B are common ones)
  • Mixing up word order in sentences, struggling with basic grammar
  • Anything related to reading/writing will quickly fatigue them
  • Has a strong preference for being told stories but no interest in reading

This is the stage of education that is often most affected by dyslexia and being able to provide the necessary support now will make a big difference in the long run.

Action Plan – What To Do

So you’ve seen the signs and ruled out other possible causes. What is the next step?

The first thing to do is to discuss your concerns with your child’s teacher or even the head-teacher to see if they have the same concerns. Your next step should be to inquire about having a professional test your child.

Most people don’t realize that there are multiple levels and types of dyslexia and there are many different ways to test, so even if you are certain of the diagnosis, having your child tested is essential.

Once the diagnosis is confirmed the professional will be able to give you more guidance on what to do next, and you can then start discussing possibilities with the teachers.

 

About The Author
This guest post was written by James from UKTutors. James is a tutor and loves to write about education for children. Thanks for reading his post.

 

Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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