A fair shot in life…

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Compare to many other people, I did not have a hard life. My father was the bread winner and my mom took care of us, six daughters. As my sisters grew older, they started helping my mom around the house and raising the younger sisters. I must admit that I did not have to do any chores other than picking up after myself. My job was to go to school, study, get good grades and be respectful. In a nutshell I had what I needed and most of the things I wanted. Though a couple of my sisters called me “spoiled” I hardly believe in that. Why?

Because I was responsible. My parents never had to tell me to do my homework or to study. I was a hardworking little girl who respected authority and who was raised to be kind to people no matter what they looked like and where they came from. I was never greedy taking advantage of my dad’s willingness to buy things for me nor did I flaunt in front of my friends. Quite the contrary, I helped people starting at a very young age discreetly buying things for others from my allowance. I knew that everyone was not as fortunate as I was. In addition, I started tutoring when I was in high school so that I could earn my own money rather than asking from my dad.

Years passed and I graduated from college. I took pride in what I did as a teacher. Teaching is one of the greatest things one can do in life. If you know something and you have the ability to teach, why not do it? More years passed and I got into leadership world. I realized that it was my calling to lead. No matter how hard I tried, I found myself right back in it and I did not regret it once. It is the ability to make a difference on a larger scale. It is the opportunity to use my abilities and share them with others.

As I mentioned at the beginning, I know that there are many children who do not even get to be children. They are busy being grown ups because that is what they have to do to survive. Life should not be about surviving. It should be about living. It is every child’s right to live and to be happy. To make this happen, we all need to do our part. No matter how much we ear, where we live, how busy we are, how little or big jobs we have… we all can do something. One thing!

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I will share with you the things that I would do for the children and their families who are not privileged if I were:

  • a dentist/doctor: free check ups for the community every quarter.
  • an accountant/bookkeeper: tax filing, financial advise
  • an insurance agent: education on benefits
  • business expert: meetings/training about how to start up a small business
  • stay at home parent: organize fundraising events
  • everyone:  Volunteer at a school or an after care program reading stories for children.
  • everyone: donate to an organization who directly helps the homeless, unemployed, single parents, or anyone who is going through a hardship. Some of the organizations are:

Martha’s Table

So Others Might Eat

Bright Beginnings 

Coalition for the Homeless, Inc.

United Planning Organization

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Be the best you can. Do the best you can. Show empathy and be cognizant of the needs of people around you. Do not allow a location define a child’s future. Care and do what you can so that each child gets a fair shot in life. After all, they are our future and we create the future together.


Everything is for us… Humans.

Life is strange.

We live through so much…

Sometimes we are happy and sometimes sad

Sometimes we unite with the ones we love and sometimes we separate

Sometimes we get closer and sometimes we grow apart

Sometimes we are healthy and sometimes sick

Sometimes we see birth and sometimes death

Sometimes we are at peace and sometimes at war

Sometimes we love and sometimes we hate

Life is full of opposites.

As opposite as black and white, north and south

Everything is for us. Humans…

Positive thinking…

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Are you open to new things? New opportunities, new techniques or new style… Or are you fearful of newness?

New is sometimes scary. You never tried it before. You never experienced it. There are unknown things in every “new”. There is also an opportunity to grow and a thing or two to learn with every “new”. The question is, are you ready to take the step to the “new”?

The way I was raised, like many of you, was different than the way we raise our children today. We are encouraged to think the “new way” of parenting and teaching. One of the biggest things we talk about is using positive language. I am sure you heard and or used at least two of the following statements:

  • Don’t run in the hallway!
  • No talking in the library
  • Don’t hit your friend!
  • Don’t be rude to your teacher/elderly/
  • You can’t play outside when it gets dark
  • Don’t waste your food!
  • Don’t write/draw on the walls!
  • You can’t speak without raising your hand and getting permission

Don’t, can’t, shouldn’t…The list is long. After hearing or saying these things have you seen or heard a child or in fact an adult doing exactly what you tell them not to do? Yes. We all have. The point is that human nature does not comprehend and does not respond well to negative statements. Instead, we use positive language and positive response to it is more likely to take place.

  • Use your walking feet in the hallway
  • Please be quiet in the library.
  • Be gentle with your friend
  • Be polite/Show respect to your teachers/elderly
  • Please come inside before it gets dark
  • Eat your food/Finish your food
  • Keep walls clean/Write on paper/easel
  • Please raise your hand before talking/ask for permission before talking

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It may be easier to use negative instead of affirmative language however; the outcome we want to see is hard to attain. We need to be practice positive language and be conscious about it. The more we practice the easier it becomes. In addition, children hear us and they imitate what we say and what we do. It is easier to teach a child the positive way early on rather than trying to undo or reteach the best way. It really is about training the brain to think positively and use affirmative statements.

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Negative statements are like a band-aid. You stop the undesirable act for the moment. You do not teach how to achieve the desirable outcome. Therefore, when you tell a child not to write on the walls his question may be “I want to write. Where can I write?” “What can I do when it gets dark? I am not sleepy and I still want to play”.

I love the book series “Teeth are not for biting” by  Elizabeth Verdick and Marieka Heinlen. It talks about what you “can” do with your teeth.

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The entire series is about positive guidance and developing social emotional skills. It is a great way to start using language that will teach children what to do and a simple model to follow for the teachers. Every child needs and deserves a happy learning environment where they are safe and they can learn enjoying what they do. They need to feel valued and capable. Adult tone and language choice makes or breaks a child. Children do not need power struggle. Especially when we really want them to learn something. They need to be assured, acknowledged and given choices. And they need to hear all of his with positive words and or statements. This allows them to remain open to what we say and what we want them to do. It is not always possible to do this but when positive language becomes a habit and takes place majority of the time it is a win win. As the old saying goes: You catch more bees with honey.


Guilt and regret…

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If you are like me, working hard, helping everyone else and taking care of their needs, most likely you are neglecting yourself. If you have a family, it is even more serious. Have you ever been told by your spouse or your child that you are being tough on them or they are always getting the short end of the stick? I have! And what is worse is they are right.

I am a perfectionist. I want everything done correctly, I want everyone to have what they need and if they do not get what they need I feel terrible. I stretch myself so thin that when I come home from work, I have only 25% of patience and it runs out like a phone battery and you are like “oh no! I really need this phone now, I will not touch it unless it is absolutely necessary”. Yes, freaking out a little. Maybe more than a little. I am not good at operating with 25% charge left. Not at all. I may misunderstand something because connection goes in and out and sounds get mixed up:

  • Mommy, I am hungry
  • Don’t forget, you are doing the drop off and the pick up tomorrow and the other day…
  • We need to vacuum the carpet. I see crumbs on it.
  • Mommy, I need help with this part of the homework
  • Can you help him showering?
  • Mommy, can you read for me?
  • Wednesday is this, Thursday is that and Friday is this… And then…

By this time, I feel the steam in my head getting ready to come out. Ears, nose, eyes and all. Start thinking about how exhausted I am and no one really cares. Then I pause: No, don’t do it! Not their fault that you had a tiring day. They need you more than anyone else because you are the wife and the mother. Because this is your family and family comes firt. I am not able to pause every day though. That is the day I feel so guilty and regret everything I say.

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According to psychology today, guilt is both a cognitive and an emotional experience that occurs when a person believes that he or she has violated a moral standard and is responsible for that violation. A person can feel guilty even if she or he did not cause the situation.

This morning I woke up with an awful pain on my collar bone. Nothing to worry about but it is an excruciating pain due to using my muscles too much. I was struggling with it all night. Then I had to deal with construction workers due to a fixing need in the middle of my living room. Move furniture, shuffle things around so they can work while dealing with my pain. I received a message from my office and had to call in. I am at my boiling point and one of the best people in the world is on the other end of the phone. Yes, you guessed it. I got frustrated with someone else’s incompetency and she got the short end of the stick. I felt horrible after I got off the phone. I was in so much pain and feeling terrible about the way the conversation went. I apologized for it. Still did not make me feel any better. If she deserved it, it would not bother me but she did not. Here I am thinking: Take care of yourself, hold people accountable for what they do and do not do and save patience for the ones you love and care.

Guilt and regret does not do anything good to anyone. It is hard to take back something that already happened. Sometimes it is not possible at all. In those times, I hope that my loved ones cut me a slack and understand where I am coming from and I hope that I can better take care of myself and stop giving my all to others and keep some for the people who care for me.

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Do we know how to listen?

I never thought about the actual meaning of listening until one day I read this medical article about “listening”. Every single day we hear a lot of sounds. Cars, radio, music, buzzing noise coming from an AC unit, wind, construction machine, especially if you spend most of your time in Washington, DC 🙂 … people we live with, people we work with, people in general. We hear all these things but are we listening? I hear people talking all the time but I confess that I do not listen to them at all those times. I am one of those people who is very selective when it comes to taking things into my mind. I select what is important and what I need to listen to. 

Have you ever been in a situation where you are in a conversation, or so you think, and you are trying to get a word or two in? I have…plenty of times. The person across from you is talking and he or she does not realize that a conversation requires one person to talk and the other one to listen and then they take turns listening and talking. I come from a big family and we all have things to say. Thought, ideas, opinions galore! Well, usually there are more than two people talking. Some of us are busy trying to express what we think so we do not wait for the other person to stop talking and we start talking when they are still talking. Lately, I have been observing this a lot. Especially whe I am in a group. I conciously wait, tll my brain to listen and then speak. There are times i may not get a chance to speak depending on who is in the group or I should say “what type of person” I am listening to. From my experience, people who do not listen well are the ones who talk the most. There is a different type of chemistry that they have the urge to speak all the time. Most often, the talkers are also the loudest in the group. I remember one day when I was with my husband’s family, I realized how loud they were. I come from  similar type of family. Many of my family members speak loudly. When I asked my husband why they were so loud his answer was simple: “My dad used to turn the tv volume so loud that we got used to speaking at a certain decibel!”. Hmmm… After thinking for a brief moment, I realized that the same was true for my family. My dad used to (bless his heart, he still does) turn the tv volume so high that we used to compete with the sound of the TV. Not to mention we were so excited to share our own opinions (you guessed that right, we are pretty much very opiniated people 🙂 ) that we talked and talked not realizing we were not really “listening”. 

As I get older, I find myself seeking calmness. I pay attention to listening more. I pay attention to looking into the person’s eyes and listen. The moment I realize I am drifting into my own thoughts and opinions, eager to cut off the person to share what I think, I stop my thoughts and say “Berna, you will have your turn, now listen”. It works. Conciously making this decision really works. In fact, we teach children how to listen, take turns, raise hand if you have something to say. As adults, I dont expect a person to raise hand but i do expect her or him to read the silent signal “I am done, now it is your turn to speak”. It really is an important skill we need to help children and at times help adults develop. After all we are social beings and we all have something to share. Most of the times…

Do you have difficulty listening? Do you experience hardship talking or sharing your message because someone is not listening to you? What do you do in those instances?  

Choosing to be focused…

It is easy to get distracted in our daily lives. We wake up, get ready for work, prepare our kids for camp or school, hop in the car, fight the traffic… While in the traffic we make mental lists (yes, sometimes more than one)and then we get to work with all that in mind. Just as we say “Let me get situated and check my emails, or let me put my stuff away and go around say hello to people” someone comes to you asking for help or just asking a question and you are like” wow, I just came in, can I take a tiny breath before I save the world”. Quietly of course because we are adults and professionals. Even then it is hard. Then the person thinks his or her world is falling apart or they are going to save the world with that tiny task they need to do or a little question they have as if they cannot figure out the answer if only they think a bit more or look around more, they get dramatic and tasty. Here you are looking at them: Ok. I do not think we are doing a surgery here. Let’s calm down”. Again, quietly or using words that are less or not sarcastic at all.

The truth is that everyone’s job is important to him or her. The problem is that one person cannot find a solution to everyone’s problems. Isn’t this the biggest separation between a child and an adult? I believe so. I also believe in building capacity and skills. Child or adult, everyone needs to be able and capable one day… eventually. In the meantime, we need to make a decision about what to weed out and what to focus on. My time and energy is valuable. Especially the time I spend away from my family who definitely needs me. Often I have to remind myself and others around me: Stay focused. We have a plan, we have a goal. Little things should not take too much of my time especially when I see they are unproductive and toxic. When that happens, I hear the “tic toc” in my head getting louder and reminding me “you have a bigger task you need to worry about. Without that task being completed, you will not have the little things to worry about”.  Then I get anxious and highly concerned. This leads to nothing good because I am not one of those individuals who needs pressure to get the work done. It is scientifically proven that toxic stress and anxiety blocks productivity and clear thinking. That is exactly what happens to me. In that moment I have only one option: Remove myself from the situation and focus on the positive. It is hard but it needs to be done.

What are some of your struggles as you juggle more than two things in hand? How do you approach people and or situations who tend to focus on the negative? How about people who tend to focus on the negative o much that they do not realize they magnify things and end up with a big upset and setback?


Talking with children about loss of a loved one… Never easy!

Yesterday morning I got the sad news about my uncle’s passing. I just dropped off my son to his karate lesson and saw the message in my phone from my dad. Tears started coming down my face, I couldn’t help it.I decided to walk to the nearby coffee shop so my son would not see me crying. In the meantime I knew I needed to let the cry out but it was not the right time with all the people around. I threw myself into the bathroom and started sobbing. I prayed and told myself to be strong and got myself together. A little later I picked up my son and got back in the car to head home. He immediately picked up my vibe and asked why I looked so sad. I was like “darn it! I was doing my best to smile and talk with him. He is just too smart for me to hide things from”. I turned to him (car was not moving yet) and told him about what happened. I said “Honey, I am alright. I am sad because I loved my uncle but I know he is in good hands now”. His response was so gentle.  ” oh mom, I am so sorry for your loss. And granpa’s…” I realized how much I was in need of that statement. It was right on time and a big move from a little person. Let me tell you, it was not magic or an instant happening for him to react to the sad news with understanding and compassion. Both my husband and I worked for years for our son not to fall apart in a situation like this. It took a lot of work and a lot of understanding…

Our son SJ asked for a pet for a long time. Our life style, both parents working full time and a very long commute to and from our home, was not conducive to take on that kind of responsibility. The easiest pet would be fish we thought. It didn’t take us long to convince him getting a pet fish. We got four. He named them all. Three months later the first fish died. SJ was davestated. Crying, sobbing for more than an hour. Hugging, kissing, rubbing his back didn’t help. He would stop for a few seconds and then scream again saying “yellowwwww, why did you die??” It was heart wrenching seeing him so sad. But we knew this was part of life and Yellow woul not be the only loved one he would lose in his lifetime. I remember that night talking with my husband for a while. We decided t take this opportunity to talk to him about death and what happens and how we need to approach this type of situation. At the same time we knew he was only five at the time and we needed to bring everything down to his level and make it meaningful from his perspective. At the end of our conversation we decided that we needed any help we could get because we were not sure how to approach it and where to start from. I asked the librarian at his school and she sugessted reading a book about death and heaven. I read a lot of things about this subject given the fact that I helped many families and children going through this throughout my career. However, none of those tricks were working for me with my son. 

We read books, we talked about it, we allowed him ask us questions and he did have a lot of questions:

1. Can I die and see my fish and then come back home again?

2. Where did he go?

3. Who is going to feed him now?

4. Will he miss me?

5. Can he hear me or see me from above the sky?

6. What if he comes back as another fish?

Short but deep questions and not easy to answer… We decided to be gentle but as truthful as possible. We told him that he was fine up in the sky. Most likely he went to heaven. He could hear and see him, at least that was what we believed in. He would miss SJ and when it was time they would see each other again. Most likely… One thing we were sure about was he would not be able to come back home if he died to see Yellow and we as his parents would miss him dearly and would be sadder than he is for Yellow. Quite frankly, I was not sure if we were answering these questions correctly but we followed his lead and continued to read his ques. He decided to have a funeral for Yellow. We buried him in the front of the house right next to the tree. He sat there on his knees, praying and telling him to take care of himself there. For a while we did not talk about Yellow. Until one day…

Michael, a shiny black guppy named after Michael Jackson, was in the bottom of the tank. He was not moving. SJ saw it as soon as we came home from school. He said “Mommy! Michael is not moving, something is wrong with him”. His voice was trembling, he was looking at me tears welding up. I hugged him, he started crying “Noo, I loved him Mommy”. I continued to hug him saying ” I know, I did too. I am sad as well”. He looked up at me and asked if he Michael would see Yellow. I said yes. They would be together up there. I guided him to his praying corner by the library and we held hands and prayed together. Then I gently removed him from the tank and we buried him right next to Yellow. His cry was not as long as it was for Yellow. He was better controling his emotions and talking through them. This was a big step and a huge relief for us. 

We bought two more guppies. He now understands that animals or people do not live forever. When it is their time, they move on and leave this world as we call it “Earth”. We occasinaly talk about older people or sick people leaving this world eventually. We also talk about not being able to know and control everything in life. In the meantime, we need to keep our memories, happy moments and everything we learned with and from these loved ones. I am sure, this is why he was able to say “I am sorry for your loss mommy”. 

So… keep it simple and as honest and real as possible. Allow them to express their feelings, let them cry. Death is part of life and the sooner they accept it the better off they are.   

Understanding tantrums… 

We expect children to do so much sometimes I stop and think that there is something wrong with us, adults. We forget that once we were children and as sure as I am, it was difficult for us to control our emotions at times. To tell you the truth, I sometimes did not know what I was feeling. Anger, sadness, outrage, frustration… no idea which one it was I felt. It felt like all was happening at the same time. 

Now I watch and listen to interactions no matter where I am. Just his morning I witessed a sad argument between a mother and her daughter who apperared to be in her early teens. Mother was holding a baby in the cash register line and she was going off on the girl: See, now we are not going to eat lunch, it is all your fault. If you did not talk too much I would not get angry. I never understand why you dont listen.” She went on and on. Meanwhile, I was waiting for the cashier to complete my order. The teen girl said “I just dont like the way you speak to me, that is all”. She said it in a very sad way. No attitude, no tone. Her eyes were red as if she was trying to hold her tears back and just staring at her mom as her mom was talking up a storm. I almost said something but I decided not to interfere. They had a couple of other family members with them. They were all quiet. My heart started beating fast, I was getting really frustrated because I thought it was such an unfortunate situation for the little girl. Especially when she was articulating her mom that she did not like the way she was being talked to. 

Then, I turned away and looked at my son. I felt happy because I knew my son was lucky to have parents like my husband and I. We listen to him especially when he is upset or he seems frustrated. There is no need to cause him bottle up his feelings and or feel fearful around us. With us, he is in a safe zone. We are a family. We make mistakes, we argue sometimes but in the end we come to an understanding that what ever the situation is we can get to the bottom of it and resolve it. There is no shaming, there is no belittling. Instrad of stopping him we allow him to get his frustration out. We encourage him to talk through things. We encourage him to be honest no matter what. In the end, if need be, he apologizes, he expresses himself, he tries to figure things out. He knows he can trust us and we are by him no matter what. In the meantime he knows we have high expectations for him and that he must be forthcoming even if he is at fault. 

It is not always easy to do these things. We all can make mistakes or can miss a step or two. In the end we own it and do what is necessary to correct the action. 

We need more love…

Thanks to one of my really good friends, I have been watching the show “Outlander”. As I am watching it, I cant help myself but to think about my life, life of others whom I know and reflect on time. 

There is romance, passion, kindness, class and there is anger, cruelty, barbarism. All is real, was real and will continue to be real. As long as there is human race on earth. I searched on google and found so many things about this show. There are bloggers writing about “Outlander”, there are interest forums, youtube videos, and I am one of the people who are obsessed with it. So the question is why are there so many fans? If we all are so attached to this show because it warms our hearts, boils our blood at times because of all the cruelty and injustice, how come we are missing all that love and all that passion to make things right in real life? How come we have so many self centered people who are away from being honest, empathetic and plain “good”? Maybe we need to be louder. Maybe we need to make more of us and spread around the world. We really need it. We need more love. Selfnessness. Gentleness. We need to care. About each other, the world. In return? We get more love. Peace. Comfort. Joy. A better world. Green, white, yellow, brown, black who cares. We all are humans. Tall, short, petite, large, skinny, fat, who cares? We are all humans. It is all about human race. It is all about loving, showing kindness and being passionate about what is positive. It is about caring. For a better life. Now and in the future.  

On Fathers’ Day…

When I was growing up, Fathers’ Day had its own “O la la!”. Here is what I mean…

A few weeks before Fathers’ Day, my sisters and I along with my mom would sit down and plan what we were going to do for our dad. It was so sweet of my mom to think about what she could give him as a present although this was not “husbands’ day” and not their anniversary. Anyways… We used to ask our dad what he would like because he was very picky and particular. Our best bets were cologne (boy! did he love cologne or what? He would even spray on his nicely trimmed mustache), sweater, shirt. He really did not care for anything else. Later in life, his love of watches made my life easier because there was no size in case he put on or lost a few pounds here and there. The bottom line is we would get together and purchase what he liked. It was special that way. Many families were traditional so almost in every home that I knew, there was a father. Children would call home to wish their dad a Happy Fathers’ Day. Distance did not matter.

Just like anything else in life, things have changed around Fathers’ Day. We have to be more careful to see who has a dad, whose dad passed away, who never have known his or her dad. What if the person always wanted to be a dad but it never happened. Emotions may run high and if we are not careful, we can hurt someone’s feelings. On the other hand, sometimes I think like “Why do I have to think about all these things? Why cant we just keep things simple and celebrate moms on Mothers’ Day and dads on Fathers’ Day? Are we becoming more and more sensitive as a society? As the world? Are we hurting ourselves and others more with all this sensitivity and deep thinking?

How about the commercial side of things? I will tell you what my son and I did for this Fathers’ Day. We bought a very meaningful card. My son (SJ) signed the card, wrote on the envelope. Then we created a so called check with a note written on it: “Special for Daddy. No expiration date and no limit”. Yes, this is a piece of paper we wrote and decorated for him. It is up to him how and when to use it. This is much more than a gift card, a material thing. It is so open ended that he can even say ” I want to sleep in as long as I want or I want to take the day off and do what I want to do”. It can be just something to show we care for him and he cares for us. It does not have to be used on a special day. It can be for any day and anything.

Now that I live far away from my dad, there is not that much I can do. Video call, phone chat and sharing recipes are some of the things I like to do with my dad. Or even discussing a business deal etc. I write poems for him and about him, I pray for him. It is much emotional rather than material.We all need to think again and again how materialistic we ave become as the world.

I hope everyone has a father figure in his and her life. Someone who is more than a biological figure. Someone who has made a difference in your life. Someone who has touched you in someways making sure you know and feel that you are loved. To all those fathers out there “Happy Fathers’ Day”.