Beautiful People Don’t Just Happen

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The message this week is very simple ladies and gentlemen…Beautiful people do not just happen.  Take time right now to think of a hero you have in your life.  There is no person of character or substance that did not weather several personal storms to continually transform into a better version of themselves.

You do not have to search through history books to find women and men that didn’t know why they were given the struggles and trials they faced and overcame.  You can probably look right in your family tree to see an example of beauty and grace under pressure which resulted in a wise mom, dad, grandmom, granddad, aunt, uncle, sister or brother.  They were not born the pillars of strength and wisdom that stand before you today.  They faced some of the same life challenges that you do and they had faith for the promise of another day.  Have you ever noticed how much scarier a storm is at night than during the day?  Most of the time the intensity of the storm is the same night or day, so what makes the night storm scarier…?  That is right, the darkness.

Your heroes also went through the dark storms at night and they were scary.  They were not sure that they had it in them to survive.  What did they all have in common?  They believed in the hope of the “day” coming.  Trials do not last forever, just like the storms in the night.  There is always a day/transformation that is coming right behind this hard time.  Even the bravest person you have ever known or read about went through that night storm and believed at some level in the promise of the light of day.

Beautiful people do not just happen…they are created.  They are created by the experiences of their pains, passions, life, and loss (just to name a few).  You are a beautiful person and you did not just happen.  You are choosing everyday to get up, out of bed and believe in the promise of a new day.

One last thought on heroes…at the beginning of this post, I asked you to think of a hero in your life to help frame this discussion on how beautiful people don’t just happen.  I am sure you were able to think of a family member, friend or historical figure without hesitation that resonates with the person you hope to be.  I have several of my own, but none as important as myself.  When these trials hit, and they will, you need to know that no one plays a bigger role as the heroine or hero in your life story than yourself.  Only you will see this life till the end.  I will close with the song that reminds me of this every time I hear it.

Beautiful people don’t just happen…

–Cheryl L.

Don’t Grow Up So Fast

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I am not sure about you, but every so often I come across a song that really resonates with me. It reminds me of something I believe in or have experienced, and I am then touched by it. Songs can hit you and be inspirational, moving and can compel action. I have found that I can remember life’s moments through songs, almost as though the song acts as a mental filing system for me. A song can come on in my car, or at an event, really anywhere — and I can escape right back to the memory, and then revel in those moments.

I had the good fortune to see a band I have loved for years (Train) perform in Los Angeles last week. Talk about a band that brings memories fresh to my head when I hear their songs! At the concert they performed a new song of theirs that I had never heard before. It was beautiful and has stayed with me since. I thought it was worthy of sharing on the blog because of its meaning. The name of the song is “Don’t Grow Up So Fast,” and the lead singer of Train wrote the song for his children about the importance of not rushing their experiences by growing up too quickly. For me, I immediately understood the meaning of the words. I could look back to my pre-teen and teen years, and how I wanted to grow up and be to that next phase in my life. I was rushing through moments and not spending enough time reveling in them. Looking back now, I wish I could have embraced them more.

Regardless of your age, I think that is a struggle we all have — rushing through life in order to get to the next thing. This song reminds me of the quote “Sometimes you will never know the true value of a moment until it becomes a memory.” With everything that has happened in my life over the past year, I could not think of a more important sentiment to share with each person I come into contact with. Please take these words to heart — and be as present as you can in moments. I hope you’ll take a few minutes to listen to the song (the lyrics are also listed below). I think we all would benefit from slowing our lives down a bit, enjoying our current moments, and not feeling rushed to be experiencing the next thing.

-Alex W.

Don’t Grow Up So Fast by Train

You want it all right now, let’s hurry up and wait
Girl, you’re right on time, trust me, you’re not too late
I hate to see you rain, those mascara tears
But you can drown in the water beyond your years

Just don’t grow up so fast
You don’t want to know what I know yet
Maybe on paper it looks better way up here
Don’t you hurry, try to take it slow
You will get there before you know it
Ain’t just the bad times, the good times too shall pass
So don’t grow up so fast

The world will turn, shadows fall
There’s your pencil marks in the corner on the kitchen wall
Yeah, to remind us all

Just don’t grow up so fast
You don’t want to know what I know yet
Maybe on paper it looks better way up here
Don’t you hurry, try to take it slow
You will get there before you know it
Ain’t just the bad times, the good times too shall pass
So don’t grow up so fast, ooh

Just don’t grow up so fast
You don’t want to know what I know yet
Maybe on paper it looks better way up here
Don’t you hurry, try to take it slow
We all get there before you know it
Ain’t just the bad times, the good times too shall pass
There’s only so much sand in the hour glass
So don’t grow up so fast, ooh

Retrain Your Thinking

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I was searching for inspiration this past week and came across a great image illustrating how to take negative thoughts and turn them into positive, constructive actions (I love the idea that the image portrays, minus the fact that they write “n” backwards — just look past that!). I think each of us can read these thoughts, and reflect on times when we have been our own worst critic, or just have not felt that we could achieve something. We so often look at others for comparison, and are just far too hard on ourselves. I am absolutely guilty of this. We don’t step outside of our own critical minds. We may feel insecure or that we’re not good at something. When, in truth, others feel the exact same way about themselves. I think too often, we believe that we are unique and that no one else has experienced what we are going through…. When in fact, if we just opened up more about our thoughts and feelings, we would find we are experiencing the same thoughts, emotions, and tough times that our peers are going through (just maybe at different points in time). It kind of takes some undue pressure off yourself when you know you’re not alone in what you feel, doesn’t it?

A few years ago I learned a great lesson from a friend who is a counselor. She explained to me that people have these knee-jerk reactions called Automatic Negative Thoughts (or ANTs for short) that pop into our heads, without much effort at all (very much like the image illustrated above). These  are subconscious thoughts such as, “I’m not pretty enough,” “I’m not smart enough,” “I can never achieve what I dream of,” or “Why would people like me.” The way they pop into your head and guide your beliefs is so subtle, yet so debilitating. What I feel that this image shows is how we need to consciously be aware of how our brains limit us and actually create hurdles. This is a perfect example of how we can be our own worst enemies. What my friend encouraged me to do was visualize these ANTs and write them out on a piece of paper. She then told me to wad that paper up, throw it on the ground, and stomp on it. She told me to take a new piece of paper out, write something positive to replace that negative thought, and then hang onto the paper — continuing to refer back to it for positive reinforcement. She shared that if we made a conscious effort to “stomp out” these immediate, life-limiting negative thoughts, and then immediately replaced them with positive thoughts, we could over time retrain our thinking and improve our lives. Just imagine if you were to retrain your more cynical thoughts as they come out of your head, how different your experiences would be!

I’ve never forgotten her analogy and visualization activity. One of my ANTs would be that I’ll never be good enough. I have found that in the past several years I have made a conscious effort to give myself some credit. Trust me, it’s not always easy to be the bigger person, and sometimes it’s just easier to complain, whine, and act a little victimized. I have to say though that my experiences and achievements have improved by retraining my thinking (like my friend taught me). What I’d like is to challenge you to do the same. Take about 5 minutes to write down some negative thoughts that creep in subtly to your everyday life. Now find new positive thoughts to replace them, and try to live by that. I promise that these small changes, will become mighty shifts in your life. Just remember that we truly are the masters of our own making and we are in charge of shifting things in our lives that we don’t like.

-Alex W.

Living Safety Net

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This week I heard a speaker, Dr. Kara Powell, talk about intergenerational mentorship in the hopes of securing spiritual faith for our children into their adulthood.  Since this is not a blog about spirituality, necessarily, I want to focus on why I thought this is relevant to self-esteem and confidence in children. 

Dr. Powell talked about the importance of a 5:1 ratio…five adults mentors to one child.  She talked about how she learned of a 3rd grade homework assignment where the child needed to identify 5 adults that boy or girl knew with absolute certainty that they could count on.  

At this point, I asked my husband “what would have it meant to you if there were 5 adults invested in your childhood?”  That is not to say that he did not have 5 adults that wished him the best or wanted the best for him, but what would it have felt like to have 5 adults that  made a conscious effort to be at every significant event of his life.  My husband was profoundly struck and stated that it would have been an “unbreakable foundation.”  Since I realize that we as human adults do the best we can with what we have, I have entitled it a child’s “Living Safety Net.”

I sat and thought of all the children I had the opportunity to mentor and felt like I was, but did that child know that?  Children that I was completely invested in (besides the most amazing Isaiah) not because I simply got anything out of it, but because my life is richer for knowing them.  This concept is at the core of developing self-esteem and confidence in children.  To make a declaration to that child and their parents that you will support that child in everything they do.  That means that child will never have a soccer game, spelling bee, Grandparents day, first day of school…etc. without at least 3-4 adults cheering them on.  Not to give the children a false sense of self-importance, but to know that people care and are invested in their success!

Who wouldn’t want this for their own child?  Well in order to ensure this for our own children, we have to be this mentor to other children.  We need to take the time today to be that mentor to at least 3 children (that are not our own).  

Let us think differently about how to support the children in our lives.  I am asking you to identify 5 children that you know would thrive with your conscious presence in their lives.  Once you think of those 5 children, I empower you to ask them to accept your investment in their lives.  I caution you not to take this lightly.  Children are sensitive and will come to expect your consistency and investment and if you are not prepared to follow through, you can do more damage than had you never been involved.  However, if you are prepared to commit you will not only change a young life forever you will change yours in ways you never knew possible!!  Are you ready?

-Cheryl L.

Is It Bullying?

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In Long Beach, CA, this week marks the start of the new school year. In many other school districts and areas in the country, students are already getting settled into the year. School can be overwhelming not only because of the stress of homework and assignments, but because of interpersonal dynamics with classmates. More time is spent at school and with other students than at home with family and loved ones. I thought this week would be the perfect time to share a great article in the Huffington Post on the differences between someone being rude, mean and actually being a bully. The author emphasizes that there is a real need to draw a distinction between behavior that is rude, behavior that is mean and behavior that is characteristic of bullying. That if we continue to mislabel interactions (and use the word bullying when it is not appropriate), we will become immune or desensitized to the term “bullying,” and won’t be able to help a child in need when it’s most important. Kind of like the idea of the boy who cried wolf. This is great for both students and parents to read in order to equip yourself (or loved one) for the year ahead — and new social situations. Check out the entire artcicle Rude vs. Mean vs. Bullying: Defining the Differences written by Signe Whitson, a child and adolescent therapist. I hope you find it enlightening and relevant, just like I did.

-Alex W.