Political Discourse: Can You Express Your Views Courteously?

I'm apalled at the recent presidential ads attacking opponents. These ads "card stack" statistics, manipulate photos, and lie to make a point. Americans used to be able to express their views with civility. Today, civility seems to have disappeared. Friends of mine, people I used to think of as intelligent, kind, and giving, are posting nasty things on Facebook. Some posts are so awful I gasp when I read them. Posts ask readers to "vote" for their candidate by clicking on a photo or phrase. I refuse to respond. Instead, I'm donating money to the candidates I support and working for a candidate in my district. "Sorry, I don't discuss politics," I say. But I wish -- oh how I wish -- I could express my views without being attacked. Have we lost the ability express views courteously? Maybe. It's time for Americans to look at their own behavior and discourse. Freedom of religion and freedom of speech are the building blocks of this nation. Let's grant each other these freedoms.

Reflections on 55 Years of Marriage

"I don't know of any other people who have been married as long as you," my daughter commented. She went on to say that none of her friends had parents with long-term marriages and they were probably a thing of the past. What happened to commitment? Couples who marry usually say vows. In the Christian tradition, they promise to be there for each other in sickness and health, for as long as they live. Fifty-five years ago my husband and I made these promises to one another. We have had an unbelievably happy marriage. Yes, we have supported one another in sickness, health, sorrow, laughter and surprises. I don't think we would have survived our daughter's death, and raising her twin children, were it not for our solid marriage. We beame a team when we married and are still one.

But the most important thing I learned from our marriage is that love grows as the years pass. Each day, I love my husband more than yesterday, and that will always be true. So I thank my husband for his love and all the happy years we have shared. Onward to 55 more!

Some Smartphone Rules to Control Children's Usage

Are your kids or grandkids always looking at their smartphones? Do they tune-out conversation? In many homes, smartphone usage is hurting family communication. This is not only frustrating for adults, but kids often miss key points. Setting some family rules may help to restore communication and control kids' phone usage. Here are the rules I suggest: 1. Mealtime is family time and no phones are allowed at the table.

2. Phone usage is limited at holiday events such as Thanksgiving dinner and Christmas dinner.

3. Check the phone for messages only when necessary, not because of habit.

4. Smartphones must be turned off 30 minutes before bedtime.

5. Keep your phone in your pocket when talking with others.

6. Your phone must be turned off during classes, meetings, and church services.

Kids who have smartphones can hardly wait for the next model to come out. But they may not need a new phone. If the phone does what is needed, you (or the kids) sholdn't spend money on a newer, flashier one. The most important piece of smartphone advice: Monitor those bills carefully!

Do you Need a Vacation from your Vacation?

Last weekend nine family members gathered together at a cabin in the Wisconsin woods for a long weekend. We had a blast. Still, I must admit that getting ready for the weekend was lots of work. I bought four cardboard grocery boxes and filled one each week. To cut down on food preparation at the cabin, I made meatballs to go with spaghetti, pre-cooked bacon, made salad dressing, and baked cupcakes. When we left for the cabin the car was almost packed to the ceiling and there wasn't an inch to spare. There were four of us in the car, and the second seat had sleeping bags in the middle of two people. Unloading was easy, but it took me a half hour to put everything away. Later that evening the remaining family members arrived and my husband and I stayed up later than usual. Tired as we were, it was hard to get to sleep because every foot step made a thunk on the wooden floor above us. The next morning everyone was up early and ready for action. From then on, the weekend was a blue of shared meals, canoeing, wading, walking in the woods, and photography. Before we left the cabin, I washed four sets of sheets, made four beds, cleaned out the refrigerator, and re-packed the car. Sunday evening was catch-up time -- getting groceries for supper, putting food away, doing laundry. On Monday morning I was tired. Does this story ring a bell with you? Like me, you may have put lots of effort into a mini vacation or extended stay. When you get home, you feel like you need a vacation from your vacation. And that's okay. Maybe our enjoyment depends, in part, on the effort we put into a vacation.

Writing for a Blog involves Personal Choices

Before I set up my blog, I did some research on blog postings. Apparently some bloggers write long articles, but most of the articles I read told bloggers to keep it short and post at least twice a week. Following these suggestions is one of my personal choices. Blog topics are another. Should I expand on my books and articles? Should I explore new topics? Recently a reader chided me for writing several paragraphs about a huge topic. But that was my choice. Though I've written a longer article on the topic and it is posted on an authors' website, I chose to bring up a topic for consideration and offer some suggestions. I made this choice to focus attention on the topic. If you have a blog, you know it involves constant decision making and that is part of the fun. Connecting with others is also fun and leads to new information and ideas.

What can you Say to Someone who is Grieving?

The massacre in Aurora, Colorado brings up the age-old question, "What can you say to someone who is grievng?" After losing four family members in 2007, including my daughter and brother, I have some suggestions. After losing my mother, father, aunts, uncles, cousins, and beloved dogs, I have more suggestions. One of the things you shouldn't say is "I don't know what to say." The simplest words to say are "I'm so sorry." You may talk about your happy memories of the deceased. Please avoid comments such as:* It's probably for the best. * He (or she) is in a better place. * Life goes on. * Time heals all wounds. * You're still young and will find someone else. A better approach is to say things that encourage the bereaved to speak their loved one's name and share recollections. For example, you may ask about their loved one's talents, the ones people knew about and ones people didn't know about. If you offer to help the bereaved person, be specific. "I'm going grocery shopping tomorrow morning. Give me your list. I'll shop for you and deliver you grocers at _______ o'clock." Whatever you say, choose words that show caring, and give the bereaved person a heartfelt hug.

Weekend a the Cabin Takes Planning and Work

In just over a week, nine family members will gather together at the family cabin in Wisconsin. I offered to plan meals and do most of the grocery shipping. Before I bought anything, I sent a menu to my daughter and asked her if anyone was allergic to foods on the list. To spread out the cost of food I've been buying a few things each week. Today I baked cherry-almond cupcakes for dessert and will frost them at the cabin. Tomorrow I'm making sour cream coffee cake. I'll freeze the cakes in aluminum foil pans with plastic lids. I'm also going to make salad dressing and teriyaki marinade. Snacks are another item on my grocery list and I've already bought applesauce cups for the toddler in the family and will bring some fruit. Planning and cooking ahead will give more time to enjoy the family -- the whole idea of the weekend. It should be fun!

The Challenges and Fun of Life-Long Learning

I belong to an historic study club, founded more than 125 years ago. An outgrowth of the Chautaqua movement, the club provided learning opportunities for women. Actually, there were several study clubs in Rochester, MN and each thought it was the best. Club members were required to give a research paper and presenting one's paper could take hours. According to records at the history center, most clubs didn't break for lunch, but would break for tea and a snack. Today, our research papers are shorter, around 45 minutes in length, yet preparing them can be daunting. My topic is the influence of the King James Bible (KJB) and, when I started the research process, realized I had chosen a topic worthy of a PhD. Though I can't present a thesis, I can convey the main influences and talk about English phrases that stem from the KJB. I love the research, love the writing, and look forward to giving my paper. You may belong to a study club or book club and understand my love of learning.

Maximizing Your Internet Presence

The other day I received an email from my publisher, asking me to think of two ways to market my book. and send the ideas to her. It was a thought-provoking -- and challenging -- request. Marketing grief resources is hard to begin with and really hard in this economy. I thought about her request for an hour, wrote my reply, and hit send. On impulse, I decided to call the Editor-in-Chief who sent the email. She was very friendly and was impressed with the marketing steps I had taken already. But her request is still in my mind. How could I maximize my Internet presence? How can you? Blogs have helped me stay current and this morning I answered a blog request from a radio show host who wanted to interview authors. My book may not fit her show, or it may, I have no way of knowing. Still, my reply appeared on the Internet and will be read by countless people. This is publicity. I am also trying to write one ezine article a day, something you may want to do. I've also joined a speakers' bureau and hope to receive requests and Internet citations soon. Marketing isn't easy, yet it is essential for sales. Pretend I am your senior editor. Can you think of two ways to market your book on the Internet? Post them on my blog.

Want to be a Writer?

Last week I met a writer with one published book to his name. Since his book sells well, he thought about writing a second one. "It's too much work," he admitted, "so I just revised my book." He speaks the truth. Writing is work, hard work, and you must deal with revisions, rejections, and comments from readers. During my 35+ years as a writer I've received compliments and thoughtless comments. One person became angry and told me he had planned to write the book I wrote. The difference between us is that I researched the book, spent weeks on the outline, worked on it for months, and submitted it to publishers. When I ask "wanna be" writers what they are working on at the moment, the answer is always the same -- nothing. Writers are supposed to write. If your goal is to become a writer I have some tips for you: 1. Write every day. 2. Find your genre. 3. Research publishers that produce books in this genre. 4. Write articles for www.ezinearticles.com 5. Work on a one-page query letter. 6. Create a resume, including volunteer writing positions. 7. Update your resume regularly. 8. Keep a file of submissions and rejections. 9. Be persistent. 10. Consider self-publishing.

Some people write one book and become instantly famous. But these authors are rare. Most of the authors I know work hard, keep at it, and savor the joy of writing. Good luck!

Public Speaking: Check Your Notes One More Time

I've spent weeks preparing a presentation for a national conference. After all of this work I thought I was ready but, to be on the safe side, checked my notes one last time. Two weeks had passed since I last read the outline. When I read it again I realized several points were out of order. I made these corrections and read the outline yet again. To cut down on the number of pages, I shortened several points. At last, my talk is ready, and my handouts are ready too. Tomorrow I fly to Tampa. Despite heavy rains and flooding, the airport is open, and I hope many people come to the conference. The moral of this story: It never hurts to check one more time.

Meeting Readers and Potential Readers: Always a Learning Experience

In July I'm participating in the first Friends of the Library Celebration of Rochester (MN) Authors. What a wonderful idea! I always enjoy meeting people. Talking with them makes me glad I've written the books I have, but it often leads to new book ideas as well. If you attend a book signing or an authors' event, I hope you'll stop a minute and talk an author, someone who spends hours in front of the computer, searching for just the right words to express his or her ideas. If you would like to read a sequel or related book, tell the author. Several months ago a friend of mine (we belong to the same club) gave me a book idea. I didn't think her original idea would work, but it's rattling around in my mind, and I'm considering an adaptation of it. Readers like you are a source of inspiration.

Writing About Grief: Getting Your Book Published

Putting thoughts about grief into words is one of the best ways to help yourself. Seeing words on paper can be a reality check. As time passes, issues emerge and, thankfully, so do solutions. You may also memorialize a beloved child or familiy member. I've spoken at two bereavement conferences and many of the people I met had written books. Of course, they wanted to see their books in print. This is a challenge at any time, but it's a huge challenge in a sagging economy. Basically, you have two choices, to submit your book to a publisher or publishers when the economy turns around, or choose self-publishing. Self-publishing used to be considered vanity publishing. No more. Good books are being written in a bad economy. New authors are going straight to the Kindle or Nook. Experienced and new authors are turning to the many self-publishing companies that have been established. These companies produce quality books. Do you want to see your book published? Make it happen.

Life's "Ah-Ha" Moments and What They Teach Us

All of us have "ah-ha" moments, a moment of clarity when something that wasn't clear suddenly becomes clear. I had an "ah-ha" moment in Boston last week at my Wheelock College reunion. The president of the college gave an inspiring talk about the state of the college and its future plans. She described the college founder, Lucy Wheelock, as a woman of vsion. Lucy Wheelock thought the world could be changed if education was mproved. When a Lucy Wheelock quote came on the screen tears came to my eyes. The quote: "Be bold, for there is much to do." This quote applies to many life situations. A bereaved parent, I thought of some of the ways I was bold after my daughter died. I thought of the grief resources I had written, books I never thought I would write, but enjoyed writing. I have two new books out and am working on marketing plans for them. My marketing plans need to be bold, I realized, and new writing projects need to be bold as well. Have you been bold lately? Think about some of your recent decisions and the consequeces of them. Boldness can be a path to the future.

Be on the Lookout for Life's Rewarding Surprises

Today is an historic day in our family. My grandson just started his summer research job at Mayo Clinic. He is the third generation of our family to work at Mayo. To get the job, after completing his sophomore year in college, is a tribute to his intelligence. We have no doubt that he will do well and reach his goal of publishing a research paper. When he left this morning, I was unprepared for the wave of happiness that came over me. I am so proud of my grandson and proud of our "grandfamily" as well. The journey has been tough, but the four of us -- me, my husband, granddaughter, and grandson -- have found happiness. Has life surprised you? Share your story here.

Have You Surprised Yourself Lately?

The other day, as I was clearing off a long counter in my home office, I found a children's book I forgot I had written. What a happy surprise! Six months had passed since I wrote the book and I read it with a new perspective. I "tweaked" the manuscript a bit, and extended it to an even number of pages for publication. The next step was to contact a potential illustrator and she agreed to add her creativity to the project. Now I have to determine the next step. Discovering the manuscript was a happy surprise and it got my creative juices flowing. Maybe you have surprised yourself, too. Share your story here.

101 Affirmations to Ease Your Grief Jouney Now on the Kindle

According to a recent "Wallstreet Journal" article, 50% of the books that are purchased are electronic. How the publishing world has changed! Kindle and Nook reading devices make it easy for travelers to read books while they are away. Home readers also like these devices, which are improving all the time. With these thoughts in mind, I had my affirmations book converted for the Kindle. It sells for less than the paperback and is easy to read. You can read these affirmations whenever you nfeel you need a boost, and wherever you are in the world. Please remember, though, that 101 Affirmations to Ease Your Grief Journey: Words of Comfort, Words of Hope, is a caring gift for anyone who is grieving. Fresh flowers are thoughtful but, as I discovered in 2007 when four family members died, they fade quickly. Printed words do not fade, indeed, they can last for centuries.

Free Stuff is Coming to This Website

Everybody likes to get things for free, even me. While I was creating handouts for two forthcoming presentations, I realized it would be a good idea to offer these handouts on my website for free. Readers could download them and, better yet, use them. The first handout you will see is a favorite of mine, and actually comes from my forthcoming book, Help! I'm Raising My Grandkids: Grandparents Adpating to Life's Surprises. It's called a "Grandparent's Bill of Rights." This handout comes from life experience and, while it contains helpful information, it also contains some smiles. You should be able to access the handout in a couple of weeks by clicking on the New Resources tab at the top of my home screen. Please share the handout with any grandparents you know who are raising their grandkids, or care for them on a regular basis.

Are you suffering from Ambiguous Loss?

I just finished a book by Pauline Boss, PhD titled "Loss, Trauma, and Resilience." A retired University of Minnesota professor, Dr. Boss coined the term "ambiguous loss." What is it? It is a loss without a body and without a death certificate, as with the 9/11 victims. According to Boss, ambiguous loss is the most stressful of losses and "blocks cognition, coping, and meaning-making and freezes the grief process." You may suffer from ambiguous loss if the person who died changed drastically in recent years or if family members shun you at the memorial service. Do you think you're suffering from ambiguous loss? If so, I encourage you to learn more about it. You will understand yourself better and cope better too.

Helping Those Who Grieve

I continue to write about loss and grief. My grief reconciliation and recovery articles are posted on the Open to Hope Foundation website and EzineArticles. Right now I am trying to sell a book about grandparenting. It's an uphill battle in a down economy. Why do I continue to write? One reason is to track my feelings, but it is the lesser reason. The main reason is to help others. When I attended The Compassionate Friends Conference in Bloomington, MN last summer, I was struck by the power of shared grief and healing. Reaching out to others gives new purpose to my life and I just submitted two presentation proposals to two organizations. While I hope my proposals are accepted, it is't imperative. Helping others is what is important to me. If you want to share your feelings, or challenges, or successes, please post here. I will read every word!