Monday, November 29, 2010

Who do we look up to?

Many of us grow up wanting to be just like the role models we idolize, but what exactly is it that we aspire to emulate?

For some, huge monetary success and a prestigious role in a corporation is something they see themselves becoming...others might be attracted to glamour and fame... and there are those who revere others who make a positive difference in the world and feel compelled to do the same.

These are but a few examples of people we may have looked up to when we were younger, however our 'job' is what we do...'who' we are when we're doing it is even more important!

Flash forward and now we are the role models ourselves and our influence on the coming generations is it begs us to reflect on what kind of role models we have become.

Do we measure our success by our bank account or by how we treat others? Is our ego inflated by fame or do we use our public success to model kindness and compassion? Do we help others to make ourselves look good or do we really see how we are all connected and give from a more selfless place?

Are we happy with what we have or unhappy not having what we want? Do we live by the golden rule or believe in an eye for an eye?

I hope that when it's my turn to go, the service will be filled to the rafters and spilling out into the parking lot with all the people whose live's I touched and somehow made a difference...for me that will be my measure of success...but I also hope that that's a long long time from now! :)

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Bullying Awareness ...uh week??

Where I live it's Bullying Awareness week, but really, is a week of awareness enough? I don't think I'm the only one who wishes we could all be more conscious and aware of bullying every day!
Last month you couldn't turn on the television without seeing yet another expose on the tragic ending to a young life that could have been prevented.

It inspired me to share my views on bullying...not just as it pertains to gay teens but a more generic look at the root causes of bullying, the widespread effects and how we can end the cycle.
As the response was so overwhelming when I first posted these entries, I wanted to share them with you again...their content and relevance just as important today as the day I wrote them.

Be part of the solution to end bullying for good! Be the Role Model!!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Ready...Set...Let Go!

It's hard to see anyone we love struggle with circumstances that have come up in their lives and it is especially hard as parents to witness our children in pain...we just want to make it go away for them!

As hard as it might be for us, we have to let go and allow our kids to experience what they are experiencing. I'm not talking about physical injury or pain...this is about their stress, their disappointments, their emotional struggles. 

Now it's not to say that we turn away and let them suffer, that's not it at all. We need to create a safe and nurturing environment for them, be compassionate, listen to them, and love and support them unconditionally through their trials, even if the choices that they have made have led them to their woes.

We've all heard the phrase, we learn from our mistakes, and one of the most difficult parts of parenting is to actually let our kids make one!

From my own experience with two teenagers coupled with the fact that I am a recovering control freak (I'm getting better though! :)), I have humbly learned that it can be very disrespectful as well as debilitating to interfere with our kids predicaments.

Consider the possibility that the message we're sending is that we don't believe in them nor that they have the capability to figure a way through their situation or conflict; or that our common complaint that kids don't take responsibility may come from never having learned how to because we're always jumping in to save the day!

Another downside is that we end up taking on so much unnecessary stress for ourselves when we try to fix or take away anyone else's pain... don't we have enough of our own to deal with anyway?

We all want to empower our kids and as as their role models this is just one of the many ways that I've learned as a parent to do just that!

So.....ready...set...let go!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Breaking the Bullying Cycle

I have been sharing my story for years as to how I used to be a bullying mom and invariably people respond with either a thank you for inspiring them to take responsibility for how they have behaved and then there are other subscribers who demand to be taken off my list having been triggered by what I have shared.

I was out last night at a friend's house for dinner...a retired teacher and one of the kindest and loving women I know. She isn't a big news watcher so I caught her up on all the coverage of bullying lately and of course she was very interested having been in the school system for 35 years. (just as an aside, she is definitely not one of the negative examples that the documentary Waiting for Superman highlights.)

I had shared with her that I felt there had been an abundance of talk about the effects of bullying but not a lot on how to actually break the cycle. My friend was absolutely shocked and of course saddened as we all are to know how this cycle has permeated so deeply in our society.

Neither one of us can understand why more people aren't talking about how kids don't become bullies once they hit the school grounds...the conditioning starts way before then!

Our kids watch our every move...they overhear our overt comments and also take in the implied messages we send to them.

They are in the back seat as we curse at the driver who cut us off and hear us complain how "those" people...from whichever country they mention, can't drive.

They are within earshot as we judge and speak of our intolerance of other's lifestyle choices.

We yell, demean, disrespect and otherwise bully our front of them.

We separate or divorce and the impact of our meanness to each other is engrained in them.

I'm not saying I have all the answers, nor that I am a perfect role model or that my kids are perfect angels but what I know for sure is that if we don't stop and take a look at what we are modelling, we will keep feeding this insidious cycle...more lives will be needlessly lost...more families torn apart...

We have to start being aware of what we are teaching them remembering that our kids look up to us, they think we know everything and will adopt our beliefs and behaviors because they don't know any other way.

It's a common sense solution...being the best role models we can be for our kids will make a huge impact on breaking this cycle...and hopefully one day for good!!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

I was a bullying mom...

It took me a little while to collect myself this morning before writing my blog. I had to wait out the tears that flowed from hearing all of the bullying stories that have been profiled in the media heart breaking for all involved, not only the bullied but the bullies as well.

The tears continued to flow as I connected with profound gratitude...I was grateful that I was able to shift my behavior and prevent two more kids from becoming victims or perpetrators of this epidemic, these children being my own.

You see I was a bullying mother.

This morning one of the news programs highlighted that they didn't believe that the bullies see their behavior and I agree wholeheartedly...I didn't see mine...but my kids sure did...but they didn't have a voice to tell me.

One day I woke up and became aware of what my behavior was teaching my become timid and fearful walking on eggshells around my moods or model my meanness and judgment.

Now I didn't look the part, although is there an identifiable look anyway? I didn't necessarily display my behavior for the world to see...but nonetheless I humbly admit that I was a bully.

Once I took responsibility for what I was teaching my kids, I became a different mother...a better role model and a voice for every child who hopes that the role models in their lives can muster up the courage to take a look in the mirror too...

I believe that everything we experience in life brings us to what we are meant to do. After taking a good look at myself and consciously choosing to change was the catalyst that ignited not only my passion to make a difference but my compassion as well...we all do the best we can until we know otherwise and awareness is the key!

We really do live in a mad mad world...but I know it can change...but we have to be that change!

No child is born a bully...let's be the best role models we can be for them!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Waiting for Superman?

Einstein would be shaking his head in disbelief to see that we are still doing the same things over and over again and expecting different results!

Kudos to those behind the making of the documentary Waiting for Superman! I haven't even seen the movie yet, although I will, but the clips that I and others have seen have certainly started a conversation... and that's a really good thing!

The question is what kind of conversation are we having? It's not about taking sides, judging, pointing fingers or casting seems to me that this movie is serving a greater purpose than just exposing the changes needed in the education's much much bigger than that!

This film is a gigantic wake-up call for all of us...not just teachers, not just parents...but for all of us to become aware of and take responsibility of how we are showing up for our kids...what kind of role models we are.

We all do the best we can...I don't believe there are 'bad' teachers or 'bad' parents...we all have a good and not so good side to us and which side we choose to behave from is a choice we make. The unfortunate part is that in most cases we make that choice unconsciously.

So let's keep having the conversations that this movie is evoking, however, if you ask me, the most important conversation we can have is the one we have with ourselves...examining our own behavior more consciously, making the shifts that so many headlines are pointing for us to make, letting go of the hypocrisy and just start focusing on being the change that we have been condemning others for not being!

We're all a work in progress... ;o)

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Shall we dance?

Did you know that most kids think that the adults in their lives aren't happy? I don't know about you but I think we need to change that perception!

Now I know we all have stuff going on in our lives, but many of us may not be aware of how we wear it everyday like a fitted suit! We can just as easily change gears and pull a different suit out of our of happiness, and the fastest way I know how to get there is by dancing!!

I was watching Ellen DeGeneres yesterday as I do when have time because every time I watch her show I laugh...out loud! She is so funny and as many of you know, she loves to dance!

Well as I listened, she tongue and cheekily (a word?) was taking credit for the dance movement that seems to have taken over our television screens in the recent years because before her, shows like Dancing with the Stars and So you think you can dance didn't exist!

But it's true...true that there is a growing dance movement and I for one am on that train... just ask my kids, although they would probably prefer that I curtail my movement when they have their friends over!

Dancing is a great way to shake things up...literally and figuritively, as in our mood. Just try to be stressed while your doin' a little jig...can't happen!

So today why not give it a try...lighten up a bit and bring out your inner John Travolta or Tina Turner and dance like nobody's watching even though they are!

Let's show them we're not a bunch of wall flowers after all! Here's to being a happy role model! :o)

Monday, September 27, 2010

Creating a Positive Culture

(x) + (y) = z     I recently did a presentation for a group of high school teachers and I used this math equation as an example to build the awareness of how we can create a more positive culture...not only in our classrooms and schools but a home as well.

I know math wasn't everyone's favorite subject like it was for me, but I promise, it's not a hard concept to get! Z represents the culture we're creating and the (y) reflects kids/students  behaviors and attitudes.

So I plugged numbers into the equation (x) + (y) = z  on the white board giving these two examples:
(2) + (-5) = -3    and   (6) + (-3) = +3

It was pretty clear to see that the outcome of a positive or negative culture (z) was dependent on the X matter how negative the (y) factor was....a variable which we can't control!

I think you can figure out where I'm going with this...the (x) is us...the adults...role models and we're in control of only one positive we are.

Even without doing the math, we know that we can't create a positive culture if we are negative...the math example was just a little reminder which we can all use every now and again :o)

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Are you getting the thumbs up?

We all do our best but some days, depending on which side of the bed we rolled out of, we could maybe use a little tweeking as we show up in our day as role models. The term role model in and of itself is neutral...the positive or negative slant depends on us!

It's not just parents like me, teachers, sports coaches or others who work with kids who should be mindful of what they're putting out there! We might not have our own kids...we might be aunts, uncles, grandparents, friends, neighbors or the grocery clerk at the check out that frequently has children around them.

Most of us probably don't know where we stand from their point of view, so what if you took a big breath and asked them if they would give you a thumbs up or down in whatever role you play in their lives...what do you think the answer would be?

Now don't beat yourself up or anything...sometimes it may be up and others down....but the way to getting more 'up' days on the calendar is to ask them why they voted the other way! (Actually keeping track on a calendar isn't a bad idea !)

Hope to connect soon on my new facebook page a great resource with information and inspiration to get a thumbs up everyday!

I hope today is a thumbs up day for you!! :o)

Monday, September 20, 2010

Young Role Models

Most of my time is spent creating the awareness of how we as adults can be the best role models we can be for kids! But there is a growing number of kids and young students who are being amazing role models!

My daughter had an amazing experience through the Free the Children foundation this past summer as she travelled to Kenya with a group of students to help with the Clean Water Projects and the construction of a library among many other events. I was so impressed with the organization that I wanted to help bring more awareness to We Day

Free The Children’s We Day is more than just one day of celebration and inspiration. It’s a one-of-a-kind event and part of an innovative year-long program created to celebrate the power of young people to create positive change in the world.

The dates are almost here...Toronto - Sept. 30th   Vancouver - Oct. 15th   Montreal - Nov. 12th!

These kids are going to change the world... help them reach their goal of 1 million likes on facebook!    Talk about role models!!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Being Happy

Do you ever wonder what your purpose in life is? It's a common conversation that takes place around dinner tables, water coolers, amongst friends and sometimes in our own heads!

Yesterday I was reminded, yet again, that we all share a common purpose and that is to be happy...joyful! For some it seems like a given and to others it may sit at the bottom of their list.

Years ago I had polled some seventh & eighth graders and asked them if they thought that the adults in their their life were happy and how they knew if they were or weren't. As I reviewed their answers it was very clear that the adults in their life were unhappy the majority of the time and in turn it made the kids feel sad and unhappy as well.

I guess this gives credence to the phrase, "If mom ain't happy no one is!"

Life ebbs and flows...that's just the way it is! Some days 'stuff ' happens and other days run smoothly, but how we respond to life's challenges and allow our happiness to erode in reaction to them teaches the kids around us to also be that way.

No matter what is going on in life, we can still choose to be happy and that's one of the best lessons we can teach our kids!

Hope you have many Water off a duck's back days!

Jo-Anne :0)

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Banana Blunder

Being present...really present with who we're with or what we're doing in any given moment is something that many of us are striving for yet struggle with.

I'm still laughing at myself (a very healthy thing to do!) as I had one of those struggling moments this morning!

As I was preparing my breakfast I was cutting up some fruit and got a rather simple yet clear message that I was not being very present.

As I peeled my banana I started to slice it up and didn't notice that not only did I put the peel in the compost bin but I was slicing the banana into it as well!

Once I caught myself I just started to laugh...where was I that I didn't notice until the end of the banana that it wasn't going into my bowl?

I managed to salvage most of it as I rinsed the coffee grounds off some of the pieces :)

This may seem like a silly example but can you imagine, if we are this unconscious (I know I'm not alone here!) in these seemingly inconsequential moments in our day, what the impact would be if we did the same thing with our kids?

So here's to a very present day and have some fun with it by keeping track of how many times you catch yourself not being quite all there!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

It's the most wonderful time of the year?

Only a few weeks left before our kids go back to school and I'm really puzzled at the message behind the commercial ad for school supplies that has played for several years over the air waves.

I was thinking this morning that there were only two more sleeps (yes I still count down in sleeps!) until my 18 year old daughter returns from her amazing humanitarian trip to Kenya! Of course I missed her and as she begins another new journey this fall I will cherish every day that she still lives with me...she won't forever!

My son is entering his last year of high school and I have enjoyed every minute of the summer with both my kids....more time together, amazing weather and a lot of fun!

So here's my quandary ....why would our kids going back to school be the most wonderful time of the year?

Are they implying that we want to get rid of our kids? That it's too hard having them around all the time? Sheesh...I sure hope not!!

But then again, maybe there are those out there who feel their kids are a bit of an inconvenience being around for the summer and they like life better once they're back at school? If you are one of them please contact me...please! :)

We only get one shot at this parenting thing, they'll be gone soon enough...and for good! There will be plenty of times where you will miss these years so enjoy every single one of them now...oh and your kids will like that you do too!!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Walking the Talk

For the past several months I have been vowing to change the dial on my radio from a morning show that I have listened to for decades and yesterday I finally did it!

The energy of the show had changed, or so I thought...maybe it was me who has changed :)

I had been increasingly getting tired of the incessant judging and poking fun at others...bordering on rude, and the playing of songs that although may have been popular, conveyed messages that were inconsistent with the tone I try to set for myself and my kids in my life and that I quite frankly didn't want to hear.

Don't get me wrong....I love to laugh just as much as the next guy(gal)...just not at someone's expense and even if a tune is catchy, something doesn't feel right dancing away to that negativity!

So I changed all the radios around the house as well as the one in my car to a new station that is more aligned with my values.

When I told my teenage son about this great thing I did, his response was, " Yeah Mom, You've been saying you were going to do that forever!" ...and he was right!

This may seem like a silly example, but it's so important to walk our talk in every capacity if we're going to be the role models our kids need and as you can see, they observe everything!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Conscious Kids

Yesterday I had a few tears in my eyes as I saw a picture of my daughter's beautiful face for the first time since she left for Kenya on an amazing adventure in association with Me to We and Free the Children with the primary purpose of building a school.

I receive regular e-mail updates on her group's activities and they shared how Craig Kielburger himself showed up on a surprise visit recently as they all celebrated the official opening of the the Clean Water Projects!

Coincidentally, later the same day I had read an article where the Kielburger brothers (co-founders of the Free the Children Foundation) spoke of the best way to inspire more socially aware kids was to be mirrors ourselves as parents and model the to my ears!

I know this to be true from many experiences in my own life, but most importantly through my children.

It's like this being more conscious message was coming out of the woodwork for me yesterday as I spent time with my other teenager, my son, and we got chatting about how he chooses to respond instead of react in situations with his peers, especially in heated situations and can see how coming from this different perspective is very unique in today's society.

When people say to me that I must be so proud of my kids I of course say that I am, however, I know that the shifts I made and continue to make to be a more aware and conscious mom was and still is key in inspiring and sustaining the path they choose to follow in life.

So let's take the texting, video game playing and peer pressure off the hot seat...monkey see monkey do!!


Friday, June 25, 2010

Report Card Drama

School's almost out for the summer...and the report cards are coming what will you do? How will you react as a parent to less than great marks??

I was asked to do a television interview this week on Global News here in Toronto addressing this very topic, in fact an area that I frequently discuss with many parents.

The fact is our kids will not all be A students...some are and others are at the other end of the spectrum, just like when we were in school...maybe our sibling(s) were at the top of the class and we weren't.

The point though as parents is to be aware of  if we treat our kids differently based on their marks, because if we do, they can feel it!

Children just want to be unconditionally loved by us and that includes whether or not they get an A or an F.

For other tips to avoid any report card dramas, you can view the clip of the interview  Enjoy :)

Thursday, June 3, 2010

You Gotta Laugh!

Okay I admit it...I love being a mom and doing mom things, so yes I still make my son's lunch even though he is 17, but the way I look at it is that I don't have many more years left to have this role so I'm going to make the most of it...especially because he's my youngest.

So of course being a good mom, I wanted him to have some protein to go along with his sour gushers and dry alphabits that I substituted for cookies as I hadn't been shopping, so I made him a tuna sandwich.

Sometime late morning, I received this text..but before that I just wanted to make a suggestion that parents learn how to text as this is probably the only way they'll be able to communicate with their teens...anyway the text read like this:      " Nice giant hair in my sandwich!"

I laughed so hard when I read it and even more so when he descriptively described, once he got home from school, how the whole thing went down in the cafeteria amongst his peers.

I had sent him a text back that said, "Extra protein never hurt anyone :)" He did end up eating the sandwich, after all we are family...but not the hair!

This morning I taped a note to his wrap that said, " No hairs in your lunch today!" which I know will make him smile.

The point of all this? We have to laugh more with our kids...have more fun with them and lighten's so much easier when we do!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The Bullying Epidemic

As I was watching yet another news story on bullying, I just wanted to crawl into the tv and say, “Why can’t you see the solution??” I felt like I had bought my glasses from a different store than anyone else!

Our children are not born bullies…a phrase that I hope one day becomes a mantra for every single parent, teacher, coach and person working with kids. As I continued to watch I thought that one move in the right direction would be to change the definition of what it means to bully, so I wrote this:

Dear Dictionary,
Please amend the current definition for bullying to:

Any act, be it physical, verbal or non-verbal, that makes someone feel bad about themselves, not good enough.

There is an epidemic that pervades our society more than any disease that has ever existed – feeling not good enough.

It’s the common thread that runs through not only bullying, but the issues of obesity, depression, addictions, suicide and more!

In order to find the solution, we have to start asking ourselves the tough questions. There are way too many to mention but we can start with these general ones:

How do I treat my kids/partner when I’m mad?
Do I compare my kids to their friends, siblings, teammates?
Do I treat my child differently when they bring home an A or an F?
Do I express my disappointment when my kid doesn’t meet my expectations?
Do I punish my child when they act up?

This is just scratching the surface, but you get the idea. Now I know many of you may be getting a little incensed right now…I know because I did when I was asked to look at and take responsibility for my behavior…but we have to!

If we were honest with ourselves we would see that we have all been on either side of the bullying fence and if we ever hope to have harmony in our schools or our homes we have to have the courage to ask the tough questions!

This is a wake-up call that comes straight from the heart with unbridled compassion for every child who is bullied and for those who have become the bullies – they each express their feelings of not good enough in a different way, yet both in the way they have been taught.

We can stop this epidemic in its tracks by finding a way to heal our own feelings of not good enough so we don’t pass them along to our children and once we do that we will inspire a new legacy and generation of kids who are empowered and who would never need to put down another in order to feel better about themselves!

Harmony in our schools can and will happen when there is harmony in our homes and the solution lies in being a role model of unconditional love.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Mothers at their best!

I thought that today,on the eve of Mother's Day weekend, would be the perfect day to launch my blog so... welcome to my inaugural post!

Everyday I hear or see examples from my own personal experiences, current events or explosive stories in the media that can serve as big wake-up calls if we let them, but sometimes we miss the chance because we’re too focused on the finger pointing out instead of the three pointing back!

My blog is going to be all about taking a look a these examples and how we can take a page out of their life book so to speak and apply it to ours.

Although I've heard ramblings of not so nice comments and PDA's (Public Displays of Anger) about this sometimes outspoken mom from The View, I think the public apology that Elisabeth Hasselbeck made this week to Erin Andrews (after dissing her costume choices on Dancing with the Stars) spotlights a great message and depicts what this blog is all about.

We all make mistakes and unfortunately when celebrities make them the whole world knows about it, but, and yes I know this sounds a little odd, this can be a very good thing...for us!

I really felt her sincere and humble as she took responsibility not only for her mean and insensitive behavior, but I also believe that she had a huge AHA moment with her daughter; seeing the hipocrisy of what she has been trying to teach her and how she wasn't walking the talk herself. (hmm...note to self)

Of course equally applying to any adult, as mothers we're always trying to do the best we can until we know how to do it even better and once we know how we can be better it's pretty hard to go back.

So on behalf of myself & many other mothers, thanks Elisabeth for this wake-up call to all of us who aren't modelling what we are preaching!

Happy Mother's Day!