Author Archives: jackijwood

All I’ve Met

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Rocky Mountain National Park

Alfred, Lord Tennyson said: “I am a part of all that I have met.”

Like Tennyson, I feel like I’m a part of all that I’ve met. These are a few of their stories. And a few of mine, too. Enjoy.

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2020: the year of my disgust

Disgust

From the government’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic and the virus itself to George Floyd’s death and the ongoing Black Lives Matter movement to the country’s rising unemployment/wealth disparity to the lack of concern for global climate change – and everything in between and beyond – 2020 has revealed the role that Disgust plays in my life.

My family was recently discussing Pixar’s “Inside Out” and who exemplified each character emotion the best.

When the discussion got around to me, my husband and 19-year-old daughter, in unison, said Disgust.

What?! Disgust?! My response was apparently even in character.

The first time I watched the movie, I loved Joy. Who doesn’t want to be her? It’s joy, after all! Happiness, delight, well-being, success, good fortune.

I worked for a community newspaper for over 13 years and wrote an occasional column which I titled “That they might have joy.”

I so wanted to be Joy. I always have. That’s the goal in this life, right? Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness?

But Disgust? No way! I think I’ve been ashamed of my disgust, or parts of it, for much of my life. Or what I thought it meant. But in the weeks since our family discussion, I have begun to embrace my inner Disgust.

Disgust

In the beginning of the movie, Joy introduces us to the Disgust character: “She basically keeps Riley from being poisoned, physically and socially.”

That sounds like a pretty good thing.

When her parents try to get her to eat broccoli, Disgust heroically sweeps in and knocks the green veggies away.

“I just saved our lives,” she says. “You’re welcome.”

In describing the character, Jill Koss (MS, CCLS at Cook Children’s Health Care System in Fort Worth, TX) writes: “Disgust is impatient, sassy and sarcastic; but she is also honest, well-meaning, caring and protective.” (‘That’s disgusting!’ What ‘Inside Out’ teaches us about disgust, 7/16/15, checkupnewsroom.com/thats-disgusting-what-inside-out-teaches-us–aboutdisgust/).

I love that. I am impatient, sassy and sarcastic. But I’m also honest, well-meaning, caring and protective.

I care. A lot. And because I care so much, in a world that seems to be increasingly troubled, I’m disgusted a lot.

Koss continues: “Disgust in the role of acceptable social behaviors has the potential to be very important. If we teach our children there are certain values that are important, and morals to follow, they have the potential to be offended (disgusted) when behaviors opposite to their values are displayed.”

Research by University of Kent psychologists in 2016 has shown that expressing disgust can be motivated by moral concerns.

“Participants themselves were more likely to choose to express disgust when their goal was to show that their condemnation of an act was morally motivated… The findings suggest that disgust is not just an expression of an inner feeling, like nausea or contamination, but a signal that advertises a moral position.” (Disgust is way of communicating moral rather than self-interested motivation – sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/12/161219133831.htm)

What are some of these issues that I have been “disgusted” about in 2020? There are plenty. Racism, the criminal justice system, the death penalty, LGBTQ+ rights, global climate change, poverty and disproportion of wealth, homelessness, refugees and immigrants, growing unemployment, government leaders, healthcare disparities, mental illness, gender inequality.

It’s not enough to just be disgusted, though. We need to figure out ways to use it to create change. The COVID-19 pandemic has people questioning how we get back to normal. Some have suggested, however, that instead of going back to normal we should move forward to something better. I agree. With so many issues to be disgusted about, let’s work for a better way.

In Inside Out, Disgust incites Anger to help accomplish her purpose – she fuels his anger with her words until he bursts into flames and breaks open the window to save Joy and Sadness.

Disgust

Instead of avoiding or denying or being ashamed of our disgust, let’s embrace and channel it through “honest, well-meaning, caring and protective ways” in an effort to help our communities move forward to something better and ultimately to help save lives.

Then we can all sit back, sassy and sarcastically, and say, “You’re welcome.”

 

 


grace & beauty

“Everyone in our tribe had two names, the real one which was secret and was seldom used, and one which was common, for if people use your secret name it becomes worn out and loses its magic.” ― Scott O’Dell, Island of the Blue Dolphins

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The old, heavy, wooden door creaks open. I don’t move. I don’t open my eyes.

Tiny feet gracefully skate across the hardwood floor in footed pajamas as they’ve done countless times before. I feel her warm breath on my face and catch a hint of fabric softener and shampoo from last night’s bath. I remain in character – lifeless.

She reaches out with her chubby fingers, gently touching my cheek and sliding her hand down my face, repeating the motion a second and a third time. I break, holding back a smile, and squint through the darkness. 4:12.

“Mama. Hungry. Up.”

I pause to enjoy the early morning moment before rolling over away from her. I tug at the covers, push my husband’s cold feet away, and smile, out of her view.

“It’s still nighttime, Hannah. Go back to bed.”

***

Hannah: Hebrew name (Channah) meaning “favour, grace.”

Alaska: Aleut word Alaxsxaq orAlyeska meaning “mainland” (literally, “the object toward which the action of the sea is directed”), “great land,” “beauty.”

***

She touches my hair, trying for another response.

I lie motionless. I could use another hour of sleep. Or two.

Conceding defeat, she moves on to the next tactic, maneuvering herself into our bed, one leg up and then the other, pulling, struggling, then highjacking the quilt. She squirms a bit and snuggles in beside me.

“Love you, mama.”

I roll back over toward her, stare into her big, dark brown eyes, and smile. I run my fingers through her hair and down the side of her rosy, chubby cheek, as she had earlier done to me. I gently close her eyes and continue to caress her face until her breathing slows. Over her eyes, down her cheek, again and again and again, slower and softer each time.

And then tranquility arrives as she drifts off to fantasyland.

My sleeping beauty.

“I love you, too, Hannah … Alaska.”

 


Why aren’t we standing up for teachers?

More than 40 percent of teachers quit teaching within their first five years citing lack of administrative support, low salaries, accountability pressures, lack of advancement opportunities and working conditions.

My dad was a teacher for 35 years, my husband for 15, and my aunt, cousins and several friends also teach. I’ve covered numerous school board meetings and functions. So while I’ve never been one, I’ve gotten a glimpse into and heard plenty of stories about the profession.

As we begin another school year, I want to talk about working conditions, one of the reasons teachers are leaving.

Photo by Nicole Honeywill on Unsplash

Photo by Nicole Honeywill on Unsplash

I’m not talking about having no control over the thermostat in your room, which means you’re either freezing or burning up (there seems to be no in between). Or being on the receiving end of every germ that walks through your door. Or having no time to use the bathroom. Or having to swallow your lunch in three bites.

Are these the reasons teachers are quitting? No. Dealing with parents? Yes.

Several recent online posts by former teachers highlight this problem.

Earlier this summer, Jessica Gentry, a former kindergarten teacher in Virginia, wrote: “Let me tell you why those who ooze passion for teaching are leaving the occupation like their hair is on fire.”

Her viral post included the excuse that the kids have changed.

“Kids are kids,” she wrote. “Parenting has changed. Society has changed. The kids are just the innocent victims of that. Parents are working crazy hours, consumed by their devices, leaving kids in unstable parenting/coparenting situations (with) terrible media influences… and we give the excuse that the kids have changed? What did we expect them to do?”

In a viral post from 2018, Julie Marburger, a former middle school teacher in Texas, wrote: “I left work early today after an incident with a parent left me unable emotionally to continue for the day. Parents have become far too disrespectful. Administration always seems to err on the side of keeping the parent happy, which leaves me with no way to do the job I was hired to do … teach kids.”

She continued: “(Parents) have to stop coddling and enabling their children. It’s not fair to society, and more importantly, is not fair to the children to teach them this is okay.”

In January, Kori Clements, a successful high school volleyball coach in Texas, resigned due to “parents’ political pressure.”

“I was told by campus administration that I needed to recognize the political aspect of my job and also of theirs. I cannot and will not compromise the integrity of my decisions based on a parent’s political pressure or position. I believe strongly in the value of athletics, that being a part of a team is a privilege and playing time is earned.”

While this example was with athletics, the problem is the same in the classroom.

Do all parents do this? No, of course not. Most are doing the best they can and understand teachers are as well. I’m also not saying all teachers are good. I know there are some who shouldn’t be in education.

“An open letter from teachers to parents” by Bored Teachers lists five steps for improving the relationship between parents, teachers and students: 1. Stop making excuses for your kids; 2. Make sure they’re doing their work; 3. Cut the distractions; 4. Model good habits at home; and 5. Work with their teachers, not against them.

Stop making excuses and teach them to be responsible for their actions and their schoolwork. If they’re not getting an A, find out why. Have they completed all of their assignments? Are they participating in class?

I believe most parents love their kids and want what’s best for them. But expecting something when it hasn’t been earned isn’t the way for them to learn, grow and succeed. We need to expect more of them. Do we really want our future mechanics, doctors and leaders doing the minimum to get by and get rewarded for it?

I also believe most teachers are doing their best, sometimes in extraordinarily difficult circumstances. We need to stop thinking we know how to be better teachers. They’ve had years of education and training and many seek additional learning each summer.

So what’s the solution?

Work together. You know your kid. They know teaching. Discuss your concerns respectfully and work to find win-win solutions.

“Be on our side. We are obviously not in education because we expect to become millionaires, we’re here because we care about kids and our society. So let’s help each other, and let’s do the best for the kids we love” (Bored Teacher).

Believe in them. Trust them. Cheer for them.

They really do want what’s best for your kids. Just like you do.

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

By Jacki Wood, “That they might have joy column,” Nodaway News Leader, August 2019


Sharing a *little* joy to brighten up this crazy winter

Hey, remember me?

It’s been awhile since I’ve written this column. Last August actually.

Sharing a *little* joy to brighten up this crazy winter

I suppose there’s several reasons for that. But it most likely hinges on the fact that my husband was hospitalized at the end of August. And sometimes a long road awaits patients following a hospital stay.

Such has been the case with us.

Since then, I haven’t felt much like writing. And when I do, everything seems a bit disingenuous. I wrote a post on my personal blog about the hospital experience last fall but felt it missed the mark.

During this time period, I’ve also been struggling with feeling much joy. Which is the point of this column after all.

December was pretty rough. I was experiencing feelings of inadequacy, loneliness, guilt, grief. One of the most joyous times of the year and I just wasn’t feeling it.

I enjoyed spending time with family at Christmas and New Year’s. Many great memories made. And lots of laughing.

But it seemed short-lived. I tried a lot of things to get out the funk I was in but the January blues seemed to be getting the best of me.

I started searching for ways to find joy and came across a speech given by Richard G. Scott, “Finding Joy in Life.”

Speaking of the difficulties we face on our journeys, he said: “A pebble held close to the eye appears to be a gigantic obstacle. Cast on the ground, it is seen in perspective.”

I was holding my pebble right up next to my eye. I was focused on myself and my problems and couldn’t see much of anything else.

He continued: “I know of a woman who was joyously happy. Each morning she would ask her Father in Heaven to lead her to someone she could help. That sincere prayer was answered time and again. The burdens of many were eased and their lives brightened.”

So what could I do to help others given my circumstances?

While in the shower one morning – where I get my best ideas – The Little Joy Project came to me.

Using social media for good, I’ve taken nature photos from my travels and added the word “joy” in tiny letters to each one. I scroll through my friends list until a name jumps out at me. Then on their wall, I post the picture along with “just stopping by your wall to leave you a *little* joy.”

It’s small and silly and pretty inconsequential.

But it’s also a spark. A tiny spark of joy (and I’m not talking about Marie Kondo, although I do love her tidying up principles).

All of those little sparks begin to add up to more and more joy. Until one day that pebble seems pretty far away. It’s still there but it’s not quite as overwhelming.

And the response to my little project has been fun, too.

“This is probably one of the best posts on my wall ever! Thanks!”

“Thank you kindly. I needed that today.”

“Love this!”

“Best thing ever!”

“That’s hilarious!”

“Thanks, I needed some joy today!”

I’m not easing anyone’s burdens like the woman who was joyously happy. But I do believe I’m adding a little sunshine.

And with the winter we’ve had, we could all use a little more of that.

By Jacki Wood, That they might have joy column, Nodaway News Leader, 2/28/19

‘In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity’

“That they might have joy” column by Jacki Wood, Nodaway News Leader

I’m standing in the middle of the road.

If you’ve ever been in the middle of a road, or seen someone who is, you know it’s probably not the safest place to be.

There’s a chance you might get hit. More likely, though, you’ll get yelled at or cursed at, honked at or shown some unfriendly hand gestures.

When I was a kid, we lived on a quiet street, so it was pretty common to see us in the middle of the road. We would play ball or skateboard or even go sledding with little concern. Now I live in the country and walking down the middle of a gravel road can be quite peaceful.

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But the road I’m standing in the middle of is not a country road. It’s not a city street. Or even a busy highway. Although it’s plenty loud. And it can feel fairly threatening.

The road I’m standing on is a political one. And I don’t think I’m alone here either.

It’s sometimes hard to see each other there in the middle, or near the middle, because the far left and the far right are zooming by us so incredibly loudly.

We’re trying to navigate each day while surrounded by the divisiveness and partisan polarization that has grown in our country in recent years. And we’re doing it, right there amidst all that yelling and cursing and honking, still trying to stand on our principles without being tossed to and fro.

Before I go any further, let me be clear…I’m not promoting silence or complicity. When there are issues we feel strongly about, we should take a stand, write our elected leaders, hold meetings, walk in parades, knock on doors, advocate, share on social media. We can do it fervently and still respectfully.

In “Eisenhower Republicanism – Pursuing the Middle Way,” author Steven Wagner writes: “In American political culture, those who describe themselves as ‘middle of the road’ are often portrayed as unwilling to take a stand or lacking in political sophistication. This was not the case with Eisenhower, whose ‘middle way’ was a carefully considered political philosophy similar to Theodore Roosevelt’s cautious progressivism.”

Eisenhower said his ‘middle way’ was a “practical working basis between extremists.”

Sounds to me like we could use some of that practicality in our current political climate.

So what can we learn from Eisenhower today?

A couple of Bills may have the answer.

Bill Kristol, a conservative Republican of the George HW Bush White House and founder of The Weekly Standard, and Bill Galston, a Democrat veteran of the Bill Clinton White House and senior fellow with the Brookings Institution, created the New Center project and wrote Ideas to Re-Center America.

New Center

“We present some bold new ideas for re-centering America. We know that our politics have gotten off kilter. As the parties have become more polarized and our politics more partisan, the great American majority – which wants to see cooperation and compromise – has been left with no good choices.”

Their ideas center on four core values they believe can help move politics beyond polarization – opportunity, security, ingenuity and accountability.

“The ideas we advance represent a New Center for American politics, a politics that reflects both our enduring principles and the new circumstances we confront. In place of a politics stuck in the past, we offer an agenda re-centered in the future, not a tepid compromise between Left and Right, but a new way toward the stronger economy, more inclusive society and more effective politics that we all want for the country we love.”

You can read more at newcenter.org.

Albert Einstein said: “In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.” While we might be going through some difficult times, there might also be some great opportunities out there to discover.

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So if you’re like me and standing in the middle of the road, or on the shoulder of one side or the other, let’s look for ways to come together and not be drowned out by all the yelling and cursing and honking.

I’d much rather help build bridges (than walls) to help unite and strengthen our nation.


‘some of it true, some of it false, and much of it partially true’

(“That they might have joy” column written by Jacki Wood and first published in the 6/28/18 Nodaway News Leader)

When God established a principle in the Bible, he did so with two or three witnesses.

In 2 Corinthians 13, and similarly in Matthew 18, it says: “In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established.”

The gospels are a perfect example of this. Matthew, Mark and Luke were all witnesses of Jesus Christ, and together, established the truth of his life, death and resurrection.

The idea of having two or three witnesses is a practical concept in many areas of life. It’s especially useful in a court of law, and I believe, an essential aspect of seeking truth.

In his “What is Truth?” speech, Dieter F. Uchtdorf said: “Never in the history of the world have we had easier access to more information — some of it true, some of it false, and much of it partially true. Consequently, never in the history of the world has it been more important to learn how to correctly discern between truth and error.”

This is difficult as we are surrounded daily by claims of fake news, alternative facts and post-truth.

Fake news is not a new tactic. Propaganda has been used for decades all over the world. But the internet has exacerbated it.

In “Fake news: What exactly is it – and how can you spot it?” from the June 13 edition of The Telegraph, James Titcomb and James Carson wrote: “Before the internet, it was much more expensive to distribute information, building up trust took years and there were much simpler definitions of what constituted news and media, making regulation easier.

“But the rise of social media has broken down many of the boundaries that prevented fake news from spreading in democracies. In particular it has allowed anyone to create and disseminate information.

“Facebook and Twitter allow people to exchange information on a much greater scale than ever before, while publishing platforms like WordPress allow anyone to create a dynamic website with ease.

“In short, the barriers to creating fake news have been undone.”

This is why using “two or three witnesses,” or getting information from more than one source, is so important.

One way to do this is expanding what you read and who you follow.

At our staff meeting this week, Kay shared a quote from “How to Think for Yourself When Algorithms Control What You Read” by Marc Zao-Sanders: “Pretty much everything you see online, from search results to your Facebook feed, is generated by algorithms. This invisible code prioritizes information that it thinks you’ll like — which can turn your online experience into an echo chamber of identical opinions. How can you keep algorithms from penning in your worldview? To start with, think about how dangerous it can be to see only things that you already agree with. Be skeptical of the veracity and comprehensiveness of your internet feeds. Make sure you’re reading widely about issues in the world, and deliberately follow people with views that differ from yours.”

Vanessa Otero, who created a media bias chart for a more balanced consumption of news, said: “We are living in a time where we have more information available to each of us than ever before in history. However, we are not all proficient at distinguishing between good information and bad information. This is true for liberal, moderate and conservative people.”

Another aspect is realizing we may only have a portion of the truth.

The ancient parable of The Blind Men and the Elephant, as written by American poet John Godfrey Saxe, begins:

    Six men of Indostan

    To learning much inclined,

    Who went to see the Elephant

    (Though all of them were blind),

    That each by observation

    Might satisfy his mind.

The six blind men each grab a different part of the elephant and describe what they think it is like.

“One of the men finds the elephant’s leg and describes it as being round and rough like a tree. Another feels the tusk and describes the elephant as a spear. A third grabs the tail and insists that an elephant is like a rope. A fourth discovers the trunk and insists that the elephant is like a large snake.

“Each is describing truth. And because his truth comes from personal experience, each insists that he knows what he knows (Uchtdorf).”

    And so these men of Indostan

    Disputed loud and long,

    Each in his own opinion

    Exceeding stiff and strong,

    Though each was partly in the right,

    And all were in the wrong!

There’s a lot of anger amidst a lot of partial truth. People are quick to yell “I’m right and you’re wrong” or “fake news!” if they don’t agree with what’s written.

If you’re only watching one cable news channel or reading one national newspaper, you may be seeing only one part of the elephant.

I suggest we pause, take a little break, cool off a bit. Stop making assumptions. Realize others may have some truth, too, or a different perspective like each of the blind men.

Be skeptical. Question things. Everything. Follow people with different views. Verify facts from different sources.

And listen. Really listen to what others are saying. Be humble. And patient. And meek.

Maybe then we can better learn how to correctly discern between what is truth and what is not. And find a little peace in the process.


Beneath the surface: Maryville resident fights through pain to live joyfully

By Jacki Wood, Nodaway News Leader

“Look beneath the surface; let not the several quality of a thing nor its worth escape thee” – Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 167 AD

Karin Yarnell doesn’t have the energy to play with her kids. Or do house projects. Or be involved with her church or help others or spend time with friends.

All of which was a big part of her life just a few short years ago.

“I used to be extremely active,” the 40-year-old Maryville resident said. “I loved to play sports, work out, hike, swim, bike and run.”

Now, she does none of those things.

To look at her, though, nothing seems wrong.

But beneath the surface, she lives her life in pain.

“I rarely have pain-free days,” she said. “I have learned to fight through pain as much as possible to be able to do what I love. Some days, though, the pain wins, and I go to bed.

“I reserve my best for my family and my ministry. After that, there isn’t much left.”

She and her husband Jason, who is the Baptist Student Union minister, have three children, Meghan, Caleb and Allison. She is a homemaker and also serves as a BSU mentor.

Diagnosed illnesses

Yarnell lives with what have been called invisible illnesses – chronic conditions not visible on the outside.

She was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s in 2005 and Celiac disease in 2008.

With Hashimoto’s, her immune system attacks her thyroid and prevents it from making enough hormones.

Celiac disease is a digestive disorder that damages the small intestine and is triggered by eating foods containing gluten.

She was on thyroid medication for several years but her body started having hyperthyroid reaction to it and she was taken off it.

Then in 2012, she was also diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Fibromyalgia.

CFS affects many body systems making it difficult to do normal activities. Fibromyalgia includes long-term pain spread throughout the body in the joints, muscles, tendons and other soft tissues and is often linked to fatigue, sleep problems, headaches, depression and anxiety.

“I have been under the care of several doctors and functional practitioners throughout the years who have all provided me with great knowledge and have helped in various ways,” she said. “My treatment right now consists of a very strict diet, rest, managing stress, low exercise and managing symptoms with medication as they arise.”

Daily life

“Fatigue is the single most life-changing symptom I have,” Yarnell said. “I can manage pain. I can manage not feeling well, but the fatigue is relentless. It’s not a fatigue that goes away with sleep. It doesn’t go away with a nap. It’s always with me. It affects me every day.”

In addition to fatigue, she is extremely sensitive to gluten and has severe reactions to even a small amount of cross-contamination. She makes her own meals, doesn’t eat out and takes food with her wherever she goes.

“I try to set people at ease, but I know some feel uncomfortable when I can’t eat what they have prepared,” she said. “I never expect anyone to cater to my needs, but I know they still feel badly about it.”

Another symptom is brain fog which has affected her ability to communicate with others.

“I used to be a confident public speaker, but now I have difficulty stringing together coherent thoughts.”

She also can’t drive for long periods of time as her eyes grow weary and her whole system wants to go to sleep.

KarinYarnell

Dedicated support

“My family is tremendously supportive,” she said. “My husband is phenomenal. He believes me and affirms me when I tell him how I feel even though I look fine on the outside. He prays for me. He encourages me to try new things that might help my symptoms. He adds extra work on himself so I don’t have to do it and he never complains.”

She said her children are incredibly supportive as well.

“They understand I can’t do the things I used to do. They make me laugh. They are understanding and sympathetic.”

Yarnell said her church recently started an encouragement group for women with chronic illness. It is open to the public and meets at 7:30 pm on the first Monday of the month at Laura Street Baptist Church.

“It is a blessing to be around others who understand how you feel,” she said. “I read a lot of blogs and talk to people online that share my symptoms. Sometimes it’s just nice to know you aren’t alone.”

  

Different view

One of the biggest lessons she’s learned is how to depend on God for everything.

“I need God every day,” she said. “He is my Friend, my Comfort, my Savior. I talk to Him a lot about the pain I am feeling. I know He knows and understands. He sees my struggle that is invisible to everyone else and He is there for me. He gives me joy, peace and contentment.”

She is also continuing to learn it’s okay to not do everything that is expected.

“The reality is that I can’t,” she said. “I have to choose to not feel guilty about it.”

Despite living with these illnesses, Yarnell offers encouragement and hope.

“It’s okay and important to grieve,” she said. “Cry over what is lost, but don’t quit.

“Be kind to yourself. You don’t have to do what everyone else does. You are fighting a battle others know nothing about. Don’t compare what you can do with what healthy people do.

“You can still be happy! It might take some extra work, and you might have to cut things out in order to give your best to what you find the most meaningful, but it’s worth it.”

Background information came from the National Institutes of Health at nih.gov.


Making ‘family time’ a priority

Do you have regrets?

I always wanted to be the person who said no to that question. No regrets.

But do I? Probably.

I wish I would’ve done this. Or I probably shouldn’t have done that.

I’m not sure I really even like that question, though, or the idea of it.

Life is a journey, full of ups and downs, good choices and not so good ones.

And that is true when it comes to parenting, especially as our children have gotten into their older teen years.

I guess my husband, Larry, was pondering some of these same things last fall when he decided we were going to implement what he called “Family Time.”

Let me back up a bit and say that family has always been extremely important to us. Since our children were very young, we’ve tried to set aside one night a week for Family Home Evening, a program recommended by our church. We’ve also tried to read scriptures and pray together every day. And we’ve also tried to spend as much time together as possible, supporting them in their activities, getting together with extended family and enjoying family vacations together.

Some of these things have been more successful than others.

In the last couple of years, though, it’s been extremely difficult as our kids started high school and became more involved with things.

Larry was reminded of guidance we once received from the leaders of our church: “We call upon parents to devote their best efforts to the teaching and rearing of their children. We counsel parents and children to give highest priority to family prayer, gospel study and instruction and wholesome family activities.”

Have we been giving our children our “best efforts?” Not always. We needed to do better.

So what is family time? Ideally, it’s 30 minutes to an hour set aside for praying, reading scriptures, listening to each other without devices distracting us and finding some fun to throw in there like a quick game of charades, or if we have more time, a board game. Or we’ll watch a video on YouTube. Or just let them talk about what’s important to them.

 

I can’t say Family Time happens every single day. Some days it’s just impossible for all of us to be in one place at the same time and awake. Larry leaves in the morning before everyone is up and goes to sleep sometimes before everyone gets home.

Sometimes it’s only five or ten minutes, long enough to see how everyone’s day was, pray and read a few scriptures.

Sometimes we combine it with dinner. Or we read and eat at the same time.

Sometimes we do it over the phone or use FaceTime.

Sometimes we laugh so much we cry. And sometimes it’s rough, especially when people are moody or tired, and someone leaves the room in anger.

But looking back at the last six months, I feel more connected with my kids than I ever have before.

And more hopeful.

Because when I look around at the world and all the darkness that seems to be growing with each day, I want to make sure I’m doing what I can to help spread more light. And help them do the same.

If we want to see change in the world, we must be the change. And I believe that starts at home.

Dieter F. Uchtdorf said: “We build deep and loving family relationships by doing simple things together, like family dinner and by just having fun. We talk with, rather than about, each other. We learn from each other, and we appreciate our differences as well as our commonalities.”

So I’m encouraging you to start your own Family Time, whatever that means to you. It doesn’t have to be like ours. If you’re not religious, that’s okay. Make it your own. Five or ten minutes when they wake up or before they go to bed. Or a phone call or FaceTime every afternoon on your break at work. Whatever works for you and your situation.

But make it a priority. Show them how much you love them by giving of your time, even when you don’t think you have any to spare.

You won’t regret it.


‘If you see something, say something’

That they might have joy column by Jacki Wood, printed in the Nodaway News Leader, February 8, 2018

Jacki New

“Have I, have you, been too silent? Is there an easy crime of silence?” – Carl Sandburg

In November, Dictionary.com announced its word of the year for 2017 was “complicit” and wrote it “has sprung up in conversations this year about those who speak out against powerful figures and institutions and about those who stay silent.”

Complicit is defined as “choosing to be involved in an illegal or questionable act, especially with others; having partnership or involvement in wrongdoing.”

They also wrote that complicity — or the refusal to be complicit — was pertinent to some of the biggest news topics of the year, from politics to anthem protests by NFL players to the #MeToo movement.

I’ve been pondering this word over the last couple of months, not for the reasons they chose it, but in regards to underage drinking.

Why are so many adults so complicit when it comes to this?

Responses I’ve heard include “they’re just being young and dumb” or “I did it when I was their age and turned out just fine.”

I served on a mental health taskforce in Nodaway County several years ago that also focused on underage drinking.

One of the things I learned was that teen brains are not fully formed until age 25 or even later. In recent years, more research has been done on this subject.

According to the University of Rochester Medical Center: “Adult and teen brains work differently. Adults think with the prefrontal cortex, the brain’s rational part. This is the part of the brain that responds to situations with good judgment and an awareness of long-term consequences. Teens process information with the amygdala. This is the emotional part.”

The American Psychological Association, American Psychiatric Association and National Association of Social Workers, in a 2012 brief to the Supreme Court, wrote: “It is increasingly clear that adolescent brains are not yet fully mature in regions and systems related to higher order executive functions such as impulse control, planning ahead and risk avoidance.”

I’m not giving teens a pass when it comes to underage drinking because their brains aren’t fully developed. I believe we can expect more from them than “they’re just being young and dumb.”

But as Meredith Wadman, MD, wrote in the Washington Post, “Kids will be kids so parents must be parents.”

“I don’t buy the argument that advises adults to wink and nod at underage drinking because it’s going to happen regardless. It’s not true that the attitudes of adults, and their seriousness about laws and rules, have no influence on teenagers’ drinking habits.”

She cited the College Alcohol Study at the Harvard School of Public Health which spent eight years studying more than 50,000 students at 120 colleges.

They concluded that students drink more on campuses that have a strong drinking culture, few alcohol-control policies and weak enforcement. They also found that few students engage in binge drinking at some colleges while 80 percent of students reported binge drinking at others.

“Don’t tell me that college policies and cultures — in other words, the tone set by those in authority on campus — have nothing to do with these disparities,” she wrote.

Wadman also looked at the University of Florida which was once known as a top party school before administrators adopted measures that included mandating alcohol education for freshmen and banning alcohol advertising at concerts and sports events. The binge-drinking rate dropped from 57 to 38 percent in four years.

Administrators and students at the University of Virginia created a high-profile marketing campaign to combat underage drinking. In the 10-year period that followed, there was a 33 percent decrease in binge drinking, an 81 percent decline in drinking and driving and a 76 percent drop in alcohol-related injuries among students.

Wadman used the word “parents” in her article, but I believe all adults need to step up to help combat this issue. Sadly, not everyone has involved parents. And even then, none of us can be there at every moment in our child’s lives, especially, for example, single parents working two and three jobs to support their families or those with other circumstances and challenges.

“If you see something, say something” has been a campaign by the Department of Homeland Security in recent years to help combat terrorism. I think it’s great advice to combat underage drinking as well.

It can take a lot of courage to speak up sometimes. We can be afraid of the consequences that might come in doing so. But potentially saving lives should be more important than backlash.

Mahatma Gandhi said, “Silence becomes cowardice when occasion demands speaking out the whole truth and acting accordingly.”

This is a serious problem that needs all of our courageous voices speaking out.

So if you see something, please say something.