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What Makes Strong and Nurturing Families?

What Makes Strong and Nurturing Families?

Human beings have the longest dependency on others than any other living creature. We spend our lives in relationships, either toxic or nurturing. If the family of origin was not supportive and loving, we either repeat that pattern or look for other mentors and teachers.

Can you visualize a closed fist as opposed to an open hand? That is the difference between a closed and dysfunctional group and a learning, sharing and supportive one. The closed one is turned inward and harsh in judgment and expectations. The open one is welcoming and willing to help others as well as receive help.

Closed or Open Families

When we look at families, either of birth or deliberate connection, we admire and wish to emulate, there are usually a number of variables present in the makeup. One or more are usually absent from a closed or dysfunctional family organizations.

  1. Open communication. The members are free to express opinions and make mistakes without losing love. They talk often and freely express feelings and emotions. They look for new ways to encourage each other and don’t just do what has always been done. The family members ask for help, forgiveness and support when it is needed.
  2. A sense of “us”. A family is made up of individuals with different needs and abilities. Those individuals form a synergy where the sum of the parts is greater than each one alone. The members of the family know that someone “has their back” and will support their endeavors.
  3. Boundaries and guidance. Boundaries and rules of society are not to keep others out, but to keep us safe by understanding the limits of acceptable and unacceptable behavior.
  4. Mutual respect. Strong families provide a sense of shared history and traditions. The family actively teaches and models morals, ethics and respect for others.
  5. Affectionate and loving. Parents and families who only touch by pushing or pulling do not recognize the value of a loving and kind pat on the head, hug or kiss. Words and actions of love and acceptance are experienced daily in strong families and then radiated out to the world.
  6. A sense of optimism and hope for the future. Families that are connected are strong in good times and bad. They model positive coping strategies and recognize life lessons in occasional failures.

Can you and your family change, even if negative patterns have been established over a long period of time? The answer is a resounding yes. The more we know, the more we grow. If your family or group would like deeper assistance than is offered in articles and books and yet not as expensive as therapy, please Google the phrase “Discipline Yes Punish No.” This can assist you in your journey.

Thank You for Your Important Work

I applaud you for seeking help with improving your relationships. Enhancing the bonds of understanding between individuals is the first step in building better families, neighborhoods, communities, areas, nations and a world of peace and harmony. Isn’t that what we all want?

Step-Parent Success – 7 Easy Steps

Step-Parent Success – 7 Easy Steps

Being a step parent does not mean being stepped on or walked over like a doormat. It also does not have to be hard, frustrating and disruptive to daily life. Parenting is a challenge, even when you have known the children from birth. Blending families, past experiences, expectations, parenting styles and stages of growth can have an impact on relationships. It is easy to love someone else’s children, not always easy to raise them.

Statistics say that half of all Americans will be in a step relationship at some period in their lives. By putting simple techniques and methods in place in your blended family, you can smooth the journey for everyone concerned.

1. Develop community by cooperation not competition: Determine to work together with the other adults in the child’s life to support and encourage their endeavors. Vow to only say positive things about the other parent, and to remain impartial when you hear negative. If the new step dad wants to coach the little league team, then you find another way to share your love. Reinforce how fortunate the child is to have all these adults in life who love him. Put the child’s welfare first.

2. Mutual respect with family meetings: Your family is an organization, and all high functioning organizations have planning meetings and an action plan to accomplish their goals. Set aside at least one hour every week to listen, talk and have some open dialog about how things are going in your home. This is not a time for criticism, lectures or threats.

3. Have a few firm and kind rules: Decide as a family what is important to you. Do you speak with respect to one another? Do you want homework done before dinner? Do you all have chores and work together to keep the house comfortable? You don’t want a long detailed list, but rather some general areas, which you all agree are important to “this family.”

4. Be the adult in charge. When a child says, “I hate you, you are not my mommy. I don’t have to do what you say” it may hurt your feelings. This is pretty inevitable, so get over it and tell the child, “You are right, I am not your parent, but I do care about you and want what is best for all the members of the family. Right now, I am the adult in charge and this is the rule for this house.”

5. Plan for transition time: Recognize that it is difficult and confusing for children to have a different set of rules at Mommy’s house and Daddy’s house. It is also hard for them to know who is in charge when the exchange of authority is made at child care. Be gentle as you remind them that you have confidence in their ability to remember how to act appropriately in all situations.

6. Discipline with dignity: Remember there is a big difference between the deed and the doer. It is the behavior that is irritating, not the child. When you correct, correct the behavior and express confidence in the child making better choices next time. The best teaching comes from using natural or logical consequences that are linked with the mistake.

7. Make a commitment to the marriage: Have a date night where the focus is not on the kids, bills, ex-partners or anything but each other. You need to establish a stable, loving partnership that will withstand all the little and big bumps in this journey. This is not about yours, mine, ours, theirs, who did what to who when. It is about climbing the steps to successful parenting together as a couple.

Spoiled, Spacey, Smart-Mouthed Kids: Is it Too Late to Discipline?

Spoiled, Spacey, Smart-Mouthed Kids:
Is it Too Late to Discipline?


Are you acquainted with spoiled, airhead, belligerent, obnoxious and rude children? Even worse, are you related to them? Are you so stressed out with trying to gain cooperation, that there is little time for fun or expressions of love? Is your interaction more of a battleground than peaceful co-existence?

 If so, here are 7 tips to help you regain an attitude of mutual respect.

  1. The word discipline comes from disciple, which means to guide, lead and teach. You cannot teach when you are yelling.
  2. All goals of misbehavior are based on unmet needs:
  • To gain attention
  • To gain power
  • To gain revenge
  • To gain sympathy
  1. If you want to figure out what the child is trying to accomplish, look at how you are reacting. What are your feelings?
  2. The best way to change a child’s behavior is to change how you react. Figure out who owns the problem and don’t take it personally. Withdraw from power struggles
  3. Being firm and kind in stating what is acceptable and unacceptable behavior helps everyone to know what the boundaries are.
  4. Establishing natural and logical consequences helps reinforce any teaching method.
  5. Be consistent in discipline. We all work better when we know the ground rules and what is expected of us.

Children who have loving rules and boundaries established and practiced in a firm and kind way by the adults in their life are secure. They have a foundation of mutual respect and learn to build satisfying relationships with others.
When they do not have guidelines for appropriate behavior, they spend their time pushing out or going inward rather than growing in self confidence.

Is it too late to establish rules for mutual respect? No. Never stop trying.

Not if the child is 4, 14, 24 or 44. Guiding young people into productive, contributing lives is what the adults in their circle of influence are supposed to do. To do less, is to cheat them and the world of what they have to offer.

If you are having problems that need more attention, please see this simple proven system that will end the frustrations you are experiencing with your kids.

Grandma’s Apron Pockets Held Treasures for Children

Grandma’s Apron Pockets Held Treasures for Children

I think the reason my Grandma, an early Idaho pioneer homesteader, wore the long cotton apron with big pockets and ties around the neck and waist was to protect one of the two dresses she owned. She probably thought she would just put it on to do chores and then her dress and demeanor would be fresh for visitors. Only problem is Grandma’s chores were never done. She was first one up and last one down every day. She worked hard and so did her various aprons in small patterned print, brightened by ric-rac or primary colored bias tape around the edges.

There were many uses for the apron besides protecting the dress underneath:

  • Pot holder to get hot pans of cookies or chicken from the oven
  • Tear dryer for children who had hit by a tree branch or brother
  • Face wiper, after a bit of spit on the finger had washed the dirt off
  • Hiding place for little kids
  • Carrying eggs to the house, baby chickens back to the coop
  • Carrying kindling, logs and twigs to the house for the wood stove
  • Carrying garden seed in the pockets, produce in the upturned material and strips of ancient ones were used to tie tomato plants up to stakes in the garden.
  • After the peas had been shelled or the corn shucked for dinner, the remains were gathered in the apron and carried out to the “pile” She didn’t know the word compost then. But she did it.
  • In the fall, the apron held apples, peaches, apricots and cherries into the house to be “preserved” for the winter enjoyment.
  • The apron corner was used to tighten every jar of fruit and jam. It gave just the right leverage to the hand.
  • It provided warmth on chilly night by wrapping the edges upward over Grandma’s arms or downward over a small child.

Ahh, But The Pockets held the treasures 

  • Clothes pins to hold the wash on the clothes line.
  • A tiny tin of aspirin in case the arthritis acted up.
  • Safety pins
  • A hankie to wipe the eyes or blow the nose
  • Peppermint candies
  • Unusual small rocks with lines in them, good for a teaching moment on how the earth was formed.
  • Small feathers, buttons, driftwood to be used someday for an art project.
  • Anything that her grandchildren had brought to show her and she vowed to keep forever.


Nothing Lasts Forever 
Not sweet, warm, loving Grandma who died of cancer, while everyone else was instructed not to talk about it. We were to “play like” Grandma would get better soon.

Not Grandma’s aprons which were divided among her daughters after her death and ultimately ended up in the rag bag.

Not the little things that she treasured and was going to make art projects with. Not the candies, clothes pins or rocks.

Not the fruit, jam, jellies. They were all consumed that year.

Except For Memories and Stories

Only the memories of Grandma in her pretty apron with her busy hands but open arms remain. Only the stories that we tell of her strength, wisdom and sweet spirit remain to remind us of who we came from. Only the stories and memories remind us of the time in our childhood when all problems could seemingly be solved with a yard of cotton and a beautiful woman. How blessed we were to have a grandma who wore an apron and taught us about life.

If you enjoy reading stories of pioneers, family life, and strong women you should check out my book The MC’s – Life Stories of Early Idaho Pioneers Manford Cleveland and Sarah Elizabeth Turman and Their Families.

Exploring Grief – We Have All Lost Something

Exploring Grief – We Have All Lost Something

Internal work on our believe systems, thought patterns and behaviors is the hardest work any of us will ever do.  It takes a great deal of courage and desire to change to undergo the strenuous work of digging through the layers of hidden feelings, experiences and hurts. 

Those who are in healing professions know how important it is to examine closely and deal with the wound rather than just covering it with a bandage and allowing it to fester.  The power  comes when we release the pain and suffering and allow the healing to begin.

Looking at What We Have Lost

Some would say they have not suffered grief because they have not had the experience of losing a loved one to death. This is simply a method of self protection and denial. 

Loss does not always take human form. It can be an beloved animal that ran away. Or a promotion that we did not receive. Or a dream that is still deep in our heart. Or even a fantasy of a loving and respectful relationship. It could be the loss of faith.

Loss is Universal

Many think of grief as a huge sadness, but it is much more subtle than that.  It may take the form of a nameless yearning, a feeling of being “unfinished” or “undone”.  It is much more important to analyze what we feel rather than why we feel it.

We all have grief of some kind to explore. However, sometimes it is the grief of losing someone to death that brings all these emotions rushing forward where we can examine them. It is then we may recognize some of the emotions and feelings we have had for many years but have never verbalized.

A Broken Heart is Open to Teaching

When our heart is open and raw, it is easier to receive messages from teachers, guides, and those who want the best for us.  It may be the first time we have ever sat quietly and allowed our spirit to shift to a new level of awareness.  If we allow suppressed feelings of loss to surface and be dealt with as the doctor would when treating a wound on our physical body, we can begin the process of healing.

You may like to visit my blog for more answers and suggestions to help you discover ways to deal with your loss. I know that it is a difficult road, and you don’t have to go it alone. 

Grief, Sympathy, and Support: How to Offer Comfort When Someone is Hurting

Grief, Sympathy, and Support:
How to Offer Comfort When Someone is Hurting

What do you say to someone who has just lost a child to death? What do you say to someone whose parent has died from a lingering illness? What do you say when a family member lost their life in a war you don’t believe in? What do you say when the death came about from murder? Or suicide? Or drug overdose?

An odd by-product of my loss is that I’m aware of being an embarrassment to everyone I meet. At work, at the club, in the street, I see people, as they approach me, trying to make up their minds whether they’ll say something about it’ or not. I hate it if they do, and if they don’t
~ C.S. Lewis from A Grief Observed

It is often easier to say nothing than risk saying the wrong thing. However, the death of a loved one is the worst thing that can happen to someone and so to ignore the survivor, or fail to mention the loss, is to add to the hurt.

Friends and relatives need to talk about the loss and to know that they are safe in discussing it with you. They need to be reassured that you acknowledge their feelings, concerns and actions. Once you have accepted that a death has occurred and that the loved one needs your support and sympathy, there are ways to help the survivor.

* Do continue support after the funeral.
* Do listen when they need to talk about the death, person or the impact on them,
* Accept where they are and don’t try to hurry them through their grief process.
* Don’t compare their tragedy to someone else’s or your own.
* Don’t expect them to counsel and comfort you.
* Never say “I know how you feel” because you don’t. Each loss is unique.
* Do provide practical support-food, money, car rides, babysitting etc.
* Do provide social support and remind them you are available to listen and help as well as go out in public.

There are lots of ways to give verbal support and sympathy. Non verbal communication is the language of relationships. If the survivor is in shock, they may not remember what you said, but will always remember what you did.. Sometimes a pat on the arm, a hug, cleaning the house, raking the leaves, filling the car with gas, or writing a note lets the survivor know that you care.

These are just a few of the ways to let others know that you are aware of their sadness and acknowledge their feelings. When you offer a hand of sympathy and support, you help the survivor know they are not alone on this journey.

Will it always be accepted with gratitude? No. Should you offer the hand of love and acceptance anyway?

Yes. This is not about you. It is a way to honor those who have died and those who are left behind.

For more tips and suggestionson how to offer your support, you may like to visit my blog. Your kind words and unconditional support are the most important thing you can offer.

When the Search for the Cure Ceases: Palliative Care

When the Search for the Cure Ceases:  Palliative Care

Families often struggle with the need to be sure everything has been done that can be done their terminally ill loved one.  It can be very difficult for the patient and family members as they transition from making decisions  toward cure to making decisions that will help to allow for a comfortable and peaceful death.

When a terminally ill person and/or their loved ones make the decision to discontinue curative treatments and move instead into comfort care in preparation for approaching death, there are several matters which must be considered.

What is Palliative Care?

Palliative is any form of medical care or treatment that concentrates on reducing the severity of symptoms rather than curing the disease. The goal of palliative care is to relieve suffering and improve quality of life for those who are experiencing serious, complex and terminal illness.

This can include alternative or energy  work such as massage or aromatherapy which may alleviate the side effects of the curative treatments. One example is methods of relieving the nausea associated  with chemotherapy.

Over the past twenty years, the focus on a patient’s quality of life has gained substantial ground. Today in the United States, 55% of U.S. hospitals with over 100 beds offer a palliative care program and nearly one-fifth of community hospitals have palliative care programs. A relatively recent development is the concept of a dedicated health care team that is entirely geared toward palliative treatment, called a palliative care team.

There is often confusion between the terms hospice and palliative care. In the United States, hospice services and palliative care programs share similar goals of providing symptom relief and pain management.

However, the most important distinction between hospice and palliative care programs in the United States is that hospice is a Medicare Part A benefit, thus requiring many aspects of hospice care such as enrollment to be regulated by the United States federal government.

Non-hospice palliative care, however, is appropriate for anyone with a serious, complex illness, whether they are expected to recover fully, to live with chronic illness for an extended time, or to experience disease progression.

As death becomes more imminent, attempts to cure the disease taper off, while palliative care measures increase.

If you would like to read more about caring for terminally ill or aging loved ones I encourage you to visit my blog. You will find a wealth of information and supportive words to help you through this difficult and important time.

Stories Help Us Remember Our Loved Ones

Stories Help Us Remember Our Loved Ones

People who have lost a loved one, either a human or animal, search for ways to remember and at least keep a memory alive. Sharing stories helps us remember those good days and the joy that loved one brought to us. We may no longer to enjoy their fun and love in this existence, but the memory can remind us of the emotions and experiences we had together.

We want to remember the deceased and maintain some part of their live lessons in our daily journey. This need to remember becomes especially strong on birthdays, anniversaries or holidays. It may be the season that triggers our memory. Or a smell. Or a treasured old toy in the attic.

Whatever the touchstone of remembering, it is therapeutic to tell a story to another person and have them acknowledge your sharing.

Make a Mind Movie for the Listener

One of the goals of a good story is that the listener can build a picture in their mind of what you are telling them. They can actually envision this series of pictures unfolding as the tale progresses. They will, of course, put their own experiences in place as they build this inner mind movie. So, your story of your Uncle Bob taking you fishing as a child, will star their Uncle or someone from their own life context.

That is okay that unless they knew your Uncle Bob, they may picture another middle aged man. They may see you or perhaps themselves as the small boy. However, the story is making a connection between the two of you. Your mind pictures may not be the same, but the emotions will be similar and important to both the story teller and listener.

Stories Heal the Hurt

Donald Davis, a North Carolina storyteller and teacher said, “Stories have the power to heal individuals following a significant loss because they enable us to keep alive, honor, and bless people who are no longer with us. The story enables others to meet someone whom they will never actually meet in their lives. The story helps us process and understand our relationship with the person whom we have lost.”

You may like to visit my blog for more tips and suggestions to help you cope with the loss of a loved one.