Sunday, February 18, 2018

What Could Have Made A Difference

I was one of many disadvantaged children, although not as disadvantaged as some. My father didn't have one of the better-paying jobs and we didn't have medical insurance. At least we always had a decent house to live in. My father had mental health issues, didn't earn much, and my mom stayed home to take care of us more so when my brother was born with a neural tube defect -- most likely due to poor nutrition while pregnant and insufficient folic acid.

Home life (and school) was all I knew with the exception of an occasional visit to the zoo or to visit cousins. I learned fear at an early age, was bullied in school, didn't have friends, didn't learn what was inappropriate behavior, nor did I know my rights as a living human being. What we all had to the advantage was genetic intelligence. But what good was being intelligent if you thought you were worthless and ugly? And who decides what is right for every person and every family?

What I believe would have made a difference in the early years:

Grade School

  • Introduce meditation. Make meditation the first thing you did in homeroom.
  • Screening for eyesight and hearing, then free glasses and hearing aids.
  • Screening for food allergies and sensitivities. (I had a lot of unidentified ones.)
  • Mental health screening tests vs. state proficiency tests.
  • Diffuse essential oils and introduce what they are and how to use them (to reduce stress, improve study abilities and energy, reduce air-borne pathogens, and improve mood).
  • Early education about healthy families with open sharing and discussion. (Not every child has access to a church or other religious programs which help with this and even if they do, usually it is bible study related vs. group support.) 
  • Communication classes to include how to express feelings with "I" statements.
  • Bully awareness, what makes them behave the way they do, and how to stand up to them.
  • Introduce compassion and encourage students to have empathy for the loners. (Hopefully, there would be a lot less bullying.)
  • Free instruments and art supplies for children in need.
  • Introduction to nutrition, a community garden, and if appropriate, a community farm.
  • Stop the use of tablets and cell phones in the classroom which affect student attention spans and the development of their young brains.
  • Group projects to promote teamwork vs. homework.*

Middle School

  • Ongoing "support groups" after mental health screening determines a need.
  • Additional classes in communication.
  • Healthy dating (not just sex education) and include education about sexual predators. Hopefully, if this educational path is followed as outlined, there wouldn't be any. Troubled humans who need money to survive will do horrific things to earn it. Hopefully, mental health screenings in grade school would have identified children at risk.
  • The importance of friendship and trust.
  • Nutrition--how to read labels. Community garden and nutrition projects. 
  • PE to include Tai Chi, Chi Gong, and self-defense.
  • Continue diffusing essential oils.
  • Limited use of electronics.
  • Hidden cameras and open reporting (w/video proof) of bullying and who starts the fights. Too many of the wrong kids get into trouble after being pushed into striking first and too many bullying incidents go unreported because those who are bullied are too afraid to say anything.
  • Introduction to various career options.
  • Bring back home economics, make home ec classes co-ed, and include growing your own food--community garden.
  • Model the Kealing Magnet School in Austin's educational program.
  • Group projects to promote teamwork vs. homework.*

High School

  • Continue classes in communication and relationships to include the difference between infatuation and love as well as how to resolve conflicts in healthy ways.
  • Mental health, depression, and positive psychology. (Support groups for those who need them.)
  • Nutrition--natural ways to improve health and immunity as well as care if we get sick. Stress sugar and the Standard American Diet causes Diabesity, Depression, and many other health issues. Community garden.
  • Sociology; more about bullying. Bullies exist in the workplace, too, as well as inappropriate sexual harassment. Teach strategies for self-protection.
  • Introduce community service projects. (Habit for Humanity vs. Shop, sewing for people in nursing homes, food prep for the homeless, etc.)
  • Bring in all types of speakers to represent all types of jobs (or show films about them). Include the police and fire department who can educate students on crime, human trafficking, and scams.
  • Continue Tai Chi, Chi Gong, and self-defense classes.
  • Increase the number of certification programs in the high schools so college is not a necessity to get a good paying job.
  • Finance: teach students the cost of credit as well as the stress of debt, balancing a checkbook, saving for a rainy day, and how to find a good quality used cars (and later home).
  • Basic auto mechanics for everyone.
  • Toastmasters programs (Gavel Clubs) to foster leadership, confidence, and speaking skills.
  • Group projects to promote teamwork vs. homework.*

* When I went to the University of Phoenix, it was the first type of education I did well in with the exception of the Business Major in High School. As a group, we each had skills the others didn't and by working as a team, we each contributed our strengths to the good of the whole. We all did well and felt good about the educational process. Most corporations require the ability to work in teams. The downside is UOP promised when we graduated, we'd get a promotion and a raise to cover the debt we incurred. This turned out not to be true and most of us fell for it, with student loan debt more than we could handle.

With many more children introduced to these programs at an early age, I believe we'd have a greater percentage of healthy functional adults who are less likely to succumb to addictions--and are empowered to influence our world for the better.

Post High School

  • Promote more low-cost or free community colleges for the first two years of post-high-school education. 
  • Provide ongoing job and college search services at the high school students graduate from.
  • Promote students who have graduated opportunities to teach and mentor the younger ones.
  • Require marriage license programs before you can get one which includes classes so you know what you're getting into with topics that include finance, parenting, communication, and conflict resolution (vs. arguments, fighting, abuse). 
  • Take out "to death do you part" of marriage contracts. A spouse should know its ok to leave under certain circumstances and have a place they can afford to go if they don't have friends or family to live with. 
  • Stress levels increase due to income limitations (inability to find a job or something that pays more than minimum wage), unplanned pregnancies, as well as dysfunctional relationships and marriages.
  • Build a LOT more affordable housing (based on income). The waiting list of existing housing is quite long.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Cupid

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CUPID

Each time cupid struck me with an arrow,

I misunderstood her intentions.
Year after year, wound after wound,
I missed the wisdom of her revelations.

I wasn’t supposed to fall in love
and give away all my devotion--
I was supposed to fall in love with the best parts of me--
my own soul, feelings, and emotions.

I kept searching for the perfect other
who would make me feel complete.
Haven’t you? Can you relate?
After each encounter--feeling like a piece of meat?

Cupid, oh Cupid,
Along with all the fairies I’ve been collecting
To remind myself how much I am loved, cherished,
appreciated, and adored
By the Creator of my own reflection.

Copyright © 2018 Renee Alter
Written January 14, 2018

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Old Movies

Image may contain: outdoor
Copyright (c) 2017 Renee Alter  Fort Groghan, Burnet, TX
I'm sure you have watched a lot of movies... romance, cowboys & Indians, old world wars, fairy tales, Walt Disney, Star Wars, murder mysteries, detectives, and more. Some left you feeling uplifted, some taxed your adrenaline surges, some left you sad and depressed.

Have you ever considered your past experiences as movies? When I began to do this, I gained a completely different perspective of them.

Imagine you are in the movie theatre. You have seen the trailer and decided you wanted to see it... based on about two minutes of previews. Then the movie starts.

The first scene is your childhood and you are the main character. You see your siblings if you have any, your parents, perhaps your grandparents or foster parents if they raised you. Or maybe you grew up in an orphanage. You see yourself in school. Perhaps you were popular or perhaps you were bullied. Perhaps you then came home to witness your parents shouting at each other so you hid in your room.

The next scene is you as an adult. Depending on how old you are now, the journey has been either short or a very long. It may have included illness, accidents, pain, depression, war, death, or a myriad of other possible scenarios.

But remember. You are in a movie theatre watching a movie. All movies end leaving you with the afterthoughts of what you have seen. Soon these memories fade away and are no longer in the forefront of your mind.

Your life has been a movie, too. This means, you can leave the theatre and if you didn't like what you saw or how it ended, you know it was JUST A MOVIE.

Two years ago, I met actor Randall Oliver. He co-wrote stories for children with my friend and fellow author Elaine Kelley about his horse named Nobody (which I published for them). Some of the movies Randy was in were Horror Movies--harsh, evil, and scary--so I wasn't interested in watching any of them, no matter how nice a man he is.

After having conversations with Randy about how he would get totally absorbed in the characters he portrayed, then have the ability to walk away from the set to re-acclimate back to his normal daily life, I came up with the idea of my life being a movie that I could walk away from.

I could pretend I was an actress and the characters in the movies I starred in (family, partners, etc.) were completely different people than the roles they portrayed, which provided me with a way to forgive.

I wonder what actors and actresses do with all the lines they had memorized, just as I had been ruminating about all the uncomfortable conversations I had.

One of the 10 cognitive distortions is discounting the positive. I discovered I had been 'afflicted' with all 10 cognitive distortions, but the one that relates to this post is how I had discounted all the GOOD things that I experienced while I dwelled on the sad, bad, and the ugly. It was as if I only had been collecting the bad movies in my movie box (my memories and subconscious) but didn't pay attention to the uplifting ones.

Consider your past a past filled with OLD MOVIES.

Your old movies can include previous marriages, the death of people and pets you loved, the traumas of the wars you fought while in the military, the traumas of the fires and natural disasters you were either a victim of or one of many rescuers, a horrific car accident you were in or witnessed, and more.

I realize there are many resilient people in the world who have the amazing ability to leave the 'theatre' of their experiences without holding onto the images of the 'movies.' But if you're not one of them...

You've now had plenty of experiences being on the set of those old movies playing various roles, and now imagine you have become a screenwriter and director.

What new screenplay will you write?

Who are the actors and actresses you want to play the parts?

How will you rewrite your life story?

Walk into a new movie!

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Appreciation

In several previous posts, I've written about Gratitude. Appreciation is slightly different. Webster's definition of appreciation is: "a feeling or expression of admiration, approval, or gratitude." If you're like me, having the approval of others has been a major ingredient in your self-esteem. If someone didn't approve of you or your actions, it affected you deeply. Since then, I've learned the only approval anyone needs is from themselves.

Showing appreciation can make a huge difference in relationships between partners, siblings, parents, other relatives, friends, teachers, co-workers, employees, club members, and other associates. Google appreciation in relationships and you'll find a LOT of information. I found in an article by Huffington Post on 5 ways to show appreciation to your partner. I've modified the content to include everyone in your life. Here's the link to the full article if you'd like to read it:

5 Ways to Show Your Appreciation to Your Partner

1) Notice the little things. Show appreciation by saying "Thank You" even for things you may take for granted.

2) Notice the big things. Shower the person with compliments.

3) Support their passions. Offer to do something for them so they have time to pursue a passion as well as encourage them to do so. It's never too late and you're never too old (unless you are in hospice care or on life support). All it takes is consistent baby steps to make progress. Life is a journey, not a destination. Enjoy the journey.

4) Compliment people who are in your life. Find something... anything... to compliment them on. You may have to build trust on this one if in the past, the only time you paid a compliment, it was because you wanted something from the other person.

5) Date your partner... or friend... or sibling... or parent. You get the idea. It means a lot to the other person, especially in a time of internet to actually set a date to meet with someone. If you live long distance, hand-written letters still matter, especially for those of us who save them in a special box. If the internet goes down and the power goes out, you can pass away the time by reading them again.

I subscribe to Katie & Gay Hendricks' emails and many of their content involves restoring relationships through appreciation. Here's their website:

Katie & Gay Hendricks -- Hearts in Harmony

I even go as far as appreciating things.

Try this for 'size': hold a piece of clothing up to your chest before you put it on and after you take it off and say, "I really appreciate you being in my life and keeping me warm" (or cool if it is summer). Admire your shoes and say the same things. If you don't feel this admiration for something you wear, consider donating it.

I've written about The Broken Branch after realizing I was focusing on the one thing (the one broken branch) that I was unhappy with... the spot on my face or the strands of my hair... missing out on the whole of me that made me human as well as the whole of earth that we all live on.

Spend a few minutes every so often looking at each item on your knick-knack shelves, walls, and bookcases. Tell each that you appreciate them coming into form so you can admire their beauty. Do the same for your furniture, plants, and everything else you own. Think about the cat who appreciates a simple shoe box and the toddler who appreciates the wrapping paper more than the gifts.

Image may contain: cat
Copyright (c) Renee Alter (Cisco)
Whenever you get in your car, tell the car you appreciate it for it transporting you to where you want to go (and sometimes where you don't really want to go). I often say thank you for starting on a frigid cold morning and thank you for keeping me safe. I tell it "you are beautiful" and a very special part of my life.

Yes, one day I learned that all matter is energy and a common thought pattern resulted in the manifestation of everything we have. It feels good to appreciate all that I have, even the silverware I eat with.

At one time, I got through the most difficult days by appreciating all the body parts that were functioning (and didn't hurt) instead of the parts that were 'struggling.' To reflect back on that time, I would have added to tell my body "thank you" for working so efficiently each time I succeeded in urinating, having a bowel movement, swallowing,  It is, after all, a miracle we even became a human being from the energy of a single cell. Thank you, heart, for pumping blood all through my body.

What can you appreciate today?

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Divine Encounters


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Copyright (c) 2017 Renee Alter
It’s intriguing how seemingly random meetings
Can transform into divine encounters
When the result of setting an intention
Magnetically attracts people and announcers.

When I intended to improve my health
From a place of self-love vs. self-loathing,
New information appeared on the net and new people moved into town
To show me it was possible to balance what had been previously eroding.

I removed a little of this, added a little of that
And became aware I had been jumping to conclusions.
Learning curves are difficult for everyone--
I needed to let go of my self-imposed expectations and illusions.

The money comes, the money goes--it circulates like your blood.
I must have faith in its unlimited flow
As I acknowledge I have no memories of old paid off bills--
Only the amazing people I’ve gotten to know.

One day here, one day gone; seasons and years fly by, too.
Each morning when I put my feet on the floor;
Yesterday seems to fall into oblivion--it’s no more
Along with all the salty tears I left at the ocean shore.

Divine Encounters included sweet furry friends who chose me--
I hope I didn’t betray them when I had to leave them behind
And to this day, it seems the only tears I still cry
Are for the ones who silently and prematurely died.

Each day I am aware of Divine Encounters,
Surrounded by angels with and without wings.
I used to fear life more than I feared death
As I imagined heaven as eternal Spring.

I so look forward to each and every Divine Encounter--
The surprise of who I might meet and what they’d have to say,
Filling my memories with nourishing experiences
While I let the hurtful ones from the past fade away.

Copyright © 2018 Renee Alter

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Getting Older

Copyright (c) 2018 Renee Alter
GETTING OLDER


Getting older means I no longer worry
about flirting or being sexy.
I no longer bend like a pretzel trying to earn
love and acceptance.
I no longer care whether I find another
boyfriend or stay single.
I no longer worry whether I am being a
good enough parent or whether people like me or not.
On the other hand, getting older means
hoping my body parts stay strong and healthy enough.
while I hope my granddaughter will come visit me
when she’s old enough to travel on her own.
Hoping I am surrounded by people
I can call on should I get sick or need help.
Hoping people brag about my writing so I can sell more books
and have a little more income to pay my bills.
I’d also like to travel and see more of our beautiful planet.
Hoping the friends I’ve made are keepers.
Hoping time doesn’t race by too quickly so I have a chance
to smell all the roses that have been blooming in my life.
Hoping I stay nice and don’t get mean when
I am REALLY old because it seems the older you get
the more true to yourself you become.
What if I still harbor resentment that may
escape from my voice at random moments?
Getting older means I will outlive many of the people
I care about although I know we will always be spiritually connected.
When I feel them in my heart with love it is as though they are still here.
And after I die I want to be in others hearts so they will always
feel me there -- so I can live forever.

Copyright © August 2017 Renee Alter

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

The After Holidays Blues

In a previous post about Adrenaline Rush Letdown, I mentioned one of the 'side effects' could be depression. It is not unusual for people to feel the After Holidays Blues from multiple adrenaline surges. Over the years, I've personally felt it time and time again.

Generally, so much energy went into preparing and traveling to see family along with conflicts with partners over which side of the family we'd go visit, followed by the sadness I felt when it was time to go home. Many times there was stress overload in dealing with relatives who couldn't put their differences and grudges aside to visit with family members who hadn't been together for extended periods of times.

There was the disappointment. Lots. One year I'd be in a relationship or marriage, the next year I wasn't or I was in the letdown of a breakup. If only I knew about all the unrealistic expectations I had back then which resulted in experiencing...

the grand After Holidays Blues.

Facebook & Social Media Envy: It is easy to browse through everyone's uplifting happy posts and forget that almost everyone has challenges that these posts don't show. Yes, some people write their raw wounds on their Facebook walls which can seem alarming. 

According to an article on afccounselors.com, "People’s basis for comparison is not based in reality because most families have issues and most people do not have the perfect Christmas that they would like to have or that they’d remember from their childhood."

Guilt: I often felt guilty that I didn't exactly want the particular gifts that were given to me. If I chose not to keep it, I felt guilty for passing it on. I felt guilty when I gave into a partner's need to take me to his family when I would have much rather go to mine and let him go to his because it was impossible to visit both families in the same year. I'm still waiting for the invention of real-life affordable Star Trek Transporters. We all live too far away from each other. I also often felt guilty for spending too much money or wondering if I should have let go of my reserve and buy more on credit even when I had no idea how I'd pay for it later... just like so many other people I knew did.

Exhaustion: It takes a LOT of work to celebrate a holiday. Some people thrive on it and just take a nap later. Some people don't recover for weeks or even months IF they do. (Like me.)

It took way too many years (I live 1,500 miles away from family in both directions), but I am now involved in multiple clubs and organizations and each has their own Holiday gathering. I think I broke the record this year on how many I attended and how much food I ate. And yes, I strayed from my healthy diet and gorged on treats which included chocolate.

It is what it is. It's a waste of precious time to look behind you and kick yourself for the sugar you ate or the money you spent or the conflicts you had to deal with or over analyzing how you could have done better.

There were way more events I could have attended (outdoors) but I decided not to go (it was cold out), browsing Facebook for all the photos and videos that were posted. I did go in previous years so this year I used my memories and pretended I went again.

In Toastmasters, the fellow who came up with Table Topics for our December 15 meeting asked the first person he called on if she would change Christmas and if so, how. She replied she'd do away with Christmas Day completely and celebrate Christmas every day of the year just like in the song, "Let it be Christmas Every Day." I agree. What about you?

What if we could avoid the After Holiday Blues by:

Being kind to people every day.
Being kind to yourself.
Giving presents to the people you love for no reason.
Giving presents to yourself.
Sending cards out more often.
You can even send a card to yourself.
Calling people you haven't talked to in a while.
Skipping the expensive light decorations and giving the money to charities.
Helping the elderly and disabled.
Feeding the hungry--both human and community cats.
Writing down everything you are grateful for.

And if you still feel SAD, between the Standard American Diet and Seasonal Affective Disorder, you are not alone. Many people are affected by lack of sunlight which lowers your Vitamin D levels.

Wishing everyone a productive new year filled with activities that fill you up with a sense of purpose, the kind where you know deep in your heart, your little acts of kindness have made a difference.