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Articles for Parents

Check out these articles that cover a variety of parenting topics. From newborns to teens, we're here to give you guidance when you need it.

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    How to Handle Grief

    It’s been 10 years since Ron and Nan Deal unexpectedly said goodbye to their middle son, Connor.

    “You never expect to outlive your children,” says Ron Deal. “We actually joked about the fact that Connor, who was 12 at the time, was the healthiest of our three boys. The other two could come down with the flu and Connor kept on trucking. One day, he got a headache. We gave him ibuprofen and sent him to bed early. Ten days later he was gone.”

    The Deals have no idea how Connor contracted MRSA, an infection that is very difficult to treat.

    “I love talking about Connor and at the same time, I hate talking about him because it is so incredibly painful,” Deal says. “I now talk about life before Connor died and life after Connor left us, and I long for the innocence of before. I am keenly aware now that life can turn on a dime and you will never be the same.”

    When talking about the grieving process, Deal shares that early on, it felt as if they were buried up to their necks in mud.

    “You can’t walk and can’t move,” Deal says. “In the beginning, I think my wife and I grieved similarly, but as time moved on, we have grieved differently, which has meant we have to pay really close attention. After Connor’s death, I went for years literally not able to experience joy of any kind. My wife didn’t smile or laugh for a year. The grief just consumes you and you feel like a shell of a person. 

    “My sister saved us,” Deal says. “We really went numb for a couple of years. She would show up once a month for an entire year just to be with us. The kids were thrilled because she would cook for them.

    “Once we got to the 3-year, 5-year marks, I found that I could compartmentalize my grief to some degree, but then out of nowhere a song or a smell would take me right back to that place,” Deal shares. “Nan has carried it with her 24/7 like a parka you never take off.”

    The Deals learned they had to be intentional about talking and engaging with each other. Through the grieving process, Deal says they learned many other lessons, too.

    Tear Soup: A Recipe for Healing after Loss is a must-read for anyone entering into a hard space with someone who is grieving. If you haven’t walked this road, just show up. Step into the living room and be present. You can’t fix it.” 

    When you lose somebody, studies show that about a third of people in your life are helpful. Deal learned it was his job to seek out the therapeutic third and hang around them.

    He found that sometimes even extended family members weren’t part of their third when their grief was big. During the early years, the Deals were never at home for the holidays or on Connor’s birthday, but they made it a point to go be with safe people or get involved with an activity where the day passes quickly.  

    Deal maintains that in any loss in our lives, we need to find an expression of that loss equal to the magnitude of the loss. You have to find some radical way of blessing other people.

    “Give expression to your grief and sadness, especially those you share it with,” encourages Deal. “You will be tempted to isolate yourself. Don’t do that. You have to get outside yourself.

    “Through a crazy series of events, we ended up going to Ghana, West Africa, working with a ministry that rescues trafficked children,” Deal says. “They raise and educate them. We decided to build an art center in Connor’s name that provides therapeutic, emotional and psychological support for them in the healing process. We get to go once a year and be with the children. Connor would love it! He was artsy and musical. There is a lot there that is him. My grief is alive when I am there. I can’t get Connor back, but I can bless others. These are children who have been sold into slavery. To be a small part of rescuing them and helping them heal is such a joy.

    “Serving others is not denying your own sadness; if anything, it’s saying I know what I am going through and I need to do something with this energy. You do that with tears and you do that with action.

    “We had a counselor to help guide us through this,” Deal says. “The seasons change and with it comes a new little hurdle. It’s helpful to have a professional to walk with you over the course of time.

    “The grieving process is not a sprint or even a half-marathon. It’s a full-on marathon and you have to stay after it. There are lots of ripples from the grieving. Some are beautiful and some are painful. It is a long road. Over the last 10 years we have seen beauty out of the ashes, but it doesn’t get rid of the ashes.”

    This article was originally published in the Chattanooga Times Free Press on February 17, 2019.


    See an interview with Ron Deal on this topic on this episode of JulieB TV.

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    3 Ways to Avoid Jumping to Conclusions

    In January of 2019, someone posted a video of a young man standing in front of a Native American veteran. The young man was accused of taunting the man while he was drumming, and his classmates who were standing nearby were accused of making disrespectful comments aimed at the Native American. The video blew up on social media. The teens’ school even responded to the incident, stating the teens would be disciplined up to and including expulsion.

    However, when additional information and longer portions of video emerged, news anchors admonished viewers that jumping to conclusions can be harmful in so many ways. 

    The teen at the center of attention shared his version of what happened. CNN’s Jake Tapper obtained a statement from Nick Sandmann, a junior at Covington Catholic High School, who said he is the student in the video. Sandmann said he was trying to diffuse a tense situation and denied insinuations that anyone in the crowd was acting out of racism or hatred.

    An ancient proverb says it is foolish to answer a matter before you hear it.

    Millions of people looked at the video and immediately jumped to conclusions without having context or perspective. As a result, a young man was accused of taunting a Native American veteran, being racist and numerous other things. Additionally, a young man who attends the same school was falsely identified as being present. His family was accused of being racists, and they received threats throughout the weekend.

    Have we become a culture that responds to what we think we see? Or have we always been people who respond this way? Are we looking for any excuse to be outraged?

    Just one day after this video was posted, another video started making the rounds. This one showed a barefoot 2-year-old girl with her hands held high in the air after getting out of a car stopped by police. Officers were in the midst of arresting the little girl’s father, who was a suspect. Looking at the video and seeing officers with their guns pointed at the car, many assumed the guns were pointed at the little girl. 

    However, the arresting officer had his bodycam rolling. His footage shows the officers stop the vehicle and tell the suspected armed adults to step out of the truck. After the adults were out of the truck, the child unexpectedly climbed out and imitated her parents by walking toward the officers with her hands raised. An officer can be heard comforting the child, saying, "You're OK, come over here sweetie, you're OK," and "Sweetie, put your hands down, you're fine."

    Ultimately, two men were arrested and their mother was allowed to take care of the children. 

    These are just two instances out of thousands of videos where people are put in a position to draw conclusions about what really happened. Is it possible that we are being baited?

    This seems like a great teachable moment for us all. Many allowed their time, emotional energy and bandwidth to be hijacked by a situation that may or may not have been what it seemed to be. When people live on the edge with short fuses and expect to be offended, people can pretty much be assured that they will be. 

    Jumping to conclusions can be very damaging to relationships, but these three tips can help you think more clearly about the things you see (or think you see). 

    • Pause. Relationship expert Hal Runkel stresses the importance of "the pause." Pausing allows people to take in what they are seeing, obtain more information and then make a decision about the best way to respond.
    • Dig deeper. Ask questions and see if more information is available. Gather all the information you can, and look for other evidence on the subject - whether you agree with it or not.
    • Give the benefit of the doubt. Seeing is not always believing, especially at first or if you are being manipulated in some way. Relationships are built on trust, so make sure you know everything you can possibly know before you make an impulse decision about a matter.  

    This article was originally published in the Chattanooga Times Free Press on January 28, 2019.

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    Why Standards Matter

    John Scolinos retired after coaching baseball for 42 years. In 1996, he asked more than 4000 baseball coaches the following questions: 

    • How wide is home plate in Little League baseball? 
    • Do you know how wide home plate is in high school, college and the major leagues?

    In case you don’t know, it’s 17 inches.

    “Seventeen inches!” Scolinos confirmed. “And what do they do with a Big League pitcher who can’t throw the ball over 17 inches? They send him to Pocatello! What they don’t do is this: They don’t say, ‘Ah, that’s OK, Jimmy. If you can’t hit a 17-inch target, we’ll make it 18 inches or 19 inches. We’ll make it 20 inches so you have a better chance of hitting it. If you can’t hit that, let us know so we can make it wider still, say 25 inches.'

    Scolinos encouraged coaches to uphold the sport's standards for everything from attendance and tardiness to behavior and personal appearance. 

    Why? Because there can be massive consequences when people fail to meet standards.

    Consider this: At least 15 touches are necessary to ensure the safety of donated blood before it can be given to someone who needs it. If any one of those 15 touches are missed or incorrectly completed, serious issues could result for the recipient.  

    When it comes to building overpasses and bridges, engineers carefully calculate weight, force and stress to determine how to build the right kind of structures to accommodate traffic flow. It would be unacceptable for the structural engineers to say they were pretty sure they got their calculations right. One degree, plus or minus, could result in a catastrophic collapse - and it could be the difference between life and death.

    Is it better to bend the rules or the standards in an attempt to make children feel better about themselves, or is it more beneficial to teach children how to accomplish the goal the way it was intended to be met? 

    Scolinos warned the coaches that failing to hold themselves and those in their sphere of influence to a high standard would result in dark days ahead. 

    Before passing away in 2009, Scolinos imparted much coaching wisdom over the years that is still useful in all areas of life. While times have changed, people still count on quality and safety standards for air travel, automakers, restaurants, schools, hospitals, hotels, etc. 

    It’s pretty clear that teaching the importance of accountability starts early and in the home, but it extends far beyond that. In fact, setting and holding to standards lets people know what to expect and where to aim, and it holds them accountable if the standards are not met. Should we expect anything less?

    Click here to read the entire article, which was originally published in the Chattanooga Times Free Press on January 13, 2019.

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    Why Giving Makes You Happy

    You've probably seen stories in years past about the Secret Santa who travels the country, randomly handing out $100 bills just before Christmas. In 2018 he struck again, but this time he landed in Phoenix, AZ and enlisted some help from a homeless man named Moses to give away - get this- a total of $3000. 

    Moses chose to give $100 to anybody who actually noticed him, and although many recipients were complete strangers, others were not. Moses also received a Secret Santa gift that he described as a new beginning for his own life. 

    You might think that Moses was happier about getting something for himself, but that's not the case. Despite being homeless, he said it felt so good to give to others.

    “Kindness is a bridge between all people,” said the Secret Santa. “If you are ever down and you want to lift yourself up, go do something kind for somebody.”

    Believe it or not, there is truly something magical and actually chemical about the feeling you get when you give to others.

    According to a U.S. News and World Report article, What Generosity Does to Your Brain and Life Expectancy, studies have consistently shown that giving makes people feel good as the body responds by producing “happiness” chemicals such as dopamine, endorphins and oxytocin. Selfless actions like volunteering or donating money can help to decrease the risk and symptoms of depression and stress. One study even found that giving time and assistance to others also reduced the mortality risk tied to stress, a known risk factor for many chronic diseases. 

    Another study published in the Journal of Health Psychology found that volunteerism reduced mortality rates more than exercising four times weekly and attending church regularly, which is also linked to improved mental health and a longer life. People who volunteered for two or more causes had a 63 percent lower mortality rate than those who didn't volunteer during the study period. 

    Many believe it is better to give than to receive, and the research seems to confirm that giving in various forms contributes to our well-being. It has been said that giving is good for the soul, but it turns out that it is not just good in December. In fact, there’s plenty of evidence that giving is good all year long. 

    Click here to read the entire article, which was originally published in the Chattanooga Times Free Press on December 23, 2018.

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    6 Simple Ways to Enjoy the Holidays

    What are your goals for this holiday season? If you want to provide a time and place where people can relax, celebrate relationships, laugh, count their blessings, play, and help create warm memories, you may want to rethink how you've always done things and change things up a bit. As the old saying goes, simple is better… and it’s often a lot more fun for everyone involved. These ideas can help you celebrate with more focus and less fuss. 

    • Make a list of everything you plan to do. Divide it between must-do, would like to do and not really necessary. 

    • See what you can mark off your list. For example, maybe you won’t send holiday cards this year. Instead of throwing a holiday party now, put it off until July. 

    • Let each family member choose a few of their favorite decorations to put out and leave the rest in the closet. 

    • Participate in alternative gift-giving. Tell everybody that all gifts have to be homemade this year. Challenge your children to be creative and let them do it themselves.

    • Donate to the favorite charity of a family member or friend in their honor instead of spending hours at the mall purchasing a gift they don’t really need or want. 

    • Ask family members to bring a favorite dish to the family gathering instead of doing it all yourself. 

    The key to feeling good about the way you spend your time and money during the holidays is to make a plan and stick to it. It is important to involve your family in the process, so share your goals with them and discuss ways you would like to simplify. Encourage them to find creative ways to celebrate. Then work your plan together.

    Click here to read the entire article, which was originally published in the Chattanooga Times Free Press on November 25, 2018.

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    How Connected is Your Family?

    Ready to take a short connectedness quiz?

    1. Who is your child’s favorite teacher of all time?
    2. What is your spouse’s favorite thing to do in his/her spare time?
    3. What is your child’s favorite meal?
    4. Given the opportunity for a night out, how would your spouse prefer to spend the evening?
    5. What person outside the family has most influenced your child’s life?
    6. What household chore does your spouse dislike the most?
    7. What accomplishment is your child most proud of?
    8. If money were no object, what one thing would your spouse most want to purchase?
    9. Who is your child’s hero?
    10. What makes your spouse feel truly loved?

    Now, go check out your answers to see how close you were to getting them right. The only way to know all the answers to these questions is through being truly connected to your family.

    “From a cultural standpoint, the connections that people have with one another and through social networks have been shown to improve the mental, physical and spiritual health of individuals,” said Christopher Brown, anthropologist and president of the National Fatherhood Initiative. “There is something that happens physiologically when people are connected, which is why people do better when they are involved in healthy relationships with others.”

    One of the most powerful relationships is between a parent and child. Studies show that parents are the first and most important teachers of children. Kids thrive when they can depend on a reliable parent when they need to talk, when they want input, when they need a hug, or want assurance that life will work out. 

    Research from the University of Michigan found that the connectedness that takes place during frequent meal times with the family was the single strongest predictor of better achievement scores and fewer behavioral problems, even better than time spent studying or in church.

    Experts agree that:

    • Family dinner table conversation has been shown to increase children’s mental and verbal abilities;
    • Eating together promotes good communication, and strengthens family bonds and relationships;
    • Families who regularly eat together have more cohesion and unity; and
    • Family meals give children a sense of security. 

    Connections count every day of the year. If you didn’t do so well with the quiz above, this could be a great opportunity for you to re-evaluate how you connect in your home. 

    Click here to read the entire article, which was originally published in the Chattanooga Times Free Press on November 18, 2018.

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    4 Ways to Have Difficult Conversations During the Holidays

    As you gather with friends or family, chances are good that at some point you will encounter people who don’t share your point of view about topics that you feel strongly about, such as politics, faith, raising children, immigration, or... you fill in the blank.

    While emotion surrounds these topics, it is possible to have civil conversations about any one of these things with capacity to agree to disagree and remain friends or connected as family.

    Keeping the following things in mind can help create more civil conversations:

    • Remember that what you believe makes perfect sense to you, but other people have reasons for why they believe the way they do. Instead of shutting them down, ask questions to help you better understand why they believe the way they do. You may still walk away from the conversation shaking your head, but having a reasonable conversation may lead to better understanding on both sides of the fence. Many of these issues are not cut and dry; they are often deep and complicated.
    • Your words are like a construction site; they can either build people up or tear them down. You have the opportunity to be respectful and gracious regardless of the topic at hand. When children in the room watch you navigate a complicated conversation in a respectful way, you are teaching them. Whether you believe they are paying attention or not, they are more than likely taking in your words and your every move.
    • Speaking respectfully makes a difference. If you demean, degrade and disrespect the person you are speaking with and then walk away from the relationship, they will have one less person in their life who has a different perspective that could elicit thought-provoking conversations.
    • Self-control is key. We are all in charge of our own emotions, actions and behaviors. Even when people are disrespectful toward us, we can choose to respond in kind or to do something different. It absolutely takes two to tango, but it only takes one person to change the dance. If you refuse to escalate and meet like behavior with like behavior, it becomes a different kind of conversation.

    In the end, we must figure out how to live civilly with people who don’t think exactly like us. Thinking about those conversations ahead of time can help you handle those difficult topics with confidence.

    Click here to read the entire article, which was originally published in the Chattanooga Times Free Press on November 11, 2018.

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    4 Tips for New Grandparents

    Becoming a new grandparent can be just as complicated as being first-time parents. While you are excited about this new addition to the family, you also have to figure out exactly what your role will be as the grandparent.

    “We have to constantly remind each other that the parents of our grandchildren are inexperienced,” say Tim and Darcy Kimmel, grandparents and the authors of the video series Grandparenthood: More than Rocking Chairs and the book Grace-Based Parenting.

    “We know more because we have lived longer, but that doesn’t mean we should question what they are doing as parents when it comes to discipline, feeding or putting the baby down for a nap. They know their child better than we do. Our role is to encourage, support and be an ally, not a liability.”

    The Kimmels encourage grandparents never to sacrifice the permanent on the altar of the immediate by trying to manipulate situations or trying to control their adult children. If you sabotage the relationship with your adult child by being critical, controlling, petty or catty, you may sacrifice the relationship with your grandchildren as well. These behaviors tend to make people want to back away from the relationship versus embracing it.

    The Kimmels believe grandparents can be most helpful when they operate from a perspective that gives their children the freedom to: 

    • Be different. Just because your kids don’t parent exactly the same way you did does not mean they are doing it wrong. Give them the freedom to be goofy, quirky or weird.
    • Be vulnerable. Be intentional about making your relationship one that allows them to let their guard down, knowing that their moments of weakness and insecurity about being parents won’t be used against them in the future.
    • Be candid. Allow them to be candid with you when you have crossed the line. Being candid is more than being honest; it is thinking about the best interest of the receiver as you share information. If you allow them to be candid with you they are more likely to let you be candid with them as they navigate the parenting journey.
    • Make mistakes. Most of us weren’t perfect in our parenting so don’t place unrealistic expectations upon your children. New parents need support instead of someone questioning their every move.

    “Being a grandparent gives you the opportunity to live the idealistic dream of parenthood where you don’t have to worry about diapers, soccer practice, dance lessons and waiting up for teenagers,” Tim Kimmel says. “Grandparenthood allows you to play a key role in writing the history of a generation that you will someday leave in charge.”

    Let parents do what they do best: worry about diapers, nap times, discipline, etc., and enjoy your role as an encourager to your grown children as well as your grandchildren.

    Click here to read the entire article, which was originally published in the Chattanooga Times Free Press on November 4, 2018.


    Looking for more? Check out this episode of JulieB TV on this topic!



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    6 Ways to Prevent Underage Drinking

    Stop and consider the potential negative consequences of underage drinking. Is it really worth the price your teen might pay, either immediately or in the future? In reality, poor choices in high school and college can absolutely impact a young person’s future in powerful ways. 

    Underage drinking is associated with a number of negative consequences such as: using drugs, getting bad grades, poor health, engaging in risky sexual behavior, making bad decisions and even suffering injury or death. Talk often with your teens about the dangers of alcohol. Making your expectations known today may cause them to think twice about taking a drink tomorrow. 

    Check out these stats on underage drinking from a Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) 2016 study and the The Centers for Disease Control.

    • 7.3 million young people under the age of 21 drank in the last month. 
    • 30% of high school students drank in the last 30 days.
    • 14% binge drank in the last 30 days.
    • 6% drove after drinking alcohol, and 17% rode with someone who had been drinking in the last 30 days.
    • 61.5% of high school seniors and 23% of 8th graders had tried alcohol at some point. 
    • More than 4,300 kids die from alcohol-related incidents each year.
    • Approximately 119,000 people under 21 are treated in hospital emergency rooms for alcohol-related injuries annually.

    Underage drinking is also associated with unwanted, unplanned and unprotected sexual activity, disruption of normal growth and sexual development, and physical and sexual assault.

    Here are some factors that may increase the risk that a teen will use alcohol.

    • Significant social transitions such as graduating to middle or high school;
    • Getting a driver’s license;
    • A history of social and emotional problems;
    • Depression and other serious emotional problems;
    • A family history of alcoholism; and
    • Contact with peers involved in troubling activities.

    Here are 6 ways you can prevent underage drinking:

    1. Stay actively involved in your children’s lives.
    2. Know where your children are and what they are doing. Make knowing their friends a priority.
    3. Set and enforce clear standards, including standards about alcohol use.
    4. Stay away from alcohol in high-risk situations. For example, do not operate or allow others to operate a vehicle after drinking alcohol.
    5. Get help if you think you have an alcohol-related problem. If you keep alcohol in your home, do not make it easily accessible to others.
    6. Don’t allow underage drinking in your home or provide alcohol for anyone who is under legal drinking age.

    Click here to read the entire article, which was originally published in the Chattanooga Times Free Press on October 28, 2018.

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    6 Things to Remember When Your Kids Mess Up

    Many parents would agree that a great deal of parenting time is spent teaching children right from wrong, the importance of honesty, responsibility, good character and much more. These are many of the essential qualities they will need to be successful in life. 

    No matter how much effort we put into teaching our children, there are bound to be times when they disappoint us for one reason or another.

    “I can remember the first time my son really disappointed me,” says Jim Smith.* “I was angry at him and at the same time I was beating myself over the head trying to figure out where I had gone wrong in raising him. For a long time, I felt sorry for him. Instead of trying to help correct what happened, I tried to compensate. Just when I thought things had turned around, he would do something else. It is hard to get past not thinking it is always your fault when your children make poor choices.”

    This type of response from parents is common. Whether it’s bouncing checks, drug use, risky sexual behavior, driving recklessly, unhealthy relationships or lying, it hurts to see our children make mistakes, especially when their choices affect their future.

    Often when children, young or old, do disappointing things, the first reaction is to try and fix it. When problems arise, parents often try to control their child’s choices and remove the consequences, thinking that their actions are the loving thing to do, but that may not be true. Sometimes the most loving thing a parent can do is let go.

    When children are young, parents are typically directing behavior. When children enter the teen years and beyond, a parent’s role ideally shifts to coaching their children, along with helping them make their own decisions and accept personal responsibility for their choices.

    If you are dealing with disappointment in your older child’s behavior, consider these things:

    • See your child as separate from you and making his/her own choices.

    • Understand that their behavior is not a direct reflection of who you are.

    • Stop rescuing. Let them fall and experience the consequences of their choices. Experience is a great teacher.

    • Recognize that you can love your child while allowing them to make their own choices, as painful as that may be.

    • Make a conscious decision to go on with your life, knowing you have done the best job you knew how to do.

    • Take responsibility for those areas where you believe you fell short. Then move on and model healthy actions going forward. 

    Smith says that he finally realized that he did everything he could to teach his son right from wrong, but his son continues to make poor choices. 

    “I finally told him that it isn’t that you are a bad person; it is the choices you keep making, and you will always have difficulty because of those choices,” Smith says. “At some point I had to stop taking it personally and let go, realizing I could not change him.”

    Looking for more resources? Watch this episode of JulieB TV for an in-depth look on this topic!


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    Dinner with the Smileys

    In November 2011, Sarah Smiley’s husband, Dustin, was preparing to leave his family for a 13-month military deployment. Before he left, his three sons, Ford (10), Owen (8) and Lindell (4) said that they would be sad to see their dad’s empty chair at the dinner table. As he was making preparations to leave, Dustin encouraged his wife to invite folks over for dinner periodically.

    Having made it through two of her husband’s deployments in 2001 and 2003, Smiley knew that dinner time could be a lonely time for the family. She realized that her husband was probably right about inviting people over for dinner. Yet, she found herself questioning how she would add one more thing to her already full plate.

    The idea of making sure the house was spotless and that the boys behaved well - then cooking something great for dinner - seemed overwhelming.

    After months of persistence from her husband, Sarah decided to float the idea past her boys about inviting people to fill her husband’s seat at the table. During one of their Skype sessions, Dustin asked the boys who they would invite to dinner if their mom did weekly dinners.

    “My teacher!” said Lindell.

    “Maybe the Mayor,” said Owen.

    Ford said he had thought about asking Senator Susan Collins since he was studying government in class.

    Ford extended an invitation to Senator Collins to join his family for dinner, and to their surprise, she accepted. This turned out to be the launch of Dinner with the Smileys, a year of weekly dinners with interesting people that ultimately led Sarah, who is a syndicated columnist and author, to write the book, Dinner with the Smileys: One Military Family, One Year of Heroes, and Lessons for a Lifetime.

    The book chronicles their experience as Sarah holds nothing back and doesn’t attempt to sugarcoat the year without her husband. You will be laughing and crying as she describes the very real and sometimes messy moments deployment brings.

    For example, shortly after Ford extended the invitation to the senator, he decided that was a big mistake. When people started asking questions, it began to feel formal and full of expectations instead of fun. Sarah was not going to renege on the invitation; however she did decide the dinners would be on the boy’s terms. This meant casual, no expectations, no pressure and no dress-up.

    Although there were moments Sarah questioned what she had done, she was ultimately thankful she put forth the effort during her husband’s deployment.  She endured arguments with her tween son, a basement incident involving raw sewage, along with tears from missing her husband. She also had the joy of watching her boys do things they probably would not have done under different circumstances. Plus, the boys will never forget the friendships and memories made.

    The Smileys learned lessons through this experience that are too numerous to mention. They're too rich not to share, though – thus the book is a must-read.

    Here’s to all the moms out there who make it work no matter the circumstances.

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    Embracing the Second Half of Life

    A few years ago my mom attended the Wednesday night program at her church. Afterward, she called me and shared the speaker’s topic: “Your Kids Don’t Want Your Stuff.” Then she asked me the dreaded question: “You really don’t want all these treasures I have accumulated through the years?”

    While I appreciate the sentimental significance of some of her things, I honestly appreciated the speaker’s point. This is just one of the complicated moments the second half of life often brings.

    Our daughter surprised us with a visit a few days ago and as we were talking with friends, someone commented to her, “I can’t believe you’re 25!” She responded, “I know, I realize I’m halfway to 50!” 

    It occurred to me that if she’s halfway to 50, I’m halfway to 114. Whoa. This second half of life does have a way of sneaking up on us. Growing old is hard, especially when you still feel young and vibrant, but your body is screaming, “Not!”

    Recently, my mom shared that her best friend was really struggling with giving up driving. She was trying to help her understand that it really was a loving gesture from her kids. I couldn’t help but wonder what it will be like when I have to have that same conversation with her or our daughter has to make that decision for one of us.

    Plenty of us are independent folks, and the idea of losing that independence is really scary. In fact, many of us are unwilling to think about it, much less have some of the difficult conversations we need to have with our loved ones. When it comes to living life well to the end, what will your legacy be where relationships are concerned? 

    Many of us can look in the rearview mirror and think about situations or relationships we wish we had handled differently, perhaps with our children, our own parents or a close friend. Sometimes we believe it’s too late to do anything about it. If you’re reading this, you still have time.

    While working on my Master’s in counseling, I completed an internship on one of the cancer floors at UTK Medical Center. I will never forget the many times I walked into a room where the patient was literally ready to die but held on because there was unfinished business with the people standing around the bedside.

    Do you have unfinished business to take care of with the people who mean the most to you? It is abundantly clear that people take their relationship with their parents to the grave. And, I can tell you based on research, a parent’s words and actions matter.

    I recently heard a very successful man share that his parents have never told him they loved him, and he become very emotional. There was this big, burly, manly-man in his 60s who still longs/wants/needs/wishes to hear his parents say I love you. 

    What is your relationship like with your children? Do they know you love them and believe in them? If that’s a hard place for you, remember that you can’t control their response, but you can control what you do.

    When our daughter was growing up, I used to tell her that I loved her but I didn’t like her behavior. Over time I transitioned to telling her there is nothing she can do to make me love her more or less. That doesn’t mean I will agree with all of her decisions, but I want her to know I believe in her and I love her, period. If I unexpectedly died in my sleep, I don’t want her to wonder how I feel about her. 

    A young man in his 30s with a brain tumor was talking with his father after a medical appointment, and he reminded his dad that our life on this earth is “terminal.” There is some serious wisdom. A lot of us hate talking about dying, yet it’s inevitable. So here’s another question: How do you want to live until you die? That’s a huge part of your legacy, and you are teaching those around you.

    There is no super-secret formula for this. We are all different. Whether it’s driving, turning over the reins of the company, moving out of the house you have lived in forever or getting rid of your stuff, what do you want to pass on to the next generation?

    If you don’t already have a plan, there’s no time like the present to create one and share it with your loved ones. Make sure there are no surprises, because it’s often the surprises after someone is gone that create huge rifts in families. Talking about it might be hard, but it’s healthy. It really is important for us to model, even for adult children, how to live and die well.

    Finally, perhaps life hasn’t gone as you planned it and anger and bitterness have taken up residence in your heart and mind. Instead of talking about it, perhaps you behave badly and take it out on the ones you love the most. Growing old sometimes stinks, but there are lots of shifts and decisions to make, and things to talk about. Seeking help in this area isn’t a sign of weakness; it’s a sign of strength and health. 

    Moving forward, how will you go about creating a meaningful life with your family and friends?

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