As we welcomed sweet November last week, we were reminded of how blessed we are to see another month, holiday season and our 5th year of public service as Maximizing Character in the coming year. We decided to celebrate gratitude throughout the month. Gratitude, from the Latin gratus, meaning pleasing or thankful, is a feeling of appreciation. It is often shown through kindness, gifts, help, favors, or other types of generosity.
During the first six days of our Gratitude celebration we were grateful for life, family, opportunities to achieve our goals, our supporters, good teachers and the ability to help others. Imagine life without these things.
As we move forward through the month of November we hope that you will check back and join us as we reflect upon the many wonderful blessings we have to be grateful for. Obviously gratitude is not just a once a month or time of year observation. It is a daily habit that, if exercised, has the potential to bring so much joy into one’s life. So, until we blog again, here’s to Maximizing Character and Gratitude!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
In my quest to teach character, I’m challenged daily to live with integrity. Since I started my youth program, Maximizing Character, it seems that my own habits are now in the spotlight. I’ve had to take inventory of my own life so that I’m careful to model strong character to my own children and students. I’ve noticed areas in my life that definitely need some tweaking. Taking time out of my schedule to volunteer my time or give to a cause instead of simply talking about it is one small step I’ve had to take in an effort to reorder my life and develop my own character. Another challenge I realized was that I have a tendency to neglect my health by eating too many sweets, making excuses for not exercising and slacking on the sleep…so much for practicing what I preach to the kids.
One of the things that I focus on in my home and program is connecting one’s character to their health and wellness. I teach my students that part of being a responsible person is taking care of their bodies, eating right, exercising, getting plenty of rest and avoiding the use of drugs and alcohol. I explain to them that a healthy lifestyle helps not only their physical but also mental health and that a healthy lifestyle wards off destructive diseases while boosting one’s energy and overall attitude and mental health. Despite my knowledge of the benefits of exercise and a healthy lifestyle and the advantage of having a husband who is a personal trainer, I find it challenging for me to go walking or to visit the gym just a few days a week to prevent illnesses that plague my family such as diabetes and high blood pressure or to simply boost my energy levels. As a result of my poor choices (and hypocrisy) I have experienced a life full of “F’s”…Fatigue, Frustration, Fatty Foods and just plain Fed Up.
I recently challenged myself to refocus and to work towards getting this area of my life back in balance. I recognize that a healthy lifestyle is essential for the life I want to live…stress-free and energized to learn and to work effectively. So I’ll keep you posted on my progress from time to time. My hope is that I continue to be a good role model for my children and others, having a teachable spirit and maximizing my own character as I pursue my passion to promote good character and healthy lifestyles.