Category Archives: Health & Wellness

Celebrating Family and Community Engagement

Family Learning Project

Family Learning Project

Recently Maximizing Character teamed up with the local public school system and local businesses and programs for the Annual Title I Family Learning Project. The event was held at the Air & Space Center. The objective of the event was to expose families to various educational opportunities within the school system as well as in the community. Goals of the event included emphasizing the importance of parent and community engagement and its impact on student success as well as provide a meaningful educational experience to the families, showcasing community resources and fun learning activities.

Families were also afforded the chance to tour the entire museum at no cost that evening. According to Ms. Epps, Title I Coordinator – Family Engagement, many of the families had never visited the museum or other community attractions possibly due to a lack of funds or knowledge of such places. Hosting the educational event at this popular area attraction was deemed a success according to the post-surveys that were completed by the participants.

Maximizing Character leaders and Character (Youth) Ambassadors attended the event, providing information about character education, life skills and community service opportunities with the program. The leaders and Youth Ambassadors greeted the children and their families, shared information, answered questions about Maximizing Character services and engaged the youth in an activity called “Know Your Character, Show Your Character”. Youth participants also had a chance to engage in coloring their own “All About Character” poster or take it with them. The children and families were encouraged to “Do the Right Thing, All Day… Every Day!”

The event proved to be a success and Maximizing Character was proud to be a part of the school system’s efforts to promote parent and community engagement! In a statement made during the event summary, Coordinator Ms. Epps said,

“Thank you all for another successful Title I Family Learning Project Event (this was our 8th year!) as we took over the Air & Space Center! The families were engaged with wonderful activities and resources and were VERY excited about exploring the exhibits. We had 739 participants! We also had 26 community vendors! Thank you again for all that you did to make this event a success.”

Be Health-Wise

Most of us know that the best way to maintain physical health is to exercise regularly and to eat nutritious foods daily. However did you know that the foods we eat also affect our mood and overall wellness? Poor diets contribute to weight gain, obesity, a plethora of medical problems, lack of energy and often times, stress, worry and a bad attitude. A good diet, including a balance of fruit, vegetables, proteins and grains, maintains blood pressure, contributes to good cholesterol and energy levels and even helps to maintain clear complexions. Healthy eating and engaging in regular exercise can also put you in a positive mood, fostering optimism, productivity, focus and overall physical and emotional wellness. So…Here’s to your health! healthy-33

Creating Balance

It’s been months since I took the time to express my thoughts in writing, aside from a “to do” list or random ideas for my business. It definitely feels good to be back! This year has been amazing! I have had the opportunity to grow my business as well as develop professionally and spiritually. However, as ecstatic as I have been about my youth program expanding, I have experienced a great deal of stress. I’ve had to learn to create balance in my life in order to maintain my health and wellness and so that I can be the best wife, mother and servant that I can be. I realized that in order to sustain my energy and to develop personally and perhaps professionally, I would have to find ways to relax and steal away to a peaceful place or state. Me

Writing, listening to music, dancing and singing, engaging in creative thought and arts and crafts had always been my go-t0 activities in the past. Nevertheless, I strayed from many of those activities as my priorities as a wife, mother, daughter, employee and servant increased over the years. This year, despite some successes professionally, I experienced severe fatigue and developed  a medical issue as a result of keeping a busy schedule and my propensity to worry and overthink everything. I decided several weeks ago to create some peace in my life.

I resolved to renew my mind and I developed a “toolkit” to help me to decrease stress and experience peace and wellness. Prayer, meditation, scriptures, affirmations, music, reading and yes…writing are included in my “go-to toolkit”. I am enjoying the opportunity to “breathe” again and to engage in self care. I even turned on some upbeat, “old school” jams and danced myself happy as I cleaned my house today! I’m delighted to be writing again and I’m looking forward to enjoying future successes in my life without all the added stress. Here’s to good health, wellness, peace and success.

 

 

Hope for Mental Health

IMG004

Advocating for individuals affected by homelessness and mental illness in Phoenix, Arizona at a National Healthcare for the Homeless Conference, 2008

Mental illness is real. If the recent events in the media haven’t caught your attention over the past 5 to 10 years, please recognize that there are an estimated 54 million Americans who are affected by mental illness. We must address its effects on our families, communities and nation. Those affected are mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, sons, daughters, neighbors and friends. It is imperative that society engages in the conversation about mental illness and how it affects those who experience disturbances in their thoughts or behaviors.  It is important that families talk about the reality of mental illness, no longer sweeping it under the rug for fear of the stigma, leaving our loved ones to suffer in silence or pretend that the mood swings and the voices in their head aren’t real.

For those who are experiencing mental illness, there is help. There are mental health professionals and agencies in just about every community across the country. There are family members, clergy and support groups to help individuals cope with mental illness. There is hope that more resources will become available as society becomes more knowledgeable and accepting of mental illness. There is also hope that our nations’ leaders will implement a plan to provide support and care to those in need. We need every member of our nation to recognize the warning signs of mental illness, know how to access the appropriate resources and how to cope. Let’s do our part to support and care for those affected by mental illness.

Helpful Resources:

http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/

www.nami.org

http://www.nimh.nih.gov

www.thenationalcouncil.org

Put Down the Phone!

I Forgot My Phone

Yesterday my co-worker shared a video (see the link above) with me that caused me to truly re-assess the way I spend my time and life energy. At first glance, it just looks like a typical day with people doing typical things, and in fact, it is typical…for this day and age. In each scene of the video there are cell phones actively being used. The video captures the essence of what has happened in our technological world. We are so busy using our phones that we neglect to truly engage in life’s moments.

I’ve heard many people use the term “live in the NOW” and I began to embrace this philosophy when I realized that television, computers and social media were beginning to take over my life. However, I have to consistently remind myself of this mantra because it is so easy to pick up the gadgets or turn on the T.V. to “engage” in the events of the day. The video demonstrates the sad reality that many of us have become disengaged with humanity. Not only have we allowed our phones and cameras to dictate our way of life, but we are missing out on the beauty and joy of engaging in memorable life events.

Remember that couple that got engaged on the beach in the video? At the very moment that his bride-to-be said yes, embraced and attempted to kiss him, the young man was engaged in taking the, oh, so popular “Selfie” pic. The scene with the children at the playground…one little girl was engrossed in some type of activity on her phone while she swung back and forth on the swings. And those two groups of people who were celebrating a birthday and having dinner…most of those folks had their heads down, interacting with their phones or were busy snapping pics and probably uploading them to some social media page. It was appalling to see, but it was so true.

After watching the short video I was ashamed at how many times I had been guilty of some of the same things. In my response to my coworker, I said that it should be everyone’s New Year resolution to put the phone down sometimes, especially during life’s most precious and memorable moments. We must exercise balance when it comes to technology otherwise it will deprive us of a wonderful, full life. Remember to live in the Now and Engage in Life with Humanity. During this New Year, accept the gift of the Present and Live!

A Season of Peace

The holidays are chock full of activities and events from decorating and shopping to celebrating the season with parties and parades. Some of the most memorable holiday activities, however, are during the times spent with family and friends. Swapping old, embarrassing stories, listening to holiday music, joking around with family members and sharing holiday dinners are some of my favorite things to do with my family. However, for some people the holidays are not necessarily the best times of the year. For some individuals, the holidays may evoke a time of sadness, loneliness, indifference or bitterness due to the loss of a loved one, old family disputes, or growing up without a family to share the holidays with. Holidays may even evoke feelings of anxiety at the thought of dealing with difficult family members, co-workers or acquaintances. Despite these feelings there are some positive ways to handle such circumstances that allow one to enjoy the season and interact with others with an attitude of “peace, good will toward all men.”

There will always be some outspoken, unpredictable member of the family or a colleague who just has to compare the children, make unrestrained comments about someone or some sensitive subject or overindulge on the holiday beverages and pick a fight with someone. And yes, there’s Cousin “so and so” and Uncle “you know who” who just irritates everyone. Don’t shy away from the holiday festivities because of a few unique individuals in your circle. Instead, treat yourself to some good company, food, laughter and great memories. After all, laughter is good medicine and each of us deserves the opportunity to eat, drink and be merry!

There are some positive ways to enjoy oneself during this and all seasons without allowing the past or certain individuals to hinder your joy. The first thing one can do is to take a deep breath and decide that nothing or no one will stop you from experiencing the goodness of life. It is always a person’s choice to not participate in holidays or certain traditions. However if there is a desire to participate but one of the aforementioned reasons has been a hindrance, choose to move past those reasons and enjoy this time making new memories while continuing to cherish the former (good) ones. Prayer, meditation, exercise, listening to music, reciting a special scripture or affirmation or browsing and reminiscing through old pictures of loved ones who have gone on before us are ways to cope with the holiday season. Whatever seems to give you comfort and joy, tap into those resources and celebrate well.

Sometimes spending time with family and friends, even the most difficult ones, is better than isolating oneself and feeling miserable. The shared time with others is great encouragement. If you did not have a family unit to celebrate with while growing up or at some point in your life, consider celebrating the holidays with close, trusted friends or co-workers or if you are old enough and have started your own family, create your own special memories that will be handed down and cherished for generations. And for the family member or co-worker that “plucks your nerves” as some of the older folks would say when I was growing up, greet them with a short salutation, a smile and move on if you can. Avoid getting riled up and jumping to your defenses too quickly…sometimes that’s just what the other person is looking for…some type of response to keep things going. Obviously one must stand up for oneself if, for some reason, something is said or done that clearly is unacceptable and has to be addressed. Remember to guard the Golden Rule and refuse to focus your energy on “foolishness”. If they happen to spark up a conversation with you, listen to what they have to say rather than tune them out but keep your guard up, you don’t want to get caught up in negative talk. Change the conversation or politely move on. When it is all said and done, let Love guide your relationships!

Enjoying Life, Today

Has it ever occurred to you that you may be focusing more on your future than you are on the present moment and the events of the day? I’ve often heard people, including celebrities like television mogul, Oprah Winfrey say, “live in the now”,” live in the moment”. I’ve been guilty of basking in my dreams and future goals so much so that I forget to stop and take in the events of the here and now — answering that life-changing question posed by my preteen or young adult son, initiating that hug or call to say “I Love You” or “Hello” to a relative or friend I haven’t spoken to in a while but who lives only ten minutes away. While I know that there is absolutely nothing wrong with dreaming and aspiring to fulfill one’s purpose in life… it is actually wise to plan ahead, I realize that one must exercise balance and remember to live in the now.

As I continue to mature and take inventory of my life, I am beginning to understand the philosophies of the older men and women in my life more and more. They said what was on their mind freely, they did not yield to other people’s opinions and they basked in the glory of the day, enjoying their lives as it was at that moment…content. These elders, in particular the women, did this with such grace, unmoved by all the chaos going on around them. They seemed to have such peace. I desire that peace, that feeling of tranquility and security that comes from embracing and engaging in the events of the day, confident that my future is already fulfilled and blessed. I get it…now that’s good living.

Got Character?

205_fairness-stickerDeveloping character can be a challenging process. It is not always easy to do the right thing when everyone else is “doing it”. As I mentioned last month, since I have started the Maximizing Character youth program, my own integrity has been challenged. I have been confronted relationally, professionally, spiritually, financially and physically to consistently do the right thing. Don’t worry. It’s a good thing. I’m up for the challenge.

There are times when we all want to fit in and not necessarily stand up or stand out. In most cases, we want to blend in with the crowd at the sporting event by wearing casual apparel as opposed to a tuxedo or ball gown. Ok, that wasn’t a good example, but hopefully you get the point. Kids, for example, want to fit in by wearing the latest designer clothes and shoes or they don’t want to be the snitch that tells the school administrator what they know about the latest school crime. For me, starting a program focusing on people’s character has been a challenge in and of itself. I’m challenging myself and others to do a self-evaluation of the behaviors and motives that cause us to do what we do. This is not always a popular topic in society. People actually want to hear about the latest “dirt”, scandal, celebrity gossip or breakup. Stories that involve a lack of character seem to hold the spotlight more than the good news that peers through the rubbish.

As I watch the news and observe the lack of character in politics, business and entertainment as well as the increase in violent acts—increased bullying, children killing their peers and adults, acts of suicide as a result of being bullied, youth acting out dangerous and even life-threatening scenes from the latest video games or movies, I have to ask myself, what can I do to help reduce the occurrence of these events? Obviously I can’t help everyone, but I can create positive change in my sphere of influence. In the past few months I’ve learned that it is fulfilling to be able to take a stand for what I believe in. I believe it takes a resolute mind and steadfast determination to do what is right, walking in integrity.

As I encourage myself, I also encourage my readers to continue to do the right thing. Don’t quit. Don’t forfeit the intrinsic benefits that come with possessing good character. Commit to developing a better you, not only the external you that we as a society tend to focus on, but also the internal you, the essence of who you are and want to be in order to make a positive impact in the world. It starts with one. Got character?

Flowers for Causes

Happy Character Counts Week! In honor of this special week I spent some time with some special girls to make Flowers for the Causes. My friend Shawnie invited me back to another Girl Talk session to create paper flowers in honor of National Bullying Prevention and Breast Cancer Awareness Month. I jumped at the opportunity to share with her cheerleaders again because not only did I have a blast during last month’s visit, but we had the opportunity to also celebrate Character Counts Week!

I was amazed at the fact that the girls had never made such flowers before. Some had never heard of or seen this particular craft before. I learned how to create these little flowers as a young girl with my mother and during a few activities in school. I had to quickly remember that the times have changed and that arts and crafts are not necessarily at the top of a teenager’s list of things to do these days. After briefly providing directions and showing the girls an example of a flower I had previously created, the girls began to delve into the project.

The girls kept me busy, distributing tissue paper, ribbons and scissors and helping them fold their paper, accordion style, in order to get the flower to “blossom” just right. As I assisted the girls with their project, I listened to their responses. Some of them were frustrated about how their flower was evolving, while others were excited about their creation. I made sure to provide extra care and assistance to the girls who were having difficulty creating their work of art. By the end of the Girl Talk session, most of the girls were amazed  at how a few pieces of paper could be transformed into such a beautiful creation.

Blue, Green and Pink were our colors for last night’s activity. Blue represented the Pillar of Character for the Day: Trustworthiness- meaning reliable, dependable, and deserving of trust or confidence. As my friends at Character Counts would say, “think true blue”. Blue and Green represented Anti-Bullying and of course, pink represented Breast Cancer Awareness. The flower making event was a fun and creative way to acknowledge and celebrate the causes. It was also a great opportunity to remind the girls that as growing flowers they must carry themselves with honor and worth, take care of their bodies and blossom in their various gifts and abilities. PhotoGrid_1382399130630