Saturday, March 29, 2014

Teaching our girls how to GIVE

Back in October, I took the girls to a garden fair, and we met this amazing super mom Deb Buenaga and her sweetheart son Preston.  We learned all about their foundation called Preston's March for Energy, which raises money to gift adaptive bikes to children with special needs.  I wrote about it here.
 {Sisters are forever friends} ...a Christmas gift

Not long after, the girls wanted to start doing something to help raise money to donate to Deb's foundation.  It was confusing to them why it costs so much for a special bike.  It's hard to explain things like this to kids...we all take so much for granted...I had to really break it down for them.  But I said if the three of them together put their minds to it, they could figure out a way to help.

So, like every kid under the age of 12, they immediately started making rainbow loom bracelets, and asking for donations, with a suggested price of $2.00/bracelet.  Lucky for the girls, most of the bracelet donations have been a little more generous.

If you're related to me, you've already been practically assaulted by my lovely girls who have taken a slightly aggressive...assertive stance on selling their bracelets ~like putting bracelets in every glass at the dinner table during the holidays and offering to give the person a drink when they paid up.  

There are only so many bracelets they can make until their little fingers fall off, or I get cited for running a sweatshop in my home, so I decided to take it to the Internet and try out a page on "Go Fund Me".  

We are appreciative of any donations, and truly no amount is too small.  Our goal is to raise enough money to fully fund a bike for a child who is in need.   


Since we started raising money, every drop of spare change has been put into the "Preston" mason jar, adding to our goal.  Of course if we just rely on pennies in our pockets, this might take awhile..... 


On a recent trip to NYC, my middle daughter shoved about 20 bracelets in her winter hat.  When I saw one hanging out, I asked her WHAT she was thinking, and she said she thought she'd sell them on the street.  THAT was another conversation all together on why we don't talk to people we don't know, in a city we don't know......good lord, the kids mean well, but you see why I'm starting to help out a bit, right?

Click Here for our Go Fund Me page, or click below!  

All we know right now is the child who will receive the bike is named Sam.  


We really want to make Sam's dream come true!


Please help us make it happen!  Even a $5.00 donation will help us reach our goal :) 


Have a great day~ and thank you in advance!


{Jenn}

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Get in the Groove

So I really do have wonderful intentions, and when I said I would be doing the daily happiness exercises, I really meant it.  

Then I had some days of forgetting....and I was raised Catholic, so I felt guilty about it.  

Soon after,  I had a bomb drop on me.  And I wanted to go into a dark room, and disappear for a bit, just so I could take it all in.  I was really overwhelmed.  But I couldn't do that, because I have a life, a job, and kids who need stuff... so I had to go to Walmart {sigh}.  It honestly took mental effort, I really wanted to just press a pause button somewhere.

As I checked out with my groceries,  the man working the register so nicely said, "Have a nice day today", with a look in his eyes like he really meant it.  And I thought, wow, I needed that.  Then someone else looked at me and smiled a true genuine smile, and I almost felt like they both were placed there on purpose for me, so I would snap out of it.  As I walked out the doors, what seemed like a recording in my brain said, "Be grateful you have your children and husband, they have their health, and you have yours."  

I swear to God, I didn't consciously think those thoughts.  It kind of startled me.  I think what Shawn Achor talked about was real.  If we practice gratitude, it becomes ingrained in us.  

So do it.  If you forget here or there, it's OK, you're creating grooves in your brain that will remember for you, and when autopilot kicks in, you'll be happy it did. 

PS- I'm good now...

Have a great day!

{Jenn}


Wednesday, January 22, 2014

The Science of your Smile

If you like TED talks, then this post will be right up your alley.

I just got back from Nashville, Tennessee for my skincare business.  Rodan+Fields offered an amazing weekend of training workshops, information sharing, and encouraged connections with other consultants from all over the country.  To say that the experience was empowering as a business owner would be an understatement.

But the most amazing presentation had nothing to do with the fine details of being in business.  It had to do with each of us, as a person.  How to manage the journey to achieve something without "success" attached to it, or looking for it on the other side of that achievement.

Happiness.

To be honest, I was {pleasantly} surprised that the topic was on how to develop ourselves as an individual, and {maybe because I had never attended an event like this before} I didn't expect it.

Shawn Achor is a former researcher from Harvard who studied happiness.  You can find his website HERE.  He spoke to us for quite awhile about his fascinating research, conducted all over the world, about what it really means, deep down, to be happy.  If you're already a fan of TED talks, you might already know a little about him, but if you'd like a peek into what we were a part of, watch the video for a smidge of what we heard.


Since my teacher/perpetual student background has me trained quite well, I sat with my laptop on my lap, taking notes.  Here is a little of what I want to scream from the rooftops and share with whomever reads this blog post...kind of how I felt after reading this.

Remember that common sense ideas aren't commonly practiced ones....these points might seem like common knowledge, but let them sink in and do them.  Practice them.  That's what I'm committing to.

Here is the part that directly related to our business...when our top leaders were asked about what makes them successful in the business, three main points emerged.  

GREATEST PREDICTORS OF SUCCESS 
1. Optimism-the belief that our behavior matters 
2. Strong social connection-meaningful connections to others
3. Perceive stress as a challenge-take stress and work through it 

So what's the ACTION PLAN he recommends for true joy and happiness, based on his countless hours of research?  From the minute I sat down for my first family dinner at home, we were already practicing them...

Three gratitudes
Share, out loud, three things you are grateful for.  No, it can't be "my family" or "my job".  Be specific.  "I'm grateful for how you girls helped Daddy so much while I was away by cleaning your rooms, and being kind to each other".  You might be surprised at how those words take on an emotional meaning when you say them out loud.  Go around the table, and yes, it must be three things.  It takes approximately 45 seconds to say those three things, but after 6 months, research has proven that those 45 seconds, practiced daily, can reverse YEARS of a negative mindset, and also increase your attractiveness to your mate {we cracked up at this one, but his research proved it...}.  Our "mirror neurons" will kick into high gear when we model this for our children. BE the people we are teaching them to be.

The Doubler
Journal for 2 minutes about an excellent experience, every single detail.  When you record it, you deepen your memory of the experience and subconsciously you will seek to duplicate that experience again from it being ingrained in your mind.
Think of your hand, and close your eyes.  You can still picture your hand, right? But sit and write about your hand, the lines on your palm, the rings on your finger...now close your eyes.  The picture in your minds eye is much stronger now.  Same goes for our experiences.  It's only 2 minutes.  Give it a go.

The Fun 15
Take 15 minutes each day and engage in some physical activity.  Either run, walk the dog, or in my case yesterday, go sledding with your kids and husband...that 15 minutes will give your brain the same dosage of an antidepressant.  Do it for yourself, and reap the rewards.

Meditation
I was happy this was on the list.  Take just a few minutes each day, take your hands off an electronic device, and close your eyes, only focusing on your breath.  That's it.  Sean spoke of how he works with GOOGLE employees by having them physically take their hands off of their keyboards to focus on their breath during their work time.  It matters.  Our poor brains are inundated with so much information, kind of because of GOOGLE, so we deserve to give ourselves a break too.

Conscious Acts of Kindness
Whether it's in person, or in an email, fb message, or letter in the mail, tell someone how and why you appreciate them, directly praising someone.  It takes about 2 minutes to do this, yet the effects for both people are long lasting, from giving and receiving praise.

Overall...amazing people, amazing weekend, and I'm eternally grateful I have this business as part of my life.  It has changed me for the better, and I can't wait for what's to come.

And if all else fails?  Smile.  Nana said so.  
And she was always right.

Have a great day!

{Jenn}











Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Ironman Wisconsin 2013

If you're a spouse/partner of a triathlete, especially if the triathlete has an "Ironman problem", then you know what I'm talking about. Nine months of training for one very expensive day, where the end result is kind of like getting hit by a truck-only you paid them to let it happen. It kind of doesn't make sense. Until you arrive at the race site. 

I can only compare my husbands relationship with Ironman to my relationship with pregnancy. Unfortunately, my track record for having awful, home-nurses-needed pregnancies are 3/3. So why did I keep having kids? Because pregnancy was just a means to an end for me. I knew that if I just hung in there, I would walk away with the sweetest little chunk of a baby. Pain? Vomiting non-stop? What? Who was puking?  The amnesia sets in real fast...then guess who is having another?

Over the past nine months, my husband has trained for Ironman Wisconsin.  He has gotten up for 4am swims, fit workouts in between shift work, and has tried to do it while the kids have been at school. 

I'm extremely proud of him, and I really can't wrap my head around his dedication to his sport. But I would be a liar if I said this training has been all roses. I know I have wanted to ring his neck at least 642 times. Why? Because we have three kids, and when he says I need to go out on a bike ride....an 80 mile bike ride...well, you would will want to ring his neck too. It's as mentally exhausting for me as it is physically for him. If you are an "Iron-widow", you know exactly what I mean.
It all seems rediculous, until you get in the car, drive 900 miles, and arrive in Madison, WI. 
The entire town has embraced this crazy race. And you spend the day walking through crowds of these people all as anxious and excited as your husband, and it starts to make sense. 




The energy here, amongst all of these other people is amazing. It's like this restrained euphoria...they're all on the starting block, just waiting for the horn to blow, setting them free. It's the kind of joy you get from holding your baby for the first time. The one who made you sick as a dog and swell like a tick for nine months. 

Nine months if hellish training pays off for a week of pre-race/race day accomplishment. Because after race day, the memory of the pain getting to that medal around your neck is all but gone. After all, you're an Ironman now.  




My husband has already asked if he can sign up for next years race. I just stared at him....God help me. 

"I wish you more than luck" to everyone in the race tomorrow, I'll be cheering for all of you with tears in my eyes. You all have a drive I'm not sure I'll ever understand. But your energy? I'm already feeling that like crazy. I get that. 




Above all, happy 40th birthday to my husband, racer #1833. You're spending your special milestone by creating another one-the day you became an Ironman, twice over. Your drive, determination, and guts to withstand my "I'm gonna hurt you" stares during those last workouts are unmatched, and I love you!  Enjoy the day, look around and soak in the race, and know that I'll be waiting at the finish line for you. Can't wait. The 75 minute Dogfish head beer is iced down and ready to go. 
Go Daddy Go!

Have a great day!

{Jenn}

PS-please forgive any format errors, I'm typing this on my phone...I'll eventually get to a laptop to make it pretty ;) 

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The Sweetest Gift

Over the past few years, when I un-pack Christmas decorations with my girls, one of them always asks about the dog in the Christmas box.  I have many ornaments from students that have always gone on our tree, but this dog has the best story by far.

I was co-teaching first grade at the time, and a little boy in the class had gone through a tragic event.  It was beyond heartbreaking.

Being as it was the week before Christmas, the students were all in a flurry, with many of them bringing in gifts for myself and the other teacher in the class.  I can remember seeing him out of the corner of my eye, as day after day kids lined up at my desk with their special presents.  He just watched as he unpacked his book bag.  

After the third day of non-stop present giving, he came up to my desk telling me he was getting me something too, but just forgot it.  I was pretty certain he wouldn't be bringing in anything, and I tried to explain that I didn't expect a thing.  My present was him trying his best everyday, and getting hugs from a happy first-grader, and that was more than enough.  

But it was really clear that it bothered him.

The next day, he unpacked his book bag and ran up to my desk with something in his hands.  He was smiling from ear to ear holding something wrapped in tin foil.  I unwrapped the ceramic dog and gave him a big hug.  I'm pretty sure he took it off of an end table in his house and wrapped it up himself, but it's the sweetest present I've ever gotten from a little one.  I asked if he was sure I could keep it, and he said yes, it was just for me.  Then he ran over to the other kids hanging up their coats, telling them how I loved his gift.  That little one had endured more than any grown up could handle, and just wanted to be like all the other kids. 

I can't help but think of that little one this time of year.  He is not so little anymore.


Have a Merry Christmas :)

{Jenn}





Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Signs

I needed balloons, and I was in a big hurry.  

My sisters baby shower was going to start in a few hours,  and we were hurrying to get there to set up for her big day.  I ran into the dollar store, and after seeing the huge line, I approached an employee in her teens, asking how I would go about getting balloons.  She tapped her ear and shook her head, indicating she couldn't hear.  So I signed, "no problem, I'm hearing but I know ASL".  Her eyes got big.  Then I asked her about the balloons, and she was easily able to help me.

She had the best smile on her face.  

As I finished paying for the balloons, I could see her glancing over at me from another aisle.  I signed "thank you for helping me today", and she signed back, "sure, happy to help you".  




You already know I was a special education teacher way back.  When I went to back to school for ASL {American Sign Language} at Delaware Technical and Community College, my intention was to become a freelance interpreter.  It was some of the most challenging course work I ever took {linguistics of sign language?  Wow.  No words....}.  But by the time I advanced through the program, there weren't enough students ready to move on to pay the teachers for the interpreting program, so it was cancelled.  I was pretty upset, but soon found out I was expecting our first daughter, and life changed a bit.

Now I can look back and be grateful for the experience of how in-depth that program was {taught by Deaf teachers~the D is capitalized on purpose..}, because it has clearly stuck with me over 11 years later...and when I am able to use sign, it's awesome.  

Our school district has been teaching ASL to students in middle and high schools, but I really wish it was in the elementary schools as a staple.  Why don't we emphasize languages more in the elementary level, when all the research about language learning revolves around children?  When my friend from Madrid calls me, and her 5 year old is fluent in English, it's pretty embarrassing that we are so "behind" in language learning.  Myself included.


It would lead to more people being able to communicate, and the girl working at the dollar store would have way more people to talk to at work.  When I started signing to her, she looked at me like she was seeing a unicorn in the store...  Could you imagine?  Being at work  8 hours a day, and no one could talk to you without playing a bad game of charades?  Or those people who thought if they TALKED LOUDER you could hear them?!  Every. Single.  Day.  Not really fair if you ask me.  

Since way back when I took classes, there are WAY more resources online to help you learn sign...check this out.  Even if it's just a few basic signs, it might make someones day {and yours} when you get to use it.

Have a great day!

{Jenn}

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Infinite Giving

It's that time of year...you know, when we all go nuts trying to find the perfect gift for the people we love.  It's kind of overwhelming, especially when there are so many people to buy for {and thank} for so many reasons.  

There are the teachers {thank god for them}, the bus driver {the man must be a saint, I can barely drive my bus with three kids in it}, the countless therapists/practitioners who help our kids everyday {so important!}.  I'm trying to keep it simple this year, but still, the list is long.

My own kids have made their lists for Santa, and I can't help but think, what DON'T my kids already have?  {Clearly we're blessed to have this problem}

So when a friend posted on Facebook today about donating an animal from Heifer International, I instantly knew it would bring us right back from the "I want" list, to the "what can I do to help someone?" list.

I called my three girls in to huddle around my laptop, and I explained how Heifer International provided animals to families in need all around the world.  The gift of these animals is a gift that gives indefinitely, because as their animals {whichever you choose} reproduce, the family promises to gift the offspring to other families in their community, and so on....it's the perfect way to pay it forward~forever.  My business has given me the opportunity to give back in such bigger ways this year, and I have total appreciation for that now.

So it's the initial gift of the animal or animals, that helps end hunger in their family or provide an income {selling eggs, wool, cheese} which can, in turn, send children to school, maybe for the first time in their lives.  When I tried to explain that part, I kept welling up.  It's kind of overwhelming when you take a minute to consider all the things we really take for granted.  I know I don't stop to appreciate basics like that enough.

We browsed the "Animals" section on the website, and they all agreed on the Basket of Hope.  It will provide rabbits and a flock of chicks to a family, as well as education on how to care for their animals, and the importance of passing the gift on to others.  It's not the most expensive item by far, but it's a start.  

One of my daughters asked, "How will they know it's from us?".  I tried to explain that the family will know the animals came from people somewhere in the world who cared for them, and it gets written on your heart, so it's OK they don't know who you are.  That's kind of the fun part.  It's our secret {except I'm telling all of you, in hopes that maybe you will do the same...}.

Check it out.  Maybe make it a family gift?  From this point on, it will be a tradition, for certain.  I typed up Honor Cards that each of my girls will get in the mail in a week or so, thanking them for their gift.  

Just make sure your kids realize they don't get to keep the animals, since mine are still asking how many chickens we will be housing.... :)

Have a great night!

{Jenn}

HOPE BASKET

The Hope Basket includes a gift of rabbits and a starter flock of chickens. Families also receive training and education in the animals' care to make sure their hope becomes a reality.

The gift of a Hope Basket:
Provides eggs and protein for nourishment
Boosts income through sales of extra eggs and offspring
Passes on the Gift to others, since animals multiply quickly

Rabbits are easy to care for and can reproduce in a short amount of time. Chickens lay eggs and provide manure for vegetable gardens. Your gift provides hope for struggling farmers looking for a way out of poverty.