PEACE!

Christmastime can be summed up in one word, peace (Luke 2). The multitude of Heavenly Angels announced the birth of Jesus, proclaiming, “Glory to God in the highest; and on earth peace to men of good will.” The word peace is found about 429 times in the Old and New Testaments combined. There are quite a few variations of the word peace in the dictionary. There is the peace that is the absence of war or other hostilities. My personal favorite definition, which is the pinnacle that leads to all forms of peace is: freedom from anxiety, annoyance, or other mental disturbance. So why is it that Christmastime can also be the most stressful, least peaceful time of year? Work and family obligations, parties, financial strain and lack of sleep can make life pretty miserable. Throw in stressful family situations that some people have to deal with during the holidays and many just want to bury themselves under their blankets until it’s over.

It’s a paradox that the very time of year that brings peace, can bring anxiety for many people. There is a certain closeness this time of year to the Divinity who came to save us from anything harmful. This kind of closeness leads us to an awareness of a personal love and care. It can also be a giant spotlight for every imperfection or sin that we have ever committed. Some hide themselves in legalism, thinking that if they dot every ‘i’ and cross every ‘t’, they will become worthy of the love and peace that is offered. Or perhaps some think they are doing everything mostly perfect. Others think that they do not deserve peace because of the harm they have caused others. In all of these cases, they miss the message of Christmas, not to mention commit the sin of pride which is arguably worse than any other sin, and the one sin that doomed us all (Adam and Eve). Pride causes us to look down and only see ourselves. Our God asks us to look up and see the star of hope.

Jesus came for sinners (Mark 2:17). This means that the worst sinner who is sorry, is worthy of the most mercy or love from God. We see this time and time again in the Gospel story, yet many of us get it wrong by pushing perfection. Should we be sorry for not being perfect? That is one option. It is more realistic though, to just realize that no one is perfect and get on with it. Dwelling on past mistakes is a waste of time and robs of any good that we can still do. It also steals any happiness the future may hold.

There was once a man, an atheist, who unintentionally ended up working on a slave ship. Given the choice between being beaten and abused or beating and abusing the slaves, he chose the later. After a short time, he was guilty of beating, raping and killing slaves. He even fed an injured slave to sharks. One day, when his own life was threatened, he cried out to God with all his might, “God if you’re real, save me!” Against all odds, the man was saved. As soon as he could, he confessed his sins and began to follow The Lord. He didn’t change over night. In fact, it took some years for him to turn his life around. Once his life was free from corruption and serious sins against others, the man was still haunted by dreams and images of what he did in his past. Driven to make the best of the remaining time he was given, he wrote down his honest and self-incriminating account of his life as a slave trader. This document was exactly what the British parliament needed to vote to end the slave trade in Britain, a victory that was witnessed by the former slave trader just before he died. This man’s name was John Newton, the author of the song, AMAZING GRACE. Newton was able to climb out of the evil pit of his life and do something “amazing” because he understood that “grace will lead us home.”

The keys to open us up to the ingredients needed for peace are love and acceptance of who we are and who God is. Once we reject self-pity or loathing for wrongs we have done, legalism to try to make up for the wrongs we’ve done, or thinking we haven’t done any wrong at all, we open ourselves up to the love that can transform us into a life of peace. God frees us from our past. What better way to open us up to this love than a little baby in a manger at Christmastime? The baby who is heralded by Heavenly Angels proclaiming peace.

HIJACKED HUMANITY!

There are over 795 million hungry people in the world, according to The United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization. To put this into perspective, that is almost a hundred times the population of New York City. Obviously this is only one of the major problems in the world. I choose to focus on this one because, there are (usually) no debates about it. Eating is a basic need that all of humanity shares, therefore it is tough for anyone to put a divisive, political spin on it. It is also something every person I know can do something about. And yet, if you turn on any news station, you will not hear about it.

The media bombard us with anything that causes fear. The entertainment industry bombards us with anything that causes titillation, distraction and dissipation. So the messages are: be afraid it’s a terrible world-and by the way, get as much pleasure as you can for yourself. The worst part of all of this is that according to Movieguide, the more intelligent a person is, the more they are affected by media. The current situation is a perfect formula for stagnation at best, and at worst, destruction.

My work allows me to speak to young people often. It is a perk because young people are normally filled with fire and excitement. Or at least I thought. These days I am seeing a lot of flat tires, already tired of life at 20. I cannot tell you how many times I have heard people speak of immoral behavior and try convince me, and themselves, it is not harmful because they are not “hurting anyone”. (Of course, that is only if no one finds out.) I also wonder if people consider the sin of omission. Yes, I said sin. No I am not getting religious (as if somehow that would discredit what I’m saying?) The word sin is in the dictionary as “something regarded as being shameful, deplorable or utterly wrong.” The sin of omission points to any good we could have done for others, and we didn’t. At very least, I would ask anyone with the obsession of pleasure seeking, whether or not it is sin to ignore the needs, even the most basic needs, of others around us.

In a polite society like ours, we hear a lot of nice words. When the rubber hits the road, how many people actually take the time to show care and/or concern? One reason I love the movie DUNKIRK is because it raises the question that many of us ask ourselves in a defeated sort of way, “what can one person do?” As we found in the case of DUNKIRK, one person, multiplied by thousands, can do a lot.

Another good example of what one person can do is Mother Teresa. She was one person, one very small person may I add, who faced the 795 million hungry person epidemic. By her life’s work, she influenced over 5,000 people to date, to live the way she did. Mother Teresa, is responsible for the basic care of millions being met because she refused to believe anyone who said she could not make a difference. She often said, “You do not have to do great things. You can do small things wth great love.”

Obviously most of us will never be a Mother Teresa, but we can all do a little more. Media have hijacked our humanity. Maybe it starts with turning off the TV or media devices, as they are only out for ratings. Or perhaps, we can watch less. And if we are to continue pumping out garbage from Hollywood, to our own country and to the rest of the world, the very least we can do is call it garbage and not a life to aspire to. If we as a society can accomplish only this, we have a good chance at seeing the reality; we have serious problems in the world and each one of us can do something about it.

Happy Trails! 5 Things Happy People Know

Turn on the TV at any given time and you will find a talk show or news segment giving advice on finding some type of happiness. Book stores are full of rows and rows of self-help books on how to find fulfillment and happiness. Social Media does the same with nice “happy” visuals or short clips to go along with it. I know all this because I read, watch, study and think of what happiness means. I’ve learned a lot more from happy people than any books or visuals could teach. Read on for the 5 things that happy people know.

1. They know what they have. Happy people are not constantly “looking at someone else’s plate” wondering if they have something better. They take inventory of all of the blessings that they have. They are also protective of what they have. This is very important because many marriages and relationships break up because a “passerby” in life from the outside is carelessly let in to do some damage. Happy people know what they know and do not give consideration to strangers or outsiders opinions or judgments about their lives. Happy people know what or who makes them happy and are protective of it.

2. They choose to be happy. Happy people have strong minds made up to be happy. They are accepting of changes, taking everything in stride. Part of choosing to be happy is always keeping in mind “Plan B”. As life goes on, we realize that most of the time no matter what happens, life goes on. The power is in choosing what to do with life’s circumstances. The questions every day for a person who chooses to be happy is, “how can I grow from this experience?” or “what good can come from this?”

3. They accept other people. No one lives in a vacuum. Though happiness does not depend on anyone else but you, people around us have an influence. The greatest mistake I have found in people who are not happy is that they try to control other people and other people’s feelings about them. Happy people are more accepting. They understand that their control lies in how they respond to others feelings or actions. Anthony De Mello, in THE WAY TO LOVE, says it best as he writes about other people’s choices, “I leave you free to be yourself, to think your thoughts, to indulge your taste, follow your inclinations, behave in any way you decide is to your liking.”

4. They understand happiness is not a feeling and plan accordingly. People often confuse happiness with momentary pleasure or a temporary ego boost. Happy people work consistently toward goals. They have a vision of the life they hope for. They know what they are doing before they do it. It is not fleeting decisions made up moment to moment. For example, when I moved into my home 7 years ago, it was like most new homes, empty. I stayed in my empty home for a few weeks. I put a great deal of thought into what type of home I wanted to make it. How would I fill it? The answer, with love. I created a plan in hopes to make my home the kind of home that people didn’t want to leave when they visited. After all, those types of homes have always been my favorite. People who choose to be happy, plan. They know what they want and work on it step by step. Happiness is a by-product. It is a result of a good plan, hard work and loyalty.

5. They do not spend a lot of time on the past troubles or mistakes. Happy people look forward while living in the present. Our past is gone no matter what happened or what we think of it. Happy people humbly accept that they made mistakes and move on. The only control we have to make any changes is right here in the present. Kathleen Driscoll once said, “If we are depressed, we are living in the past. If we are anxious, we are living in the future. The only way to be happy is to live right now.”

As long as we are alive we have a chance at happiness. The search goes on. Most of us will keep reading books, watching “experts” and sharing “the way to happiness” posts on social media. The search is part of the joy. Making the decision that you want to be happy is the most important step. Happy trails!

The Search For Love In Pain And Loss

Dissipation has become a common way to cope with anything that may ail us. We have become very good at keeping ourselves distracted from difficult memories, situations or challenging relationships. Many of us sink ourselves into our duties at home, our work or activism. I’m not even entirely sure it is a bad idea. Some situations really are too painful to face sometimes. I’m as guilty as anyone else. It took me nine years to visit the grave of my unborn child. It amazes me how much we can stuff and file into the back of our minds, while managing to live what seems to be a normal life. Sure, we can go on. The question is, how much do we lose when we close ourselves off and only try to survive and get by, instead of embracing the very love that is able to help us heal?

A dear friend reached out to a few close friends to pray for the love of his life, his wife, who has been battling cancer for decades. My first reaction was to be angry at the injustice of cancer. I think it is safe to say that most of us have been affected in some way by the hideous nature of cancer. I completely hit a wall. When I’m boxed in, I try to take inventory. I ask myself what is good about the present situation and what has been gained by the struggles faced. When I look at things this way, I begin to feel freedom instead of the imprisonment of a box.

Witnessing the love, courage, grace, dignity and strength of the individual suffering, I am in awe. Combine that with the way a dear one’s presence has, and continues to touch so many lives, my eyes are opened to the powerful and victorious nature of real love. Love is stronger than any other force. Real love is the appreciation of a person for who they are. Of course we need people. We desire to connect on a deep level with others. However, the greatest love is a detached gratitude for what a person holds inside of them. Like a flower with a fragrance, their beauty has nothing to do with us.

This month it has been 21 years this since my brother, Tommy, passed away. There are not enough Fourth of July Fireworks or parties to make me forget. Unfortunately it is not possible to remember the person and forget the pain of their loss. It takes courage to hold on to what was special and beautiful about those we have lost along the way. If we cannot find this courage, what is the point of life? The only thing we can take with us to the next life is how we love. Isn’t it logical then that we should love as much and as often as we are given the privilege to? It is up to those of us left behind to remember and honor that love. In order to do that, we must continue to love on their behalf, and for our own fulfillment, even if it is with an aching heart.

When it comes to loving anyone, the true magic happens when we love them for their own good, not ours. There is joy, even in sorrow, when we focus on the greatness of the ones we love, or have loved, and not on the cost of loving them. Anthony De Mello sums it up in his book, THE WAY TO LOVE, “When you are in love you find yourself looking at everyone with new eyes; you become generous, forgiving, kindhearted, where before you might have been hard and mean.” The ability to keep an open heart in spite of tragedy and pain is the greatest challenge of life, but I cannot imagine a better way to live.

Broken Fences: Freedom in Forgiveness

The other day I was having a usual deep philosophical discussion with my daughter, Maddie. I talked to her about how a person can make up for past mistakes. The analogy I gave was one I heard awhile ago. If you walk past a fence and knock it down, you have to go back and repair or replace the fence. We discussed intent. That’s an important question. There is more culpability if you knock the fence down on purpose. However, imagine that you walked by with a stick and didn’t know you were knocking down the fence. It was an accident. I explained that the fence is still broken because of your action so you have to go back and fix it. She said something incredibly insightful. Maddie said, “It depends what the fence owner thinks. Maybe he would understand it was just a mistake and it’s okay. You don’t have to go back and fix it. He’d take care of it.” She makes a great point. God is a fence owner who understands and He keeps fixing our mistakes if we ask Him to.

Most people agree that holding on to our past mistakes or grudges against others who have hurt us, will leave us standing in the same spot or going backwards. So why is it so hard for us to make the choice to move on? Many times it is the simple fact that we are unwilling to forgive ourselves and/or others. I’ve heard people say that forgiving others is important because it benefits the forgivers by offering a release, making them feel better. This is favorable for their own health and other personal relationships. I believe this to be true, however it lacks motivation. If we were to act on what makes us feel better, than we would probably be more likely to hold on to that anger. Anger feels good because it feels like justice. Several years back I had dinner with the Dean of the Institute for the Psychological Sciences, Gladys Sweeney. In her scholarly fashion she stated, “Mercy is the ultimate form of justice, but if we do not know love, we cannot know this.” If God forgives us and loves us, then are we not called to forgive and love others in just the same manner?

Making amends for the harm we have caused others is another step in finding freedom from the bondage of the past. If it is possible to make it up to the person you have harmed, try to do that. There is no way to go back and change the past, but we have right now and hopefully time in the future to make up for our transgressions. Over time, people do heal by our love and affirmative actions. If it is not possible to do good for someone you have wronged, then do good for others. If you stole or cheated someone, give back what you have taken. If you are unable to give restitution directly to that person, make a donation to a charity. There are many places who will gladly accept donations. For example, there are many organizations who help more than 11 million Syrian refugees, many of them children. Organizations like Catholic Relief Services have helped over 1.25 million war affected Syrians by providing food, basic supplies, shelter and clear information about legal options for seeking asylum and international protection. You may also find a local organization to donate, such as Give To Others. The point is to be proactive to build up and restore others to make up for causing damage or being destructive, whether it was accidental or deliberate. Making the world a better place in some way can help us make peace with ourselves by knowing we contributed to others growth and well being.

Everyone makes mistakes. Our imperfections make us human. Forgiving ourselves makes us kinder toward others. If we make the decision to forgive, we begin to heal. We will also see ourselves with more clarity. If we examine why we committed our offenses, most of the time we will see that we acted out of some type of need. The greatest human need is to be loved. Many mistakes are made because we need love and do not know how to get it. Knowing our needs helps us to avoid future mistakes and find healthier ways of meeting our needs. Whatever haunts you, face it, do your best to make amends. Then bury it. For good.

‘IF’: Possibly the Biggest Small Word There is!

The thing that scares most people, is one of my favorite things about life. We do not know what’s around the next corner. Our entire lives can change in an instant, whether it be a visiting a new place, making a decision, new career or project, or a new person coming into our lives. Sure, tragedy and loss are also possible. Most of us are not strangers to some type of loss. Hopefully, we have gained more than we have lost. Even if we have lost more than we have gained, if we are still alive then we have a chance and the hope to gain. That brings me to the word ‘IF’. The word ‘if’ signals the change if you will allow it. ‘If’ is only found in silence.

I had the amazing privilege and honor to visit a dear friend at a cloistered Trappist monastery, St. Joseph’s Abbey, this past weekend. Amidst the noise and busy-ness of life I have more than once imagined a life of complete silence-for a minute or so, of course! 🙂 After all, I enjoy people and conversation. As I walked the halls of the Abbey, I noticed a sound that was distinct and vaguely familiar, but I could not place it. After standing in the library surrounded by the knowledge of books on endless bookshelves softly lit by the gentle rays of sunlight that peacefully fell through the large wooden windows, I identified the sound. It was silence. The deep, unhindered, powerful sound of silence. It was beautiful. We live in world that runs from silence. Even if we do manage to get some silence, the noise in our head keeps us from really understanding its significance. I stood there in the quiet for a few moments and my new favorite word ‘IF’ came to me.

Silence is full of possibilities if we are open to it. Silence asks two questions: Who do you listen to? What do you really want? The first question reminds me of Psalm 46:10, “Be still and know that I am God”. Imagine for a second you could believe there is a very personal God out there who loves you and wants to tell you something. Wouldn’t anyone want to listen? The next question addresses the noise in our lives. Our culture constantly tells us to get ahead, acquire more, gain more power, more money, more pleasure and entertainment. If we could break free from those ideals for a moment and ask ourselves what we really want, deep down I think most of us would want more love, happiness and peace. Possessing money and power will not attain these objectives. Pleasure can be a cheap counterfeit for what we sincerely seek. The world has confused sex and pleasure with love. At times love contains sex, but sex never contains love. We as a culture stay on the hamster wheel with distractions and noise, so we do not have see the emptiness of our vain pursuits. What if we could see silence as the place for wonderful possibilities, instead of the void where we see our disappointments? This is the secret that monks have discovered. Silence is the place where we can recharge, prioritize, and see possibilities beyond our greatest dreams if we are open to it.

‘IF’: Possibly the Biggest Small Word There is!

The thing that scares most people, is one of my favorite things about life. We do not know what’s around the next corner. Our entire lives can change in an instant, whether it be a visiting a new place, making a decision, new career or project, or a new person coming into our lives. Sure, tragedy and loss are also possible. Most of us are not strangers to some type of loss. Hopefully, we have gained more than we have lost. Even if we have lost more than we have gained, if we are still alive then we have a chance and the hope to gain. That brings me to the word ‘IF’. The word ‘if’ signals the change if you will allow it. ‘If’ is only found in silence.

I had the amazing privilege and honor to visit a dear friend at a cloistered Trappist monastery, St Joseph’s Abbey, this past weekend. Amidst the noise and busy-ness of life I have more than once imagined a life of complete silence-for a minute or so, of course! 🙂 After all I enjoy people and conversation. As I walked the halls of the Abbey, I noticed a sound that was distinct and vaguely familiar, but I could not place it. After standing in the library surrounded by the knowledge of books on endless bookshelves softly lit by the gentle rays of sunlight that peacefully fell through the large wooden windows, I identified the sound. It was silence. The deep, unhindered, powerful sound of silence. It was beautiful. We live in world that runs from silence. Even if we do manage to get some silence, the noise in our head keeps us from really understanding its significance. I stood there in the quiet for a few moments and my new favorite word ‘IF’ came to me.

Silence is full of possibilities if we are open to it. Silence asks two questions: Who do you listen to? What do you really want? The first question reminds me of Psalm 46:10, “Be still and know that I am God”. Imagine for a second you could believe there is a very personal God out there who loves you and wants to tell you something. Wouldn’t anyone want to listen? The next question addresses the noise in our lives. Our culture constantly tells us to get ahead, acquire more, gain more power, more money, more pleasure and entertainment. If we could break free from those ideals for a moment and ask ourselves what we really want, deep down I think most of us would want more love, happiness and peace. Possessing money and power will not attain these objectives. Pleasure can be a cheap counterfeit for what we sincerely seek. The world has confused sex and pleasure with love. At times love contains sex, but sex never contains love. We as a culture stay on the hamster wheel with distractions and noise, so we do not have see the emptiness of our vain pursuits. What if we could see silence as the place for wonderful possibilities, instead of the void where we see our disappointments? This is the secret that monks have discovered. Silence is the place where we can recharge, prioritize, and see possibilities beyond our greatest dreams if we are open to it.

IT’S A NEW DAWN, IT’S A NEW DAY! 5 Tips to Color Your Summer with Music

GUEST BLOGGER UNIVERSITY OF CONNECTICUT SOPHOMORE MADDIE BYER
Every year when summer is on its way, there is a unique energy in the air. We all feel it—it’s what makes us dream of palm branches swaying in the breeze, or cold margaritas condensing by the beach. Summer is a time to be upbeat and happy. It’s a time to discover new things about ourselves while things are a little slower, calmer, and less chaotic. This is the time to embrace lots of different levels of happy feelings. It’s my own personal belief that nothing quite sets the mood like good music. Music speaks to us in lots of different ways if we let it. Here are some tips on how to color your summer with music!
1. Step outside of your comfort zone. Summer marks the start of new adventures. That said, don’t be afraid to step outside of your comfort zone when it comes to music. Go see a concert by a band that you’ve never heard of! Outdoor concerts especially can be amazing experiences. Support local musicians when they play at venues near you! This goes for genres as well. Always been a rock and roll kind of person? Maybe try mixing it up with some pop or electronic. Never listen to anything but dance music? You might be surprised by how appealing jazz can sound when you’re relaxing by the pool or reading a good book underneath a tree. Is there a genre that you’ve always hated? Maybe revisit it. Don’t be afraid to give new music a chance because there’s nothing more refreshing than discovering a new favorite song that’s unlike anything you’ve ever heard or liked before.
2. Mix up your genres. Speaking of refreshing, variety is always a good thing. There are lots of different moods associated with summer. Some days are chill and breezy, while others are wild and crazy. You can reflect this through music by switching up your genres. Taking a long drive through some country roads? Find some fun country music to listen to! Having lots of people over and serving up some drinks? Have a dance or hip-hop playlist ready! Feeling nostalgic about happy summer memories or spending some time alone outside? Turn on some of your favorite classics!
3. Listen to international music. If you only listen to Western music, you are seriously limiting yourself. I think it’s safe to say that we’ve all been thoroughly charmed by 2017 Latin pop on the charts, and good news! There’s lots more like this. Latino pop is a favorite among Americans, but it’s not just Latino music that can give off such a warm, summery vibe. There’s French, African, Chinese, you name it!
4. Happy lyrics will make you happier. Lyrics are a really important aspect of music. If you’re on your way to the beach and a break-up song comes on the radio, that may not be the best way to prep yourself for some summer fun. Find something that makes you feel cheerful and excited! Think of the classic lyric, “It’s a new dawn, it’s a new day, it’s a new life for me. And I’m feeling good.” This is the kind of mood you want to be in during your relaxing months of summer.
5. Don’t just listen to music during big moments. Everyone listens to music while they go dancing at the bar, or when they go to a summer concert. These are great times to listen to music, but try to extend yourself beyond this. All the time is a great time to jam to some music. Listen to a fun song, like Thunder by Imagine Dragons, while you’re doing some cleaning or getting ready for an event. If you wake up in a bad mood, throw on some happy music! Find some upbeat music to listen to even during those boring car rides to work or the grocery store. You may just find yourself starting to feel happier overall!

Summer Lovin’: 4 Tips to Get Ready For Summer (And Weight Loss is Only One of Them!)

Summer has suddenly parked itself right in front of us. Don’t panic, even if you haven’t seen your legs (or anything else in daylight) since last November. However brief, Spring gives us a great window of opportunity to maximize our Summer experience. A few steps and you’ll be on your way to a fabulous Summer!
1. Evaluate the Situation and Act. That extra 5-10 pounds? I’m calling it a defense mechanism against the cold weather. We just don’t need the insulation anymore. Figure out honestly just how much insulation you’d like to get rid of. But ladies, for God’s sake, don’t punish or starve yourselves. You are more than the ever changing and subjective numbers on your clothes. Instead, pick an activity that you enjoy and make time for yourself to do it. I recently bought the first bike I’ve ever owned. Riding is not a chore or drudgery, like the gym at 5 am (I’m actually nauseous just thinking about it!) Biking is something I look forward to and it also gets me into tip top shape. Find your activity and have some fun!
2. Wear the Correct Size Clothing. As a former Booking Director at AMS Models & Talent, I can assure you that unless you’re an 18-25 year old runway model, size doesn’t matter. However, what does matter is that you are wearing clothes that fit you, not 1-2 sizes too small. This is a common mistake in a size obsessed culture. It’s also an issue because a 12 in one brand is an 8 in another. Again, get over the number. Make sure your clothes fit you. Wearing clothes that are too small looks sloppy and can actually make you look bigger than you are. Not to mention the discomfort of cutting off your circulation. Imagine a life where you’re not desperate to get home just to unbutton your pants. 🙂 This leads to my next tip.
3. Be Kind to Yourself. Take inventory. Trust me, even supermodels don’t look like supermodels. They are heavily made up and then photoshopped. Don’t compare yourself to someone who isn’t even real. Figure out your attributes and accent them. Everyone has something that makes them beautiful. Remember, there is nothing more attractive than personality and kindness. My guess is that if we are kinder and more encouraging to ourselves, we’ll be kinder and more encouraging to others, leading to an overall sense of happiness. You are beautiful!
4. Make a Checklist to Get Summer Ready. It can be overwhelming when you think of all you have to do after being bundled in layers for months. It is also very expensive. Make a list of all you have to do to be the best version of yourself. Then, choose your plan of attack. If you cannot afford to go to the spa, google ideas on how do it for yourself at home. One popular trend is to use coffee grounds to exfoliate your skin. A Spa service provider, Ha, insists the result is baby soft skin. (Caution! This may wreak havoc on your tub). You may also decide to get one service a week until you are in good shape for Summer. Making a Summer maintenance “To Do” list will help you manage time and your wallet, and keep stress at bay.
I was recently reminded by my friend and Dale Carnegie educator, Jeff Goldstein, that we should always be enthusiastic no matter what age we are. No excuses! The trick is to focus on what we want, not the cost of getting there. The point of getting ready for Summer is that we can enjoy it. These tips are only a few ways to help in the process.

When Your Angel Goes to College: 5 Tips to Help in the College Process

Sending my two girls off to college within the last two years has given me a crash course in parent “collegology”. The college chapter is when the whole family is on a roller coaster that doesn’t get back to the place where you all got on. You and your college bound student are in the front car that speeds up at every twist and turn. The new goal is not only getting your young adult to college, but not derailing the whole family all together. Tensions are high, uncertainty is your daily bread. Days and even moments can go from your student counting down the days until they leave, to sadness about leaving everything they know “behind”. Hang in there parents. This ride will stop. Your job in the process is to get control of the ride. Here are 5 steps to help you do just that.
1. Lighten Up. We wonder why teens think college is a life or death situation. It’s because they see adults act like it is. For example, all through high school, schools and parents put a ton of pressure on kids to exceed, excel, do better, do more-oh and remember to join every club you can so you appear socially conscious to colleges. Whoa. That’s a tall order for a teen. Imagine as a parent at this time in life if this type of pressure were put on us. When we’re older life success does not depend on how we live for only 4 years. Do we ever tell our teens what will happen after the 4 years of college? Imagine the let down they will have when they find out that the 4 years doesn’t lead to happy ever after. Success is measured by character, effort, excellence and most importantly, constancy. It’s not like we do not get second chances or a Plan B. We grow, Our interests and needs change as we get older. Our goals change. So far, we live in a society that supports and encourages change and growth. How about we tell our teens to do their best every day, to look at the whole picture and teach them to be constant? On tough days, our best may not be as good as it is on our good days. Choosing a college is not the be all, end all. If it doesn’t work out, they can change their minds. Removing the pressure of blowing the “the most important decision of their lives” will do wonders for them. Give them a little room to grow and the process might even be enjoyable. If we want our teens to lighten up, we must lighten up first.
2. Visit Colleges Years Before it is Time for them to Fly (Apply). Visiting colleges can easily cost as much as a year’s tuition. It is also very timely. Start visiting EARLY, and at everyone’s liesure. Whenever you take a family vacation, try to visit a college in that area while you are already there. This can be easily done while taking trips to visit family in other parts of the country as well. Seeing colleges while everyone is enjoying relaxing vacation time takes pressure off and adds excitement for their future. It can also save you time and money.
3.Don’t Take Every College Tour Before You Show Your Student the College First. This seems counter-intuitive, but scheduled tours can take up to 4 hours. Usually, your young adult knows if he or she wants to go there within minutes. Taking a brief visit to a college before planning a scheduled tour can save you a lot of time, as the tours give you details you would only want to know if it were a serious consideration.
4. Remember This is About Them, Not You. This is tougher than you think. It is incredible how much showing your teens colleges will bring back your own college memories. We learned valuable information in our college experience. If we could only do it again, we would do it better or right this time. As we help our kids, this time we can do it right. Right? Wrong. It’s their turn. We’ve had our time and made our decisions. Our responsibility is to help and guide these young adults to make decisions that will help them discover God’s purpose for them and their own purpose in life. Inadvertently treating our children as if they are some extension of our purpose in life will cause tension in our relationships and may even get in the way of God’s plans for them. Of course, they need our help to some degree. As a first generation American, I did not have help applying to colleges. I had to figure it out by myself. Just knowing the process and guiding them through it is a tremendous help. Anything beyond that may cause resentment and stress in your relationship. Give them room to exercise the mind and personality that you helped them to discover. It is sad to know they don’t need us as much as they did. It is also happy because, we’ve done a good job to get them to this point. There is something very beautiful about watching them fly.
5. Keep Emotions Separate. Of course this is not entirely possible. If it is our goal though, it may keep emotions in check. I began my “grieving process” of letting go a few years before it was time to get to work on the college hunt. I like to be prepared and plan ahead! 🙂 I also didn’t want my emotions to get in the way of sound reasoning. The most threatening emotion can be fear. It will ruin your life if it goes unchecked. Yes, fear can keep you safe in a dangerous moment. However, most fear is about events that will never, ever happen. Ever. Creating memory boards can help in the process of letting go. It is a lot of fun to go back through the years and look through photos that are snapshots of the privilege you’ve had to be their parent. Even though you still see them as that cherub who fell asleep in the chair with her angel costume on, they don’t see themselves that way. They are fighting to be seen as the adults you have raised them to be. On the same subject of emotions, give your kids a break too. They can only handle so much at a time. So when your high school senior who has two weeks to choose a college tells you “I can’t talk about it now”, resist the urge to pull a “mama bear”. Try to gently remind them that they will have to think about it soon. I recommend taking deep breaths first, and often.

Having kids go to college is a confusing, emotional and wonderful time. Confusing because they want to go and you are not ready. Wonderful because they are on the next part of their journey. And sad because you cannot go on this next part of their journey with them. Don’t worry though, they will still need you. Just in a different and a little more distant way. My favorite texts form my adults are, “Mom, can I ask you a question…”