Living with grace and wisdom 01/25/2012
As I think about my life as a parent, as a wife, as a friend and as a professional, I am dedicated to working on living with grace and a grateful heart and making wise choices regarding my family, my profession and my friends. For me this means cultivating the ability to be aware, mindful, loving, kind, compassionate and disciplined. And I hope that I can be a good role model for my children so that they will learn to live their lives to the fullest and be healthy, happy and responsible human beings.
How can I create an atmosphere of understanding, concern and love as well as provide appropriate boundaries in all areas of my life? For my children, I am constantly grappling with these issues. Creating a safe and loving place for them to grow can sometimes be challenged by theirs and my own poor behaviors. Limits can be pushed and some ugly behaviors from all or some of the parties can be very challenging to deal with, indeed. How can I guide myself to appropriate attitude and behavior when in the grips of a crisis, when the emotions of all parties can be spiralling out of control? Self control of these emotions must be developed to provide for "right" action vs. "unhealthy" responses.
I have learned that when I meditate on a regular basis, and relax and calm my mind, my perception tends to remain rational and real. But when I get away from this practice, and it does require lots of practice, my perceptions can be distorted and my reactions to negative situations become exaggerated. I am not thinking or feeling in a healthy manner when this happens and situations become worse instead of improved.
So it is a constant process of reminding myself to relax, utilizing relaxation strategies, getting enough sleep, meditating on a regular basis, getting enough vigorous exercise and finding balance among my work, my family, and my friends
Being gentle with oneself can be so rewarding. Stopping the negative self talk, accepting failures without falling apart, spending good quality time with supportive and nurturing friends and family, and maintaining a life of discipline as it relates to balance and health, can only help us to be happy and productive beings. And I know this is what we want for our children, with the other members of our families, with our friends and in our worklife.
Healing for Girls at Glen Willow Academy 10/26/2011
Last Thursday I had the privilege of visiting a new residential therapeutic boarding school for girls (ages 10-14) just outside of Asheville, North Carolina.
Glen Willow Academy is a beautiful campus situated on 25 acres in the rolling hills of North Carolina. It is surrounded by fields of horses and llamas - we passed them on our ride to the school. Glen Willow was once a retreat and the set up reflected a perfect environment for healing. We visited with a therapist who demonstrated the program's use of equine assisted psychotherapy. We listened to the caring, and talented staff tell us about their therapeutic approaches with the girls and their families. We saw the girls in their new environment, as they were settling into their new residence and school setting - they looked content and easily talked with us as we visited with them in their dining hall. Their bedrooms appeared comfortable, and all had beautiful views overlooking the campus. We learned about the academics from a talented, enthusiastic and sharp headmaster who undoubtedly was passionate about the work he does.
As I digested all the information and listened to the tone and content of all that was being described, I thought about whether this would be a good environment for my child, if I had one that age who had some problems with self esteem, depression, anxiety, family conflicts or something along those lines. Would I want her to live here, be cared for by these people, go to school here, be involved with the horses in equine assisted therapy? Would I feel comfortable to be involved with the important family therapy component of this program? My conclusion was absolutely yes. This program seemed like it would be a place of healing, one that would surround my child with support, compassion, appropriate therapies, lots of extracurricular activities and a fine academic curriculum. I sensed a genuine and excellent level of therapeutic skill from the therapists and staff, most of whom had years of experience working with troubled children and adolescents and their families.
I look forward to hearing more about the good work being done with the girls at Glen Willow in the months and years ahead. If you want to learn more, please check out their website at www.glenwillowacademy.com
The Wisdom of Steve Jobs 10/05/2011
I was saddened to learn tonight of the death of Steve Jobs - a truly great man. I read a quote that reminded me of something that can speak so loudly to our children as they prepare for college and their adult lives and careers.
"Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do," he told the Stanford grads in 2005.
"If you haven't found it yet, keep looking. Don't settle. As with all matters of the heart, you'll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on."
When I think of my daughter who is attending a small liberal arts college, I am so pleased that the students there are encouraged to explore their interests and passions over the 1st two years, before declaring a major in their junior year. This gives them the opportunity to be discovering their academic strengths and weaknesses and their interests. At their ages, they are often not ready to decide on their career and this gives them that time to really try to understand what inspires them and what they love to learn and at some point what they will love to do in their work. It is a process that can take some time.
Not all students will have this luxury and some might know early on what they feel passionate to pursue in their careers. Some may take many years to truly find and understand what "great work" they desire to do. The key is to find this passion, and to "love what you do."
Thank you Steve Jobs, for all that you have contributed to our world. You will be missed.
My dear sister, Anna Cheek, posted this quote on her Facebook page last week. After I read this, it stirred something within me that I felt compelled to further examine and discuss. After all, simplicity has always been a theme to which I could relate with ease. So much of the "fluff" and the superficiality of our world, has always been so frustrating and unnecessary to me. When someone once described me as a very simple person, it then hurt my feelings as I thought this might suggest that I had no style, intelligence, or appeal. And perhaps this is what that person did imply, but now I choose to look at this theme of simplicity as a positive, genuine and very healthy attribute for us all to consider. It has nothing to do with intelligence or style - it has to do with a process of calm and clear perception, deliberate and mindful action, and living a life with meaning, clarity, and purpose.
How can "simplicity" relate to educational consulting, and parenting? I think its implications are enormous. The simple strategies and focus of each of these areas can lead to effective work, happier students, and success for all involved.
Simple approaches might include:
1. Truly knowing your student - his or her strengths, weaknesses, aspirations, passions and interests.
2. Getting "ourselves" out of the way of being effective listeners. Really hear what our clients and children are telling us. That means stopping the internal chatter within ourselves when we are tuning in to what our children are sharing with us.
3. Adjusting our own desires for recognition, praise and status. An Ivy League school is not necessarily the "best fit" for our students!
4. Being realistic.
5. Being open and honest.
6. Practicing integrity.
7. Taming those fierce ego maniacal tendencies sometimes raging within ourselves that cause us to act in superficial and sometimes hurtful ways.
8. And finding ways to lead a balanced life: Eating properly, exercising often, utilizing techniques to quiet our minds such as meditation, cultivating love and compassion through community service, servant leadership, etc.
Simplicity is the groundwork from which we can activate our work, our play and our genuine relationships with others. Our students and our children can benefit greatly from this true and real approach with them.
The agony of therapeutic placement decisions 09/20/2011
A family will undoubtedly be confused, frightened and anxious about making a decision regarding a troubled child or teen's need for a therapeutic placement. This step will most commonly follow many attempts to help the child by utilizing therapists, psychiatrists, school counselors and other out patient programs and professionals. The family is probably exhausted and in need of support in making a very important and expensive decision that they feel will provide the help the troubled child desperately needs.
A caring and supportive independent educational consultant can assist the family in choosing what will hopefully be a successful, therapeutically effective program. By offering emotional support, recommendations of a number of suitable programs, providing research, case management and collaboration among current therapists and program therapists and staff, and monitoring of the child's progress while in the program as well as follow up after the child returns home, the consultant can be a huge resource and advocate throughout this process.
What begins as an agonizing and painful decision can become a meaningful, helpful and progressive process that will help the child and family grow, progress and work toward improved mental health and family dynamics. The independent educational consultant can be the coordinator of all the tools to move in this direction. Liason, researcher, case manager and advocate for the child and his or her family.
I am an independent educational consultant dedicated to helping families make thoughtful and wise decisions regarding therapeutic placements, private, day or boarding school placements, college planning and other special needs options.