All of life is a journey; which paths we take, what we look back on, and what we look forward to is up to us. We determine our destination, what kind of road we will take to get there, and how happy we are when we get there.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Oh the power of the spoken word

Ok, I may not be speaking of the same spoken word you are, but there is power in language. Communication is key to building relationships, working together and promoting change. Mark Twain once said, "I can live for two months on a good compliment." So to back up for a second, I decided to accept a second very part time, temporary job in Small Town X. I was asked by a graduate school friend of mine if I would be interested in helping facilitate a family relations group in the area. It sounded like a fantastic opportunity to do something new and different, and practice some skills that had gone rusty with time and lack of use. So I gladly accepted and learned what this group was about. This is the basic format:
The families come and we have dinner together each night the group meets. Then the kids go into one group with fun activities and a lesson on communication (ex: saying nice things vs. mean things, interrupting, expressing needs, etc.) while the adults hold another group to talk about positive talk and reinforcing good behaviors. The focus is to praise the kids for the things they are doing right and see those behaviors increase. Then the two groups come together and do an activity and allow the parents to practice these skills. At first I was a little skeptical about how much change could really come from a few positive words about playing and observations. But after the first night I was a BELIEVER! The kids came in like a hurricane and there was chaos. But after the parents practiced some positive praise and focused on the good behaviors, those behaviors increased immediately. When the kids wanted to share, hands were raised. When they played games, there was sharing among peers. It was incredible. The best part about this program, the praise works both directions. The second night one of the kids grabbed me and whispered, "I have to tell you a secret! You are my favorite teacher." Oh man, did that light me up. I felt so touched, and so grateful for the chance to do this.
I just kept thinking how some things just don't change with age. Whether you are 9 or 99, Mark Twain was right, words stick with us, they change us. And the power is unmistakable. Words have changed the course of history, they have changed groups of people and beliefs, but most importantly they have each one of us as individuals. The hardest part is allowing the words of encouragement and love to overpower the words of discouragement and unkindness. So here is to the love of a child, and the power one little sentence can bring.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Somebody call 9-1-1!

Oh wait, someone did! Yesterday was an exciting day at work. Where I work we have a no cell phone policy while you are working. In fact we began a cell phone check in incentive that offers rewards for following this guideline, since it seems to be the most difficult rule to follow. Well yesterday this guideline proved an asset in the workplace. One of our people, who works in a program through DWS with us, was carrying his cell phone in his pocket while at work. Cell phones are wonderful things. They have a safety function that is meant to protect people in any situation, the emergency call function. We have all seen this on our phones. Even when no other calls can be made and the keyboard is locked, there is one thing that can go on... calling 911. Well this is exactly what took place. The infamous pocket call to none other than the Small Town X 911 dispatcher. Suddenly aware that something was not right when a voice came up from his pocket, he politely told the dispatcher of his error and that he was at work and all was well. Well we know that follow ups are a 911 specialty. So who came rolling into work to check up on him? The local police force. Oh yes, the towns finest came by to make sure that this man was indeed ok. A comforting thought to know that such measures would be taken should there be an actual emergency, and a great area of teasing in this case when there wasn't. I wish I could say that this lesson in not having your phone in your pocket when your at work would stick, however, I would be lying to myself and all of you if I did. I guess we will just have to chalk it up as Small Town X humor 101, in the story of the emergency pocket call.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Buongiorno! Being back is surreal...

There once was a girl living in a small town, that went on the trip of a lifetime. This is her story.
Dramatic, right?

Well now on to the the rest of the story. I am just back from Italy where I spent 2 weeks traveling and learning and literally having experiences that I could never have imagined. I went with my best friend and some of her family and halfway through the trip was surprised by the 3rd musketeer in our trio and her mom. A very quick overview: I started the trip flying into Rome and going to the Almafi coast staying in Positano. While there we went to Almafi, Ravello, Sorrento and Capri. After that we traveled to Pompeii and then spent the last 9 days in Roma, Tivoli, and Ostio Antica. It was indescribable, and to include everything that happened would be impossible. The shortened version we typed up at the end of every day ended up 21 pages long, so putting it on here is an impossibility. So I thought I would just share a few experiences that touched, changed or challenged me to grow. So here is one of each.

The first and third (touched and challenged me) went hand in hand. I may be a small town resident now, but I grew up in southern California. I never shied away from large cities. But entering Rome was like nothing I have ever experienced. Driving in the city was like taking your life into your own hands. Every cobble stoned street was enclosed by large buildings, almost like walking through any alley way wherever you were. There were always people everywhere around you. And my first night was overwhelming to say the least. Culture shock was a new experience, and I did not like it. So the next day we started out, and I thought I would never feel comfortable there, until we were walking down a tiny road in between shops when we turned the corner and there it was, the Pantheon. It was majestic. Out of congestion and seeming chaos, there in front of me was grandeur. When I walked into the enormous structure, it was magical. You felt the sacredness there, the history and the wonder. It was at that moment that Rome transformed for me. I understood its allure, the life it held, and what going out of your comfort zone offered a person. It offered perspective and moments that literally brought tears to your eyes.

The place that most touched me was also in Rome, at the holy stairs. Here individuals would climb the stairs, which can only be done on ones knees. Every stair a prayer given, faith and commitment witnessed and respect shown. I watched silently as a nun kissed every step before she lifted her knees to offer herself up. It was moving, and made me grateful for every opportunity I have been given, including being able to witness events such as this. The people, although so different than myself, were similar in so many ways. I saw the kindness, acts of chivalry, moments of frustration and sadness, and joy. Our experiences may have taken place in distance parts of the world, but hopes and dreams brought us together. I came to love these people, and I wished I could spend more time with them. To really thank them for all the things they taught me about the world, its stories and myself. I cannot wait to explore on our next adventure, wherever that may take us. Until then, small town life will resume, and I will take what I have learned and keep the memories close to my heart. Until next time dear friends, ciao.

As soon as I get the pictures downloaded I will include the ones we took, until then here are ones from online.