Top Five; Bottom Five List of 2015

harold-933746_1920New Year’s Eve comes with tons of Top Ten Lists, ranging from the noteworthy to the nobody cares.  Some include:

  • Best Albums
  • Biggest News Story
  • Worst Dressed
  • Most Sensational Internet moment

I figure there must be some insight to making a list of the highlights of the year, so I thought it might do me some good in applying it to my own life.  But ten of anything seemed a bit of an overkill, if not pretentious.

Therefore, I am going to dived the ten into two palatable lists of five.

Feel free to do try this experiment with your own life.  Categories can include, but are not limited to:

  • Family
  • Romantic Relationships
  • Career
  • Travel
  • Personal Growth
  • Health
  • Finances
  • Goals
  • Accomplishments/Major Awards (A Christmas Story, anyone?

So without any further ado (or adieu, since it is farewell to 2015)…

Top Five

  • My daughter going to States for her first year in competitive gymnastics
  • My husband becoming a U.S. citizen
  • My son going to day care/preschool
  • My news that a publisher wants to turn my poem into a book
  • Getting a really awesome and supportive principal at my school

Bottom Five

  • Smashing my tailbone in a bowling alley and needing an ambulance
  • Getting sepsis
  • Getting Lyme Disease six weeks later
  • Discovering a growing sink hole right next to our property
  • Realizing that my grandparents’ health is failing

Did I learn anything?  I guess that I am really blessed and even though I did experience a few low patches, life keeps plugging along and I’m really enjoying the ride!

I encourage you to make your Top and Bottom Five list, too.  And as you do, you may want to make today’s 153Promise to put a positive spin on this past year with an optimistic outlook for the year to come.

Happy New Year.

Many Kisses!  -XxXx

Because The Walls Have Ears…

Most of the time, I have a basic idea of what I’m going to write a few posts ahead of time.  But today, I want to put my schedule aside to address something interesting that happened this morning with my son.

Couch, Pillows, Sofa, Furniture, Interior, Living RoomHe and I were in the car on our way to his preschool.  He randomly asked me if we were going to get a sofa today.  I wondered what spurred this question.  I looked around and saw lots of delivery trucks on the highway, so I figured there must have been a picture of a furniture company’s showroom on the side of one of them.  But why would my son think that we might buy a sofa?  Then it hit me: my husband and I were talking about it yesterday when our son was supposedly taking a nap.

It was not the most riveting conversation we’ve had- a liquidation warehouse was having their year-end sale and we were debating whether or not to purchase a sectional.  You could say we were arguing in the truest sense of the word… merely presenting varied points of view.  We were not angry, but we may have raised our voices as opinions and teasing mounted.  We were hardly angry and the whole exchange might have taken ten minutes.  But apparently, those ten minutes were significant enough in a 3.5 year old’s mind to pop into his head the next day.

All over a sofa. 

Can you imagine the impact if it were a more serious topic?

Indeed, the walls have ears.  You may think they are asleep, but voices carry.  You may be in the finished basement with several floors between you, but not if they are secretly standing at the top of the stairs.  Air vents carry more than the hot air from the heat pump.

So make it your 153Promise today to accept that any conversation you may be having with your partner, your children may very well hear it.

Would you want them to be burdened with the knowledge that you are struggling to make ends meet?  That your marriage is rocky?  That you’re running out of ideas of what to do regarding their behavior?  That their shortcomings drive you crazy?

I was that kid at the top of the stairs 30-some years ago.  It was the creepiest feeling to know that conversations about me were going on without me.  It was like sneaking into a movie theater to the sequel of a really bad horror flick.  And I was the supporting role without any lines.

Stair, Steps, Stairway, Interior

Please make the153Promise to choose your words wisely.  Because you never know how the words you utter will ultimately land.  Earshot is a lot farther reaching than you realize.




“Take It Back!”

I had an mini epiphany when I was at my friend’s family watching them opening up Christmas presents.  One of the gifts was a pair of boots that appeared to be a little too small.

“I can always take them back to the store to see if they come in the larger size,” she said.

Gift, Packaging, Loop, Christmas

That’s when it hit me- I wish it were that easy with our words.  Or can it be?

How many times do you hear one kid yell to another, “You take that back,” as if someone’s insults were a pair of boots that didn’t fit.  But unlike ill-fitting footwear, our words’ impact cannot be undone by sending them back to the originator.  It’s not that simple… or can it be?  Maybe kids are more enlightened than they get credit for.

We can make the 153Promise by selecting our words carefully so only loving supportive phrases come from our mouths.  That alone is a great start.  But we are human, and there are times where we will fall short and we’ll say things that just don’t fit.Figure, Sad, Crying, Sadness, Upset

You can still keep true to your 153Promise when you slip and say something hurtful.  You can allow yourself to “Take Them Back” when you realize that you spoke out of anger or insensitivity.

If your kidding around went too far, you can say, “I take it back… I was only joking.  I was trying to be funny, but I can see that it wasn’t kind.  I’m sorry.”

Or if you had a bad day and your nerves are fried and you lash out at your son or daughter, you can say, “I take it back… I didn’t really mean to hurt your feelings with what I said.  It’s just that I am really in a bad mood from something else.  You don’t deserve that treatment from me.  I’m sorry.”

Crying, Children, Cry, Autumn

As long as most of your behavior is certain way, I’d say the 10% rule works.  If 9/10 comments you make are positive, then the 10% you make that are falling short, a heartfelt “I take it back” can work.  But if you have to take back half of what you say, then the apology loses their effectiveness… as do the positive comments you actually mean.

So make your 153Promise by making sure your words fit for the occasion.  And on the rare occasion they don’t, make the 153Promise to Take It Back.

Kisses.  XxXx


More On Happiness This Holiday Season

I was a bit long-winded yesterday, so I’ll try to make my Christmas post a bit more concise…

I got onto Facebook this morning and was greeted by tons of beaming smiles and pictures of presents.  And that’s awesome.  But what happens once the euphoria wears off and normalcy sets in?  Will the extreme happiness still be there?  Or will there be a little anti-climactic letdown as we get on with daily life?

My husband and I got into a deep philosophical chat about my issue with the “Happiness is your birthright” comment in the Angel From Hell trailer I posted.  He didn’t understand my objection.  He thought it’s a nice idea to think that everybody deserves to be happy; I argued that we do NOT deserve to be happy; just have our needs met.  And that’s where we began to pontificate.

From my perspective, the only thing we deserve is to not suffer.

If I do not go hungry, I have heat when I’m cold and my other basic needs met, then that’s good enough for me.  Truly.

I do not think I’m entitled to anything more than to break even in my day.  Anything else is extra and while it may roll over into tomorrow and can ease any insecurities, it’s not happiness.

Similarly, money and possessions cannot bring happiness; rather, I think it just raises the bar higher to make increasing demands to keep a certain status quo.  I prefer not to chase this elusive emotion.  I’d rather just achieve contentment with what I already possess.

But if happiness means the ability to experience joy, then yes, we all should possesses this skill.

The key is to be able to experience intense pleasure from every day events: a feel of piece of chocolate as it melts in your mouth; the smell of the earth on a warm day; the song of a bird at dusk; a cozy sweatshirt…

All these little sensations bring me happiness because I realize how lucky I am to be able to be in the present moment and be thankful for these little gifts.

But I do not think that the mere fact that I am on this Earth entitles me to any excess beyond sustaining life.

So my 153Promise for the day is to remind my children to be thankful for all the extras they have in life.

It may be a cliché, but happiness really is a state of mind that comes from within.  If being content with what we already have can be our new happiness, then that’s the key to true inner peace.

Fostering this ability is the best gift we can give our children.



A Real Christmas Miracle

It’s Christmas Eve Day.  Kids are out of school; there are last minute shopping for stocking stuffers; cookies are laid out, and presents go under the tree for tomorrow morning.

Little ones will wake up super early, eager to rip open their gifts.

Some even go to church.

Before I get too deep into my post, I submit to you one of my favorite clips of the holidays:

I try not to speak too much about faith on this blog because that subject can get very touchy due to all the perversions of the beliefs in all the different world religions.  However, I think it’s appropriate today, given all the expectations of tonight and tomorrow.  But first, I think it’s only fair that I tell you a little bit about who I am so you have a little perspective on the woman who’s writing this Christmas Miracle post…

I am Muslim.  I converted (some prefer the term ‘reverted’) when I got married to my husband several years ago.  I thought it was important to have a united front as a family.  His whole family is wonderful and they all live the true Islamic way.  They love God (Allah) and have shown me more love since meeting me a few years ago than I’ve experienced my whole life by my family of origin.

Before that, I was studying Buddhism.  (I still do.)  Before that, I was not much of anything.  Before that, I was a hard core Catholic.  Like, leading the Sunday mass as a cantor in high school Catholic.  My journey has had many twists and turns, but my path right now has me wearing a scarf.  (I suppose when I decide to commit to something, I really embrace it.)

People see the scarf and make all kinds of assumptions.  People think I’m oppressed, crazy, brainwashed, a terrorist…  all those great media-perpetuated stereotypes.  People somehow think Islam is the Anti-Christian religion.  As a result, I feel like I need to go out of my way to really get into the holiday spirit, just to show that Muslims are not some Godless group.  I’m sure most of the general public would be shocked to learn that we “believe” in Jesus- he’s in the Qur’an.  He was born of the Virgin Mary.  He traveled and preached the Word of God.  He was prosecuted for his teachings, and he will come back at the end of days as the Messiah.  The main departure is that Muslims do not concede that Jesus is God, and that he did not die on the cross for our sins.  But many surveys have been conducted asking self-proclaimed Christians if they believe that Jesus is the only way to everlasting life, and the numbers are in the teens.

I could go on and on about the topic of the faiths and how they are observed, but in short, I am NOT anti-Christmas.  When people ask me if I “celebrate” Christmas, I have to really gage how they ask it.  Are they worried about offending me?  Are they asking about Islam?  Is it just a passive aggressive poke?  So to answer, while I do not acknowledge Christmas as a day to give praise to the birth of God incarnate, yes, I do observe that this is the time to recognize the birth of Jesus.

It’s also the time of the winter solstice and the new calendar year.

So do I decorate for the season?  Yes.  In fact, we’re the only house on the block with religious decorations!  (We have an light up angel hanging off our porch banister.)

Do I give gifts of affection when we visit relatives over winter break?  Yes.  We have pictures of our son sitting on Santa’s lap (taken for free at the YMCA).  In Turkey, Santa is called “Noel Baba” and in fact, the original St. Nicholas is from Turkey!  You see him and decorated trees in Turkish malls this time of year.

In short, do I participate in the wide-spread secularism of Christmas?  Like most of the general public, yes.  But our household keeps it low key for two reasons:

  • we truly embrace what Christmas is all about and treat the true meaning with respect
  • we are trying to teach our children moderation and not buy into the sense of greed and entitlement of the season.

I held this position even before I met my now husband.  I’ve always thought that Jesus has been lost along the way and capitalism has taken over.  Sad on all accounts.  In that sense, Charlie Brown and I are of the same mind.

So my point is that I’d love to see some Christmas Miracles tonight and tomorrow… if you celebrate Christmas, please take your children to church.  Pray to God for peace on Earth.  Think of Jesus and what he preached during his 33 years.  Listen to the sermon of your spiritual leaders.  Hopefully, he or she will remind the congregation that we are all brothers and sisters in the eyes of God.

And when your children begin with the Gimmie-gimmies, pause for a moment to give them a reality check about where their hearts are Christmas morning.  In that sense, a little Buddhist mindfulness would be a great addition amongst the boxes and bows.

What prompted me to make this post?

I was on the elliptical at the Y yesterday, and this came on the machine:

Perfect timing, ironically.  Just as the story of the angel of the Lord sends word to Mary that she will be giving birth to Jesus, an Angel from Hell comes to a woman and tells her that, “You don’t just deserve to be happy; it’s your birthright.”


That sense of entitlement is exactly what is wrong with our society.

Yes, I am Muslim.  And I am going to truly observe the meaning of Christmas by humbly praying to God that parents everywhere — no matter what faith — make the 153Promise to their families by teaching their children to be thankful for everything that they have.  Gifts are not just the items under the tree.  Gifts are everywhere: your home, your working body parts, your bosses or teachers, your relatives…

It’s my prayer that Christmas Miracles of appreciation are in the air… no just tonight and tomorrow, but all year around.

That’s how this Muslim observes Christmas.

Kisses.  XxXx.





Congratulations, All New Fiances… Now What???

A colleague of mine came into school yesterday with some new bling.  She and her boyfriend have been dating for seven years and they’ve been discussing marriage; even to the point of looking at houses.  So she knew “The Day” was coming… just not when.

As it turns out, he was being stealthy, planning something before the holidays.  Nice.  She was truly surprised and she showed me the great photos- complete with rose petals and the backdrop of Central Park.

I told her that she would be the inspiration for my post today, since I figure that a lot of proposals would be happening this holiday week.

I know it’s tempting to rush out and get wedding planning books, bride magazines, and begin calling around to find just the right venue.  However, I am going to strongly suggest the FIRST item you buy is this great book:

Cover art

There’s also a workbook that comes along with it you can buy.  It’s well written — intelligent but digestible — and if you like his stuff, he’s got many more books about marriage, parenting, and emotional intelligence.

Because while the trappings of a wedding can be very seductive, once all the cake has been eaten and people finally take your “Save the Date” postcard magnet off the fridge, you’re left with this person you married.

The topic of how to raise children may not be the first thing couples talk about when deciding whether or not to tie the knot, but it’s important to keep in mind why your are making this commitment… presumably to have a family and create a stable environment for your children.

So to all those people who’ve popped or been popped to… Congratulations!

Now make the 153Promise to each other and your future family by digging a solid foundation to the life you are seeking to build.


We Have Physicals; Why Not Mentals?

Note: My vision of this blog is to be a resource for ways to give children positive messages to raise a emotionally healthy child.  Once 2016 begins, I intend to make my own 153Promise to make 153 blog entries on ways to “kiss” your child so they wind up with “On Million Kisses” by the time they turn 18.  Until then, I’m throwing out a bunch of content that’s been on my mind for quite some time.  This is one of those posts…

Every parent knows the “joys” of the yearly physical checkup at the pediatrician.  It’s usually scheduled at a sick visit when you child needs antibiotics for that horrible cough or ear ache.  The very nice physicians’ assistant (PA) helpfully suggests, “Would you like to schedule your yearly well visit at this time?”  This is usually in February and the calendar is booked well into July.  Still, you pick a random date towards the end of the summer and pray you don’t forget it.  Thankfully, the offices sends you a reminder call 48 hours in advance so you can cancel the plans you made in the meantime.

Your child gets weighed and measured.  Poked and prodded.  Not unlike picking the perfect melon for a picnic.  98.6?  Check.  Still ten fingers and toes?  Check.  Pooping?  Check.

All of this is important, just to make sure everything’s looking normal.  We trust the doctor to pick up anything unusual, and the doctor trusts us to divulge any concerns we may have.  It’s a system that’s been in place for ages.

Why not for mental health?

You may say that primary care physicians (PCPs) are trained for such screenings, but their training is limited.  Kind of like a plumber fixing your leaky sink and noting that the wiring may — or may not — be grounded right in your kitchen outlets.  You need to call an electrician to get a more educated opinion.

My wish is that EVERY child in the U. S. gets a yearly screening for any issues dealing with mental health.  It should be done by a highly trained, highly astute therapist who knows how to spot the markers for things like anxiety, depression, mood disorders…  There should be a very detailed pre-visit form to fill out.  Depending upon the age of the child, they should be part of that process, similar to the courts considering the child’s opinion in custody hearings.

A questionnaire with the Strongly Agree; Agree; Neutral; Disagree; Strongly Disagree should be filled out by both the caregiver and the child.  Part of HIPA, there should be parts of the form that can be voluntarily filled out by a PA without the parent present if the child needs help with the form and the parent gives consent in order to ensure that the child is forthcoming with the answers.

Questions like:

  • I am happy at school
  • I feel supported at home
  • I feel in control of my life
  • I go to sleep without fear
  • I make healthy choices about my body
  • My friendships add to my enjoyment of life
  • There is an adult I trust if I have problems
  • I do not feel like I am in danger in any way

Or for the more concerning:

  • My life feels out of control sometimes
  • I have thoughts of not wanting to be here anymore
  • There are some fears I can’t get out of my head
  • I fear some people in my life
  • I don’t enjoy activities I used to like
  • People don’t notice my problems

Even very young children could point to emojis or pick pictures to color to get an idea of how they view the world and their place in it.

I firmly believe that if we as a nation start focusing our attention on these types of issues at a very early age, we could see a huge turn around in how we treat children with regarding mental health issues.

If a child’s responses start showing a cause for concern, early interventions can be done.  Things as simple as recommending a support group for both the parents and child…  Recommending certain books or resources for the family… even a few intensive sessions with a therapist to teach coping mechanisms… for the entire family.

Will this cost money upfront?  Perhaps.  But imagine how much money would be saved by having a whole generation of more well adjusted people walking around.  Imagine crime rates going down.  Addiction being reduced.  Fewer suicides or mass shootings.

The real tragedy that occurs in horrible media events is when people are interviewed and say, “Yeah… there were some red flags.”

It’s my hope that 153Promise takes off and becomes a platform for sweeping mental health reform for children.

That’s my mission. Some may think I’m crazy, and I need to get my head examined.






Love Triangles… or squares, or pentagons, or… Teaching That Supplies are UNlimited!

My son just turned three and a half years old yesterday.  I can’t say enough about the guy.  He’s bright, got a sunny disposition and a laugh that could melt the Antarctic.  Every day, I thank God for my precious gift.

I love watching him develop and learn new skills as he figures out the world and his place in it.  It’s the coolest thing when something is there today that wasn’t there yesterday.  And that new concept is… jealousy.

My son and I were hanging out in the kitchen yesterday morning.  My husband comes down the stairs into the living room.  He says good morning, and I go over to give him a hug and kiss.  Our usually happy-go-lucky son hops down off the stool and says, “No, Baba, (that’s Turkish for Daddy), that’s MY Mommish!” (That’s our son’s Turklish pet name for me.)

I instantly said to my boy, “Oh, sweetie, there’s enough love for everybody!”  We then made a counting game of me kissing my son ten times, and then I kissed my husband ten times.  And so on until we ended in a three-way hug.

I totally can see why my son was upset.  We are constantly teaching him to share… because most times, the set item has a finite supply and anything he takes means that someone else will have to do without.  It is totally understandable to apply the same logic to kisses: if I give ten kisses to my husband, that leaves ten fewer for my son, right???

So we had to show our son that there will never be an end to kisses.  They are not like toys at the YMCA playground or animal crackers at snack time.  It’s not a game to compete for the limited supply.

Now, can you imagine if I shamed him by reprimanding his behavior?  That he shouldn’t WANT my love?  If I had pushed him away to keep hugging my husband, that would have taught my son that my love IS a thing to compete for and covet.   No child should be made to feel guilty for wanting their parents’ love.  It would have caused him anxiety and rightfully so.   Love should never be contest.

So next time one of your children is competing for your attention (which is really your affection), explain to them that the best way to give everybody what they want is to all pile together and get it done!

Feeling pulled in different directions?  If everybody folds the laundry together, then there’s more time freed up to work on homework, together, at the same table.

It’s just like architecture: the more (tri)angles there are, the stronger the structure.  So the more people sharing the love, the more triangles can be formed, thereby strengthening the love!

So make the 153Promise to show the regenerating power of your love!  Supplies unlimited: Act Now!

-Kisses!  XxXx




Sondheim Was Right

When I was in high school, I discovered musicals.  My favorite at the time was Into the Woods by Stephen Sondheim.  It’s a mash-up of several fairy tales, whereby they all have to go into the woods to get what they want.  (Symbolism, anybody?)

Toward the end of the work, a widower/baker begins to tell his fussing infant child the story of his mother, creating a legacy for his offspring.  The witch who was the antagonist throughout the plot stands off to the side, offering one of the main messages of the musical in the form of a haunting lullaby, warning:

     Careful the things you say;
     Children will listen.
     Careful the things you do;
     Children will see
     And learn.
     Children may not obey,
     But children will listen.
     Children will look to you
     For which way to turn-
     To learn what to be.
     Careful before you say:
     “Listen to me.”
     Children will listen…
I remember singing along with my tape (yes, I’m that old), in my bedroom and I loved that song for it’s bittersweetness.  Now that I’m a mother and have children of my own, I understand this song on a whole different level.
For me now, the message this song sends is that your sons and daughters will learn about the world through your words and actions.  What lessons do you want to send through how you act?
 The first understandings of how a relationship is supposed to function is from how you interact with your partner.  (At a young age, they cannot separate themselves from the situation; how you react with them teaches them more about the world; not interpersonal communication.)  Therefore, it is very important to model what a healthy, loving relationship looks and sounds like.
I was given the model of dysfunction.  When I was growing up, my parents argued all the time.  They were never affectionate.  I came to believe that the people who are highly involved in your life are also the ones who know you enough to hypercritical about you.  Hugging and kissing was only the stuff in movies and obviously not reality.  As a result, I sought out that same dysfunction I was used to seeing as a child.
Only now as I write this am I realizing that it took another 18  years away from my parents to totally relearn life lessons in how to attract and keep functional relationships.  I think I am not unique in this phenomenon whereby people turn a corner in their insight about their lives in their mid 30s- it’s because they have had as many years away from their family of origin to realize that their understanding of the world and the people in it comes from their childhood and is not necessarily Truth.
When your children experience second hand your relationship you have with their father, mother — biological or otherwise — you are really creating a certain “relationship radar” in your children.  So make the 153Promise to your husband, wife, partner or any other people your children come in contact with to model the type of relationship your children will have when they become old enough to have one of their own.
Children will listen, see, and learn.
Make their lessons happy .

Self Esteem is NOT Vanity

Recently, I was helping someone write their response for an application regarding their career path.  The prompt was to talk about themselves in a way that was otherwise not reflected in their application.  This person kept coming back to me with several revisions because I thought they kept missing the mark.  I softened the blow by saying while there was nothing really wrong with what they wrote, I explained that it didn’t feel authentic… it seemed forced and not like it came organically from the writer.  Rather than writing a heartfelt narrative that taught us about who they are as a person, the piece read more like a résumé in scrawling prose form.

Good writing sessions are almost like therapy; you need to find out what they are really trying to say, and get them to realize it on paper.  When I started prodding a bit, the word fear came out of the person’s mouth.  When I asked what they meant by that the response was, “I am afraid of sounding too boastful.”

That was the light bulb moment.

If you list all the things you accomplish in life, then yes; that is boastful.  But if you are celebrating the great qualities that make you special, then that is called self esteem.

I could easily list all the things I did so far in my life: singing professionally with a jazz group; going storm chasing; winning first prizes in road races for my age category;  having a completely unmedicated childbirth for my son…  Now that starts to sound like I’m bragging.

But if I say I am very emotional in my song interpretation, I have an adventurous spirit, I value making healthy choices through exercise and a natural lifestyle, then I am sharing with you what makes me unique.

I thought it was important to make this distinction right after yesterday’s post about making a 153Promise through instilling a healthy self concept with your children by modeling it with yourself.  There is nothing wrong with loving yourself for who you are… just not for all the things you did.  Overvaluing accomplishments is like white-knuckling your self concept.  If you have to cling onto some list of moments, then you are actually being very insecure.  True inner peace and happiness comes from the ability to shine your inner light for all to see… even if they have no idea what you’ve done.

I don’t get into religion very much on here, but I felt it in my heart to quote a very popular verse.  It says in the Bible in 1 Corrinthians 13 4-5 that love is not boastful and keeps no record of wrongdoing.  Therefore, if you are truly filling your heart with love, it cannot possibly be boastful.  It’s also underscoring that love does not come from a tally of actions.

So praise yourself — and your children — for all the qualities  you and they possess; not for all the things in a record of accomplishments.  Otherwise, the love starts feeling conditional… nobody wants to feel loved for the growing list of things they did.

Instead of giving praise for making the Honor Roll or scoring the winning point of a game or cleaning their room, acknowledge their hard work, their courage and their integrity.  That’s true love without an attachment or condition.  And when they fall short, don’t shame them… use it as an opportunity to explore what happened inside themselves and how they can learn and grow for future success… and do the same thing with yourself.

Make the 153Promise of nurturing a healthy self esteem without the fear of being boastful.