Most Important Advice

best job and education 1 400.jpgLet me preface this by stating that I may change my mind and add to this list but as of now, I feel that if I had to give both of my children (especially my son) a few words of wisdom it would be:

There are two things in this world that can determine your path in life:

  1. Education
  2. Your peers (the circle you are in)

My original wording was that there are two things that can shut doors and ruin your life, where it would take an extraordinary effort to get it back on track.

  1. Not getting an education
  2. Dealing with the wrong people

Since the original wording wasn’t as optimistic, I decided to lighten it up for this post (but believe me, my kids may get it either way). The reason that I chose the two is because both can open doors and provide opportunities but only one can ruin everything that you’ve ever worked for. The second trumps the first because education opens doors and dealing with the wrong people can shut them.  It is imperative that young adults know this. I have watched some of my middle school students on the right path academically, let their surroundings and friends get in the way of everything that they’ve worked hard for.  I have seen the brightest end up on house arrest, pregnant, addicted to drugs, etc.  When I mention this, I always receive the snide remark “well I guess they weren’t that bright.”  This is absurd.  They are still children, learning how to navigate this world and some are doing without parents but guardians and grandparents trying to fill the role.  To this remark, I reply “well, I guess all of the stupid mistakes that you’ve made in life, make you dumb as a doorknob.”

When these students return to me broken and embittered, I tell them these two things.  I have them go over their particular situation and those of others that they know have gone down the wrong path.  I ask them what do they see?  Is there a common denominator?  We explore their emotions and accept that its alright to feel this way but we must move on.  They search me for answers when the answers are inside of them but they are too young to know that now.  It is our job as adults to provide wisdom and not just be “the cool parent” or “the cool adult”.  This generation is looking for guidance and formula that they can follow when there really isn’t one.  So, I give them what I know to be true.  Learn, whether it be the traditional way or an untraditional way.  But, learn, read, explore.  And if you are going to do these things to better yourself and open doors, then do not slaughter your dreams by dealing with the wrong people.  We all make decisions in life and the old adage still holds true: Birds of a feather flock together.

Sometimes we think that staying “down” with others will inspire them and lift them up but, it does the reverse.  What inspires greatness is walking in your own light and excellence and when those who want the same for themselves are ready to obtain it, they will come and follow you!

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The Original Valentine

Every year I put together bags of treats for my children in celebration of Valentine’s Day. This year I added the quote in their cards ” I’m your original valentine”. I want them to know that they should always be treated with respect and shown love by those who claim to love them. It is imperative that I set the example. This year was the first year that I was sad that my daughter did not have a father who would show her this same sentiment. But, we both have her grandfather who has shown us love on this day with gifts and cards every year since I was born and every year since she was born. My son likes the candies and stuffed animals and doesn’t really, truly understand what this is all about. When he is old enough, his gift from me will be accompanied by words or wisdom to show (more than tell) a woman that he truly cares and loves her.

So, what about me? What about you? If you are the single parent this year that doesn’t have a valentine, treat yourself or go it with friends. I especially enjoy a spa treatment and champagne. Celebrate the love you have for yourself. Because, if you don’t love yourself then you will attract others who feel the same way. Be the example for what you expect in a prospective partner.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Breakthrough Moment

I wanted to write this post last month before school went into winter break but, things got so hectic and I fell way behind schedule.  Last month, my daughter and I had a breakthrough moment when I was trying to figure out why she had been behaving differently besides the countless recent changes (baby brother, new county, new school, puberty).  Every time I asked her why her behavior had changed so drastically and not for the positive, she would go into shut down mode. Then an epiphany hit me; I would use my teacher/mentor skills.  Since we were in my classroom and it was the end of the day, I had her close the door and retrieve a dry erase marker. I told her to write on the board all of the things that I expect from her that are unreasonable ( her main complaint was that I didn’t care and I was unfair).  At first she hesitated but, then she started writing.  I didn’t say anything during this process even if I disagreed with some of the things that she wrote down.  I let her voice (scribe) her opinion and when she was done, she stopped, closed the cap on the marker,2013-12-16 15.43.02 and faced me.  I then let her know that we were going to discuss each one and explain ourselves.  This process ended up with her crossing some off the list because she realized that they may not have been accurate depictions of the situation.  The one’s that were left on the board, I promised to work on to keep our bond strong and the lines of communication open.  At the tail end of the conversation, the breakthrough came which led to tears and a big hug from my tween who had been stand-offish prior to for some months.  The overarching theme is that she felt that I thought her opinions and feelings didn’t matter.  She thought I felt that she was unimportant and the only thing that mattered was what I wanted and how I felt.  I realized that my actions probably led her to believe this.  The part that hurt me the most, is that is exactly what I felt about my mother and still do to this day.  It devalues you as an individual.  How can I support a strong sense of self-esteem in my young lady if I am devaluing her, whether it be purposefully or not?  I let her know that it was never my intention to make her feel that way and I have been working on myself so that does not come across as often until I can stop it altogether.  This exercise helped both of us see the reality and brought us closer together.  The pure act of taking the time to hear her out, was in fact healing.  My behaviors towards my daughter are part my own and part learned from my own mother.  But, when we become parents and especially if you are a single parent with no other parent for your child to turn to, it is imperative to extend the olive branch, open the lines of communication, express humility, and start mending what may be broken.  I am not saying that I have this parenting thing down pat, but I am on a constant road to healing and learning, and growing.  Hears to your breakthrough moment!

Family Mantra

family mantra

In time for the holiday season and soon the beginning of a new year, I thought it may be a great idea for me to review my family mantra.  I created it at the beginning of 2012 and tried to purposefully stay on course with what I deem important for me and my family.  It is a great idea for you to create one for your family and start 2014 year off all on the same path.  As a single parent sometimes we don’t even think along these lines but raising our kids and living our daily lives, in our daily routines, should be purposeful.  We should never go through days, weeks, months and even years just living day by day and letting “things” happen to us.  We should be strategic in our mission to create a family that we can be proud of and that will give back to society in a positive way.  There are things that happen to us that are beyond our control but one thing that we can control is how we allow for our kids to interact with us and the world (to some degree) and how we interact with them.

I can’t remember where I got the idea for a family mantra, but I am sure that it came from some blog, book, or sermon that read or heard.  The important thing it is that I found it useful and enlightening.  It forced me to think about the footprint I want to leave on this earth and the way I that I can do this is through my children, my family.  You can even involve your children in the process and once it is created, have a dialogue explaining the reasons why you have certain things on the list.  This dialogue opens up a discussion that can prove to be most meaningful.  When children have a purpose, they feel a little more in control and focused on a clear destination.  This creates a sense of security and builds confidence.  You can think of this as taking your vision boards (mentioned in an earlier post) to the next level.

Below I have included my own family mantra and the great thing is as your family grows and outlooks change, you can change your mantra and continue to dialogue with your family as to why things have been added or taken away.

My Family Mantra:

  • To participate in educational activities together as a family whether that be discussions, museum trips, educational games, or creating things together.
  • Nurture each others creativity and individual talents.
  • Resurrect God in the household.
  • Live healthier than the year before.
  • Foster financial stability.
  • Build and maintain self-esteem, morals, and ethics.

You can type one up, add images, print it out, get it embroidered on cloth but whatever you do make it visible to those in your household and those who enter your household so there is never a question about what you deem important.  I wish everyone a happy Thanksgiving.  Be safe and be thankful.

Link to pic can be found here: http://modernkiddo.com/mk-giveaway-urbanwalls-decals/

Deal with a long commute?

CommuteAs I was driving to work today, I realized how much I appreciate my fairly new, shorter commute. I used to travel over 3 hours both ways to and from work. I was able to reduce that to an hour to and from work and now I am down to 15 minutes! I look back at that time and wonder what I could have done with all of that time. Of course, I came up with a list that I’d like to share to maybe make someone else’s commute more productive.

1. Learn a language– Can anyone say Rosetta Stone?
2. Listen to a book on tape– Preferrable classical literature. This would be a great time to catch up on some of those titles that you skimmed over in high school.
3. Learn new skills– pop in a cd and learn about meditation, sociology, marketing.
4. Inspire yourself– Do you dream of owning your own business? Get some Ted Talks downloaded to your iPod and play them through your radio.
5. Got young kids in the car? – inspire them and play motivational speeches, books on CD, or learn that new language with them.
6. Have tweens or high schooler’s in the car? – turn off everything (including your cellphone) and listen to them. Have some heart-to-hearts and just…listen.

I look back on all of those hours jamming to music or chatting on the phone (using my bluetooth of course) and look at it as time wasted. Who could I be today if I had used that time more productively? How much more secure and close can you and your kiddo be, if you make that time about them? This is a short list but, I would love to hear some other suggestions. Don’t be afraid to share.

Your Child’s Advocate

http://beorganized.fcorgp.com/content/bonnie-marcus
Stationary from the Bonnie Marcus Collection

It is the beginning of the school year and the perfect time to latch onto your child’s excitement for school before it fades away and possible bad habits start to creep in, resurface, etc.  I’m sure you all have received some version of their students rights and responsibilities handbook that requires your signature, updated school supply lists, and countless emergency care forms.  Well, take the time to set your child up for a year of success.  It will save you some stress and alert your child that you are in their corner and plan on being involved as much as possible.  Here is a list of tips:

1.  Send an email – make it personal, introduce yourself and give a little background about your child that the teacher may not get from looking at past standardized test scores.  This will accomplish a few things.  First, your email address will now be in their system and they will be able to easily reach you throughout the day if issues arise in the classroom.  As a teacher myself, I know that it is easier to get time to respond to an email than to make a call.  Also, my emails like many other educators come directly to my phone.  Secondly, the teacher will be able to use the information within your email to better help the child in front of them.  Thirdly, the earlier this done, the quicker it is for a teacher to put a face of one of their 120 students with a name.

2.  If your child has special needs or requires accommodations in the classroom, it is necessary to set up an appointment with the guidance counselor early in the year along with core teachers to let them know what works for your kiddo and update information on any IEP’s or 504’s.  Also, you will be able to adjust to changes that may occur.  Note:  certain accommodations given in elementary are not provided in middle school.

3.  See if you can obtain an extra copy of the textbooks to keep at home.  Some schools offer online textbooks.  Attach the class syllabus ( if given) or the county’s pacing guide to each book.  This way you know what should be covered and around about when.

4.  Have a sit down with your child and agree upon a schedule for when they return home for school.  When is snack time, homework time, chore time, tv time, etc.  Also, be clear of your expectations in regards to homework.  Designate a spot for them to complete homework everyday after school.  Make sure it is free from distractions and supplies are readily available, pencil sharpener, ruler, protractor, dictionary, thesaurus, pencils, pens, crayons, markers, colored pencils, paper, etc.

5.  Know that you can request a detailed progress report at anytime during the quarter.  You do not have to wait for interim and end of quarter report cards to be surprised by your child’s grades.

6.  Try as hard as you can to attend all orientations, back to school nights, and touch bases.

7.  Remember that most schools provide after school homework clubs so that students can get work done and ask questions.  This is free and may save you money on a tutor.  Also, there is a bus that usually takes the, home afterwards.  Check with your school.

8.  Preview the list of clubs and activities that your child’s school offers. Encourage them to get involved.  It will allow them to feel like part of the school and they will become even more vested in being successful there.

I hope this helps and if there are any questions, please feel free to reply to this post.  Also, another good idea would be to purchase an accordion folder to store report cards, awards, etc so that you have an archive of your child’s academic career.

* If you like the above stationary, please visit: http://beorganized.fcorgp.com/content/bonnie-marcus

Workplace Advice

Image  It has been a while but, I was just getting myself together for the beginning of the school year.  I have to say that I already love my students.  I have learned a lot about working as part of a team and dealing with issues in the work environment.  Although it is only the beginning of the school year, both my colleagues and I are super stressed.  Trust us, it is not the kids but the system in which we have to work within.  Anyway, I have some tips that maybe everyone can use if they are working for someone else and not self-employed.

1.  Do your job!  Although, this may sound simple, it is not because sometimes after working at the same job for a while, we become complacent and slack on small things.  Try not to do this because there will always be someone watching.  Get your mind-set every morning to come in and do your job.

2.  Confront certain issues upfront.  This could save a lot of time and a lot of headaches.  We are not mind readers so, if you have questions or something that you need to get off your chest, speak with a trusted individual behind closed doors.

3.  Know your rights.  Unfortunately, life is not fair.  This one is self-explanatory.

4.  Re-read your job description.  Know exactly what it is that you do or are supposed to be doing.

5.  Participate voluntarily in professional development and build a portfolio.  This looks great to both present and future employers.

6.  Get passionate about some aspect of your work so that you can stay at 100% most of the time, if not all of the time.

7.  Do NOT trust everyone.  You may want to feel that you and your boss/co-worker have a special connection but, that may not be the case.  Sometimes your weaknesses that you share can translate into an inability to perform your job.  Watch out for this one.

8.  Stay out of the lounge; this could prove to be detrimental to your career unless you know exactly who will be in there at all times and when and you feel that you can trust them.

9.  Build a trusted network of colleagues to vent to, share successes, and complete professional projects with.

10.  Get involved in projects that your employer are working on, it can mean career-advancement fast-track!

Sometimes, you will have to take a step back and breathe.  I am an optimist so even when I get down, I try not to stay down for long. But once someone at work crosses me, I take my mother’s advice and never trust them again or let them into my circle fully.  This is because they have broken the bond.  You never know what their motives may be.  I am cordial, professional, but no fool.

Stay wise, stay employed, stay happy.  Remember there are kids and households to support.

Taking on too much

MasterToDolistI am the queen of taking on too much.  I am a teacher, graduate student, mother of two (and all that entails), business partner, writing a novel, blogging, attendee of various workshops, compiling my poetry book, reading professional development books for my job, and studying for my real estate license.  There are probably a few other things that i haven’t mentioned but, I find that I am always tired and sometimes irritable.

Recently I went back to organizing my life and various appointments in my planner.  It works for the most part until I forget that I have one (ha!).  As I get older, I am learning to use a word that made me very uncomfortable before, “No”.  Only two letters, yet it feels like utter betrayal.  That feeling is beginning to subside for me a little as I reflect on what is important to me.  My family is important to me.  My faith is important to me.  My health is important to me (I was diagnosed with MS- but I am not ready to write fully on that just yet).  So, the betrayal that “No” ushers in doesn’t quite have the same impact any longer.

I am one person and I know that I can do amazing things in this lifetime.  I can give back and also take care of myself but, that means prioritizing and putting what I value first.  If you are encountering the same experience, just list out your top 3-4 priorities.  When other things come up and if they are not a necessity, ask yourself “does this align with my priorities/what I value”?  Then, kindly tell that task or that person I’ll need to take a rain check.

Live happy, well, and healthy

Tax Free Weekend

I have just returned from my first day out on tax-free weekend. My daughter and I went to Wal-Mart and bought her school supplies. It wasn’t too crowded but, I am sure that tomorrow will be a different story. Tomorrow, we have to tackle buying sneakers. I am hoping that I come out of this entire weekend without any mental of emotional scars :-). Anyway, this is a short post to let you know when your tax-free weekend will be, if it has not already occurred.

States offer tax-free shopping – Jul. 31, 2013

The Village

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I would like to think that I can do all things and that I can be everything to my children as a single parent, but I am a realist.  I realize that there may be certain needs that must be met that I may not be able to meet.  As a single parent or a just a parent for that matter, it is important to not short change ourselves or our kids trying to be supermom and superdad.  Sometimes we must employ the help of others.  We must create the village*.

I realized this earlier this week as I waited for my daughter to finish volleyball camp.  As I was standing there, I observed other girls from all different backgrounds receiving instruction, lessons, skills, and support.  The coach was building a team in front of me.  If there was a girl there who wanted to belong to something, she was definitely going to belong to this team.  I watched my daughter’s face shift from focused (on what the coach was saying) to joyous when she was able to high-five a team member or score a point.  This moment I could not provide her with on my own.

There is a huge gap between my children, my daughter is 12 and my son is 21 months.  She has pretty much been an only child until he was born.  I have constantly been busy working and going to school to provide for her and I have to admit, I missed out on a lot.  But, when I was off from work and not in class, I took her to museums, plays at the library, outdoor festivals, etc.  I tried my hardest on a mediocre salary.  But, there are things that I could not provide.  I am not ashamed to say that I utilize my village*.  I put her in cotillion because I want her to be refined and conduct herself as a young lady should.  I let her participate in any sport that she wanted to, to include gymnastics, tae kwon do, cheerleading, soccer, and volleyball.  She needed the team and the discipline and friendships that are included.  I let her participate in the play for which she was so awesome, I had to step back and soak it all in.  She received applause after applause and it seemed as though everyone in the audience stopped her afterward and told her how wonderful she was.  She needed that, they all need that.  Of course they receive the accolades from us because we are always there but, it is special when it comes from complete strangers who do not owe you anything.

I encourage you to take advantage of any opportunity to build your village because our kids need that.  Don’t go it alone.  If you look hard enough, there is always someone there willing to help.

*It takes a village to raise a child. – African Proverb