Doing Life Together

Screen Shot 2014-11-10 at 10.23.43 AMIMG_3142 (1)This is  my dad when he fought in WWII! And on the right is my dad at age 94. He is one of the many veterans who needs to be honored today.

Such sacrifices our veterans made and continue to make to provide us our freedom. Thank you from the bottom of my heart!

What can you do to let a veteran know they are appreciated today?  First, remember, this doesn’t have to be a one-time appreciation. Let veterans know throughout the year that their service means so much to our country.

1) Hug a veteran. We just celebrated hug a lawyer day! How about a veteran?  If a hug feels like too much, shake a hand and thank the veteran for their service.

2) Donate to charities that help veterans. Contact the USOBlue Star Families or Operation Gratitude to find ways to help.

3) Volunteer your time in a VA hospital. Click here to see what you can do and where. You can bring smiles and cheer to many lonely veterans by simply visiting and spending time.

4) Support Fisher House, a non-profit “home” that helps military families with lodging during hospitalization at military medical facilities. You can bring toys, homemade goodies and get your children involved in bringing kindness to military families who are receiving medical care.

5) Ask a veteran to share their story. Learn about their lives and sacrifices. Listen to their stories of war and bravery. Most want to talk about some experience they found rewarding or in line with the mission to keep our country free. When we visit my dad at his apartment, he is surrounded by many men and women who served in a number of wars. Their stories are fascinating and they love to share them.

ID-100159204Recently, we have heard stories about addiction and how it has impacted families of those on the presidential campaign trail. Jeb Bush talked to CNN about his daughter’s run in with the law while fighting a prescription drug addiction. Others like Chris Christie and Carly Fiorina have also been open and transparent regarding the destructive effects of addiction on people.

While we know addiction may be predisposed by factors of heredity, environmental factors help explain the lure. Peer pressure, family problems, mental health problems, family history of addiction and use of prescription drugs are often underlying factors in someone’s decision to use. The addict often struggles with feelings of personal inadequacy, an inability to regulate emotions and cope with conflict. Consequently substance use offers temporary solutions — immediate gratification, anesthesia to life’s problems, removal of inhibitions, and yes, power.

The desire for power led to Satan’s ousting from Heaven. He saw God’s glory, desired to be like Him, becoming His enemy. Power was one of the temptations Satan brought before a fasting Jesus in the wilderness. Satan offered Jesus the world if He would fall down and worship him. Satan tried to coerce Jesus into accepting immediate gratification and fame. He tried to thwart the plan of redemption. He tried to deceive and then destroy.

This strategy is the same today. The enemy uses this formula with substance abuse. The power he offers is for temporal things of the world. He offers importance, fame, control, money, sex, escape and avoidance of pain, and more. But his power comes with a price — ultimate destruction of the soul. Substance abuse destroys. It is not a long-term solution to anything-only a temporary feel good! And that feel good changes the brain creating compulsion and the need for more.

The need to escape and avoid negative feelings is another root cause of addiction that is helped by faith. If one truly believes that God is weak when we are strong, is with us through any difficulty, and can walk us through any problematic situation to the other side, He becomes our dependence. Without God, we are left to our own helplessness.

In order to overcome any addiction, you must begin with the belief that only God can fix your feelings of inadequacy, calm your anxieties, walk you through difficulty and be a constant help in times of trouble. Refuse to be tempted by anything the world offers as a solution to your emptiness. Don’t allow yourself to be deceived. The only real power is that of the Cross. Because of His great love for you, Jesus triumphed over deception, destruction, and death. In your weakness, He is made strong and that is why surrender is the first step in healing.

_beachAt this point in the school year, I find myself thinking, “I need a vacation!”As much as I love family, visiting relatives for holidays is not exactly a vacation.

The idea of sun, a beach and white sand makes me happy. And yet, I have 3 weeks left in untaken vacation time. Employees who take vacations are happier and more productive!

And wouldn’t you know, researchers have studied how best to take that vacation break in order to recharge, reduce stress and create those needed feelings of well-being.

So if you can’t take those 2 weeks to visit Italy this Spring, don’t despair. Or if you think, OK, it will have to be  a staycation this year, science can help!

Here are a few  guidelines:

1) First, anticipate that vacation. Plan, dream, think about it. Just the thought of the get away will boost you mood.

2) Where you go matters. I know people who visit the same places ever vacation. In part, because they have time shares in the area. Even if that is the case, shake it up with a different place to stay, new sites to visit. Novelty is good for the brain and vacations as well.

3) Longer doesn’t translate into better. Even a few days to get away and begin to unwind start the process of relaxation. Most of us know it takes about 2 days just to relax. The best length for a vacation is 8 to 9 days, so do your best to get in that range.

4) Vacation time is your time so take control of the time. Relax, don’t make deadlines, set the schedule to whatever you want to do. Get out there and have fun.

5) Disconnect. Yes you can survive without checking your phone every few minutes. If you are completely obsessed, schedule a short check time and then lose the contact. The idea is to fully engage in your surroundings and the people you meet. Even too much picture taking can lessen the impact of enjoying the actual scenery. This why I like cruises–no phones!

6) All is well that ends well. And begins well too. When a vacation starts with a bang and ends with a nice memory, it stays with you as a good time. For example, I remember the warm hotel greeting at the Cabo resort–the views, beautiful weather, etc. The beginning of the trip impressed a wonderful feeling into my brain. It was magical as I stood overlooking the Pacific waters, soft breezes hitting my face and the warmth of the sun on my body! After begin well, end with an equally powerful moment. I stood on that veranda one last time, soaked up the moment and the beauty. Breathed a sign of relief and turned to exit. Cabo remains one of my most relaxing times!

7) Coming back to reality requires an easing process. The first day back don’t try to catch up with everything missed. Take a walk, enjoy a little more relaxation time. Ease on down the road to regular routine again. It helps prolong the benefits of the break.

Ready to go? Start to plan! You know what to do!

older coupleI have no idea what it is like to be aging into my 80s or even 90s. But in so many conversations with aging people, the aches and pains of aging seem prominent and dominate discussions. So often I hear, aging as a curse to living. I know how different my body reacts at my age, add another 20-30 years to the process and it must be difficult. It can’t be easy to grow old.

Yet, I also notice that my almost 95-year-old father rarely talks about his physical ailments. Is he on to something? Could we learn from his embrace aging attitude?

Researchers say, YES. Attitude towards aging matters. Negative stereotypes are connected to poor health results.

And yet we live in a culture that basically puts you out to pasture when you get to a certain age. We have bad feelings about aging. Becca Levy, an associate professor of epidemiology and psychology at the Yale School of Public Health, calls our negative stereotypes about aging, “a public-health issue.”

The mind is powerful when it comes to impacting the body. Thinking matters. If you focus on the decline, the disability and what you can’t do, you feel worse. But if you see aging as new opportunities with growth, your body responds in kind. In fact, studies have shown that negative attitudes show decline in handwriting, memory, recovery from disease, and more.

This doesn’t mean we should deny the effects of aging and live in a fantasy. The effects of aging are real, but where you choose to focus matters. When we change our focus from the negatives to the benefits of aging, we feel better. Add exercise and eating well and we make changes that are in our control.

Perhaps we should apply Philippians 4:8 to the process of aging: “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”

God, not just my dad, is on to something!