A Day in the First Grade

When was the last time you visited a first grade in a local school district? For me, it was decades ago...until this spring, when I went back to first grade.

Surprisingly, the program today is rigorous in content and timing of the class schedule. Most surprising is the student’s capacity to read, spell, add and subtract and understand science concepts, create original designs in art, appreciate music and seek interesting books during their library time. WOW! And they are just six years YOUNG.

Twenty-five toothless smiles on this particular week before Mother’s Day, the children were prompted to write: “The most important thing about my mother is:”

Many children wrote how much they were loved. “My mom loves me and I love her.”

Just as many wrote about the things my mom does for me: “Makes my lunch, takes care of my clothes and drives me everywhere.”

I was most encouraged when recess came and the children played on the playground. Running, squealing, playing tag, rolling on the grass and climbing on the jungle gym, as always.

These beautiful toothless children are getting $10. a tooth from the tooth fairy. Now that is inflation!

This dynamic teacher starts the day with a dance party in which the children are free to dance, socialize and just be free. I notice that the girls gather to chat about their dress, hair styles and just relate. The boys play games, talk about sports or tumble on the floor. Amazingly, when the free time is over and the music stops, the children are ready and able to start a day in writing, continue in their math books or work on reading comprehension. Each child is given a class number to log onto the computers and begin their digital training. As always, there are students who are unable to settle down and focus or simply sit in their chairs. It is heart warming to note that the administration is aware of these differences in students and in time, will offer support.

For me, the day was an incredible window offering a peek into the future generation.

Hello Spring

I love this coming month, Mother’s Day and my birthday and flowers everywhere. It is a golden opportunity to thank my children and grandchildren for the precious gifts I have received.

My youngest granddaughter, a writer has counseled me to read a book twice. “Why bother”, I responded, “I know the story”. But she insisted that my perception of the characters will have changed with additional reading. How very right she was! Her twin has been a faithful and reliable computer consultant with software and all my computer efforts. How did she learn so much so young? My youngest grandson left original paintings in every room in my home during his weekend visits. My oldest grandson introduced the movie, The Italian Job to me and I have been driving a Mini Cooper ever since. My sophisticated New York City granddaughter has introduced high- end designer fashion to me in treasured ways. How did I ever deserve to be so rich with earthly treasures?

The original source was my three children with whom I have leaned unconditional acceptance, respect for the search for excellence and patience. When my journey started many suns and moons ago, I had no idea how unexpected challenges would be met. Upon reflection, I choose to celebrate my efforts, always tapping into my inner resources to reach for the possible, one day at a time. Indeed, today is a very fine day.

Recovery is just one day at a time

After 20 years as an addictions counselor in a residential rehabilitation center on Long Island, I have come to understand the causes and concerns of the disease of addiction. My clients were my best teachers, along with my education and training. My reference to addictive behavior is any substance or behavior that creates dependency and ultimately illness.

I’ll comment on causes first. No one ever starts with a goal of addiction; just to feel good, be cool or to cover pain, both physical and emotional. What is unknown in the beginning of experimenting with any use of substance and then abuse is the biochemical reaction in the users’ mind-body connection. What is also unknown is the genetic predisposition to dependency. Imagine a common scenario where teens are having a party and beer is available. One teen asks for soda as the taste is unwelcome. Another teens finishes the bottle but then retreats to the bathroom to vomit. The last teen finishes the bottle and asks for another. The last teen is vulnerable because of the feel good factor and tolerance level. Of course, the environment has to provide access with the old adage: “people and places”.

I’ll talk about recovery in reference to the last teen who matures into an adult drinking daily and heavily. After a few DWI’s, some health issues and loss of a job, rehabilitation is the next phase to explore the steps of recovery into sobriety.

During my stay at the rehabilitation center, a seasoned counselor would start his workshops with this introduction, “Hello, my name is Paul. I am an alcoholic and have been sober for 25 years. I am one drink away from my next drunk.” You might think that with enough discipline, one would avoid the next drink. But there is the biological and psychological craving that captures relapse. Here is the critical element of the 12 step program, mentoring and support in both the inpatient and outpatient centers. Programs are a solid process for recovery, one day at a time. It all sounds good on paper and if it were that easy, there would never be another death from drunk driving.

Mothers against drunk driving, students against drunk driving and designated driver on party night are all valuable community efforts but sober driving is an investment in life, yours and others.

Spring Cleanse

Surely, I can go to my closet to decide what to throw away, what to give away and what to keep.

To cleanse my mental closet of thoughts and feelings was so much more challenging. I keep a quote from Dr. Nelson Mandela as my guide, “When I left prison, I left my bitterness behind or I would still be in prison.”

To be free I had to decide what thoughts and feelings I would give away and what I would keep. Of course, I have been hurt and disappointed with a number of significant relationships . Although the relationships have ended, I cannot keep the hurt or I would still remain tied to that connection. To be free is my top priority enabling me to relinquish any troubling or negativity from my past. If and when the thoughts and feeling return, I’ll place them on a cloud and allow them to drift away. I choose to be free in my present day, one day at a time.

April 1,2019

Everyone is talking about Spring cleaning, rearranging and donating items from their closets.

I am thinking about Spring cleaning, rearranging and sorting out thoughts and feelings in my mind. Am I holding thoughts from yesterday, keeping concerns held by my parents, or simply out of touch with today’s concepts?Am I informed of forward moving programs socially, politically, and especially medical research?

Before I start deleting or rearranging, I plan to spend quiet and reflective moments with myself to examine my behavioral health. That will be my authentic Spring cleaning to examine my mental closet and discover what ideas no longer suit me. That’s a real challenge! Check back with me in a few days and hear about the new items in my mental closet.

Give yourself the Gift of Time

You can become a time master. It is not about doing more in this age of digital demand. It is becoming a master of your own time to establish a balance between the push-pull of the many directions in your world today. Make a commitment to find and then cherish your free time, from one hour to one day. Make the day work for you with these strategies: time management, your attitude of the time that belongs to you and finally, your behaviors in the time that is available to you.

Think about time stealers and time savers.

Time stealers: unorganized errands, procrastination, unrealistic to-do list and fatigue, mental and physical.

Time savers: categorize and combine activities in the same area, consider one day at a time, and ultimately be in the moment enabling you to reduce any stressors.

Your time belongs to you. You decide how to use it, every day.

Empowerment

While empowerment is a buzzword at the moment, the definition may be compromised. To be truly empowered is to hear your own authentic voice and have the freedom to act. To be truly empowered is to have no power over anyone else, but yourself, ever. When you are in a personal relationship or a professional relationship, it is not healthy to compromise your integrity or your values because your personal empowerment may be at risk. In the beginning, it doesn’t seem risky to give a little. The big question is when do you draw the line and with whom do choose to compromise? When you give up yourself in a relationship, there remains only one person in the relationship and it probably isn’t you.

Learning

As a professor in psychology at a community college, I learn from my students. I have requested reciprocal communication, enabling us to learn from each other. There is a generational span of forty years in many of my classes. During one semester, I enjoyed an eighty-three years young student who stated that he enrolled in college so his brain would not get rusty.

What I most appreciate about my students is their curiosity and a desire to learn. The students respond to the talking points on subject matter, not necessarily from gender or age. In one class, there is a mother of a fifteen year old teenager, another with a ten year old child and a young woman with an infant among young students in their twenties. In addition, there are mature adults reentering college as a result of career changes. Their common goals are to prepare for their careers and to learn about human development in this course, The Lifespan. It is a privilege to be in an environment where I can potentially learn something new in every class. It’s a place called ‘community’, where our common goal is to discover.

During my years at the college, I have met students from different countries: South Korea, Japan, China, Taiwan, India, Philippines, Turkey, Central America, North Africa, Lebanon, Nigeria, Ecuador, Guyana and Jamaica. What an incredible privilege! The families of these students have similar values of the families that I know in the United States: education is an investment in the next generation.

Losses

There are persons that I love and hold permanent places in my heart, although not present in my life today. No one can ever take those special places; they have already been taken. Some have died and passed away. Some persons are alive and have walked away. The memories of our time together are etched in my heart, forever. When I keep the memories alive, there are no losses.

Learning to trust yourself

Learning to trust yourself can be challenging. Consider this. No one knows you better than yourself. Your thoughts and feelings are coming from your core self.

Yet there are so many ‘authorities’ and ‘wiser ones.’ How can you be so sure? There is one certain way. Take the risk and trust your own view. You may not be on point every time, but if you don’t try you’ll never know when you can be.

If your path is not designed by you, but based on the approval of others, it is not your unique journey.

Are you Happy?

When I was growing up, I was told to get good grades and a good job. Was/ is that happiness?

Forty years later, my father told me that it was important for me to find out what makes me happy. I responded by reminding him that he told me I was supposed to make him happy.

”I didn’t know better,” he said. He was 85 years old.

We all know better. We know to tell ourselves, our children and our families that it’s important to find happiness. And that will mean something different to each person, of course, because there isn’t just one road to happiness. But it’s a good thing to learn.

And it is never too late to learn.

The attachment styles formed as children follows into adulthood, defining relationships at home and at work.

Here are two examples: if you needed to seek approval from significant others, that may still be your operating style. If you needed to avoid disapproval, you may still be trying harder to be perfect.