Traditions to bring People Together

After watching Oprah’s BELIEF series I am filled with awe and wonder of the many different places, traditions, religions, beliefs, and the many ways people strive to connect. It was so interesting, fascinating and I walked away from the week more aware, inspired, awe struck and wanting to do more to connect with those around me.

SO, I thought I would put together a list of ideas that could bring families closer together with the upcoming holiday seasons ahead.

I am going to list out celebration ideas (primarily from Belief) and from around the world and then put my own twist on them and how you could do them with your families.


Holi: *is a Spring festival in india, also knows as the festival of colors or the festival of love. The night before the celebrations there is a Holika bonfire where people gather, sing and dance. The next morning is a free-for-all carnival of colors, where participants play, chase and color each other with dry powder and colored water. This festival typically comes in March or February. The festival signifies the victory of good over evil, the arrival of spring, the end of winter and a day to meet others, play, laugh, forget and forgive, and repair broken relationships *taken from wikpedia

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My ideas: For a winter fest you could invite friends and family over while it is light out, invite them to bring food and then have everyone share tubes of food coloring and color the snow around the yard or take it to the mountains. Have everyone write words, make hearts, just color the snow & then when everyone is done turn it into a big, colorful snow ball fight. Then make a big bonfire and have everyone warm up around the fire.

You could also do the same idea in the Spring, but use chalk dust and a picnic setting.


Mandala: In the movie Belief there was a beautiful part of the series where a group of Monks created a gorgeous mandala out of sand. They took hours to perfect every detail and it was a beautiful work of art. But, to them the piece was not complete until it was swept into an urn and dumped into a river to complete its circle. *Both Navajo Indians and Tibetan monks create sand mandalas to demonstrate the impermanence of life.  The word “mandala” is from the classical Indian language of Sanskrit. Loosely translated to mean “circle,” a mandala is far more than a simple shape. It represents wholeness, and can be seen as a model for the organizational structure of life itself–a cosmic diagram that reminds us of our relation to the infinite, the world that extends both beyond and within our bodies and minds. Describing both material and non-material realities, the mandala appears in all aspects of life: the celestial circles we call earth, sun, and moon, as well as conceptual circles of friends, family, and community.*taken from mandalaproject


My ideas: You could gather family or friends together and create a group mandala project—One year I had my family at a beach and we gathered up a huge number of rocks and made a giant heart on the beach. It was a very fun and unifying experience. I have also gathered family around and handed out coloring pages of various mandala drawings. We all sat for hours chatting and coloring like little children. It is very calming to the mind.  *Carl Jung said that a mandala symbolizes “a safe refuge of inner reconciliation and wholeness.”

You could also take fall or winter items (pine cones, leaves, needles, grasses, etc) and make your own natural pattern with the items from a forest floor.


A Pilgrimage: In the movie Belief there were many different people from different religions who would do personal pilgrimages—some were to holy lands, others were 500 miles walks, while another was a personal 3 day quest of fast and faith.  I was moved by all the stories, but one stands out in my mind–the 65 year old man who did not love himself, was broken hearted and seeking peace on a 500 mile personal pilgrimage. I thought to myself, “could I do that? How could I do something like that closer to home?”


My ideas: Maybe you pick a mountain near your home you could climb together as a family or alone to find some meaning. Maybe you find a walking trail that goes for miles and miles and commit to a distance that will bring you closer to…God, your family, yourself. I do think walking is one of the best types of meditation, so why not take a day, a week, a week end to get quiet, to go within or to experience with those closest to you.     I remember one of my only memories of going to the mountains with my family as a child, we arrived at the base of a small mountain. My Dad told all of us kids that we were going to climb to the top. As kids, we whined and looked at this mountain as the toughest challenge we had ever faced. We walked and walked and finally all made it up the mountain together. When we were at the top, we each found a special rock and we made our own family, rock monument. We were so proud that we made it to the top together. It will be a forever memory.


History: There was an Aboriginal man in the Australian outback that was leaving his grandson with ancient songs and a trek that told stories about their ancestors. The stories and songs were part of the oldest religion in the world, so the grandfather felt a huge responsibility to pass these along to his grandson, so the stories will continue to live on.


My ideas: We each have stories that we are told, lullabies that are sung, pieces that have been woven from years and years of history, people, family, places…In such a digital age, we have abundant resources to find stories from the past, to write our own stories down, to encourage our children to write their stories for those who follow.  For my daughter’s 12 year Thanksgiving gift, I have created pages for her to write her own story, to share her own feelings of where she is at, to share her future dreams, to connect with who she is and wants to become. I gave my daughter a journal when she was 8 filled with questions. I am giving my husband a journal to write down his story that is filled with prompts and questions so that his daughter and generations after will hear his stories.   I write a letter to my daughter every 6 months & will give them all to her when she is 18.  Every year at Thanksgiving I make a photo book and gift it to our daughter with a special letter and images from the previous year—Giving Thanks that she was part of our life.

Just last night my husbands mother had laid out a small shrine of items that were her fathers. She had them neatly organized with special belt buckles that were treasured, a tin of matches, old pictures, a soap dish, a coin purse, a shaving bowl, bolo tie…treasures that she had been keeping to pass on to her children. Items that reminded everyone of this man who had passed on, but seemed to bring up a treasured past of memories. My husband was like a little kid remembering his beloved grandpa. He slowly looked at each item being taken back to a different time. The things that live on are truly the memories, the stories, the songs, the little details.

Well, Stay tuned. I think I am going to continue this week with more traditions and ideas inspired from the movie, Belief. I have done previous posts on traditions, so check them out too.  I will do another post later this week with more ideas.

Have a beautiful day. -H


What example are you to your kids?


The last few weeks have been an emotional, roller coaster ride with my sweet daughter who entered middle school this year. Every Monday she would wake up in tears, with a face terrified of what lie ahead of her day. After the 4th week of tears, I decided to give her the day, to listen to her, to try and understand where she was and what she needed as a little person. The day consisted of touring another nearby, smaller school,  talking to one of my sisters who through her middle school years begged our mom to home school her, looking online for schooling from home options, and just taking the time to listen and try to understand her feelings.

My daughter has suffered with different anxieties her entire childhood, which led to different ticks, nail biting, lip chewing, text anxiety, social anxiety…I have been a mother trying to find ways to help her cope all through her schooling.   I think I just could not bare to see her suffer any longer and I wanted to try and understand, to respect the needs of this little person.

The conclusion: I pulled her out of her school within three days and signed her up for an online academy that we are testing out until December. Then, in January she has to attend 2 classes in the public school for social interaction while still working her online academy. I would not suggest this to everyone, but I knew my daughter might be a great fit for a program that she could work at her own pace, communicate on a daily basis with her teachers and just feel personal responsibility for herself. So far, it has been a great experience.

My personal pain: My husband has struggled since day one and is having a hard time understanding or seeing the logic in the situation. It has been numerous, intense conversations. My family also has had their opinions and feelings. It has been a tough few weeks.

My faith: As her mother I decided to try and give this little person a voice, to respect her feelings, to try and understand where she is at during this difficult age. I see a little girl that is torn between feeling younger and being thrown into a world where little girls are wearing make-up, flirting with boys, not caring about school or respecting their teachers and she is scared.

Now, I have heard it from everyone!!—we all had to go through this tough age, to be scared, to go any way. But, my heart wanted to listen and respect where this little person was and stand up for her. I did not want to let the world bully away her feelings. I did not want to toss aside respecting another soul and just tell her to tough it out.

We are parents!! If we do not listen and try to see and understand where our children are coming from. Who will they turn to in times of need? If we do not respect their feelings of need and nurture, who will?

Now, I know some of you out there will not agree with me, but you are not my daughter’s mother. You each have your own children to raise. Each child is different, each child has their own strengths, weaknesses, potential…I know my daughters strengths—she is self-motivated, driven, school focused and works so hard. She was feeling lost in a sea of faces, no connection to her teachers, feeling overwhelmed by the kids around her who did not care about school or who used her because “she was smart & could do the work.”

We need to do all we can to protect these little people and lift them up & believe in them & what they are capable of. They need to feel that we listen, that we care, that we are trying to guide them to our best ability. That is what I am trying to do.

I am trying to be an example to her to listen to her inner guidance, to follow her feelings, to step out of the norm if you need to so that you can find yourself a little more clearly. If we cannot respect and be an example to our kids, who will?

tara-whitney-quote1(pp_w540_h321)Here is a great quote to exemplify my thoughts…

Every child is a soul with a different growth rate and with a potential that is varied and vast. Respecting the needs of our little ones from a very early age, listening to their unique voices, hearing their wants will assure them that no matter how tiny they are somebody will kneel down to listen. Respecting the potential that his hidden within each child.

Practicing conscious parenting you allow your children to develop without forcing down their throats the magic of competition, expectations, exam fevers. Do not push, press or force them into unnecessary ‘speedy’ growth, unnecessary sufferings and pressures. Let the children’s emotional body develop at its own pace, let their physical body stay strong and fear-less, let their mental growth be inspired and full of wonder.  -Nuit

20130420-iyanla-ep117-quotes-8-600x411 Good-parenting-quotes

I hope you look at your children a little more closely today & try to see one need they may have. Follow your heart and give them an extra hug, take them on a mommy/missy date, sit down and just talk, go on a walk together, tell jokes, learn something new together, just listen, just look at them closely and ask them—what do you need?? what can I do for you?

Have a beautiful day. Peace to you.  -H

Don’t Worry Be Happy


In recognition of all the nervous kids starting school soon, I wanted to send a well wish of HAPPINESS.

Last night I got together with my brothers and sisters and their kids. We talked about things the kids were nervous about with school starting soon. Many kids jumped in, “I hate school” “Lockers” “Bullies” “Mean teachers” & then the adults shared a few stories from their youth. It was fun to hear from the many generations talk about what made them worry, how they made friends from strangers, nervousness about locker combinations, bullies, if they were going to have nice teachers, why they didn’t like school & why they did…it was fun!!

We then had each family take a helium filled balloon outside & had each member from their family write down any worries or concerns about starting school. Each family then watched as each balloon began to drift away…We were literally watching our worries float away. It was beautiful.

We then had then all watch and dance to the following song—it was a perfect fit!! Enjoy!!

And remember this—feelings are real, so take the time to talk to your kids, see how they are feeling, what they are worried about and do all you can to help take away their worries.  -Peace and Love to you today.

What are you going to do for Father’s Day?

In honor of the great men in our lives…great youtube

Ideas for a successful Father’s Day:

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Campout in your backyard! My Dad just wanted to do some dutch oven cooking, have a fire & make smokes, so we have decided to invite the whole family to bring over their tents & have a campout in honor of our Dad.


Let them do something that is all their own!! Father’s Day weekend my husband is racing in a Ragnar race (Two vans, 10+ people) traveling & running overnight. This may not sound like an ideal activity for many, but for my man, he was all in! Give your husband a day to do something that he wants to do…let him have a day fishing, golfing, favorite breakfast, lunch & dinner, let them go geo caching, a bike ride, watch a game, anything that their heart desires. Let them have some time to do something they enjoy.

Sifting-Gold1Go do something of interest: My husband has wanted to go Gold panning, so one of his gifts is a gold pan & a trip up a local canyon. Is there a lake your family has wanted to hike to or a museum you have wanted to visit. Maybe try paint balling, go bowling, go carting, visit a amusement park,Take the family and do something you have all wanted to see or do.

Mini-Fruit-Pizzas-with-Marshmallow-Creme-Frosting-03_miniMake something together: Last night my daughter and her Dad made cookies together. It was so fun to hear them talking ingredients, cookie paddles, teaching, learning, bonding. Make a fun family craft (handprint tie, slime, play dough, fridge magnets, cards, etc) Make something yummy like fruit pizza’s, homemade pizza’s, personal omelets, favorite meal, etc.

1114-588x352Share stories: Personal stories (Talk about when your kids were born. How you felt as parents, as a father for the first time) Make up stories (begin a story and have each family member add-on to the story or find funny pictures in magazines or coloring books & make up stories about the images)


Make a soundtrack of your life: Think of your Dad/Father & the songs they always sing, love to listen to, remind you of things about them and make a special soundtrack & listen to it all day long. OR gift it to them, so they can enjoy it on their own.

final-brighter-feet-copyMake a special memory book with Personal cards/letters: I had all my siblings hand write a letter to my Dad & send me a pic of the letters. I then compiled them with pics in a Walmart Photo book & we are going to gift it to him. It turned out darling because the grand kids also drew pictures & wrote letters. It is priceless.

happy-springPlain old Quality Time: Take the day & do nothing but be together! Go on a walk, take a nap, make yummy food, play cards, watch a favorite television show, read stories, do anything…TOGETHER!

Whatever you do for your Father or Dad…enjoy it! Make it memorable & enjoy every moment of the day! It is that one special day that is all about those great men in your life. Cherish and be grateful you have them.

-Peace to you.  -H

Happy Mother’s Day Week

Tammy-Swales-Rochester-NY-Photographer-Portraits-mother-daughter-laughing-studioHappy Mother’s Day Week

I wanted to share with you the following beautiful you tubes..share it with your sons & daughters. [I am putting two separate versions–son & daughter]

As a mother we have a responsibility to lift our children higher, to see them as the beautiful gifts that have been given to us. We get to love them every single day and cherish the moments and memories that we experience. I hope this Mother’s Day week you will take a moment & share with your children why you LOVE being their mother. Those moments are priceless. Make this week memorable: Write your children a love note, sit and watch a fun movie together, go on a Mommy/Missy or Mommy/Me date, Make friendship bracelets and wear them all week, give them a special charm that means something between the two of you. Sure it is your Mother’s Day Week, but make it special with those that made you a Mother.

Enjoy the movies.

black-and-white-daughter-family-love-mother-favim-com-110567FOR DAUGHTERS


Some other fun pics & quotes to make you smile about Mother’s Day



The beautiful week that is often over shadowed by Black Friday and Cyber Monday ads is upon us and my gift I hope to bestow upon you is this…to do one simple thing to show your thanks. How? Here you go…


For your FAMILY:  A simple gesture of LOVE. Write a note, a line, a blurb of something you LOVE about them. This morning I have been creating two flip books for two of my siblings. I have two siblings that were born between this giving holiday, so we decided to create a bday book to celebrate them. It was humbling to see my parents notes and my other five siblings write memories, send pictures, send funny thoughts, feelings, etc. about two great people. I think you always appreciate family, but you definitely take them for granted. It was beautiful to read the memories and see these people through other lenses. What a gift. I don’t think we can open our hearts enough, even though sometimes it is harder than you think. So go beyond yourself this week, share a thought, a love note, a fun pic, something that connects you to those closest in your giving circle.


For your CHILDREN: Help them get in the habit of finding things to be grateful for. Each night we either write in a journal or share them out loud, at least three things we are grateful for from the day. Children are never too young to learn gratitude.

Toddlers are by definition completely egocentric. Still, children as young as 15 to 18 months can begin to grasp concepts that lead to gratitude, says Lewis. “They start to understand that they are dependent; that Mom and Dad do things for them,” she says. In other words, toddlers comprehend that they are separate human beings from their parents, and that Mom and Dad often perform actions to make them happy (from playing peekaboo to handing out cookies) — even if kids that age can’t articulate their appreciation. By age 2 or 3, children can talk about being thankful for specific objects, pets, and people, says Ryan. By age 4, children can understand being thankful not only for material things like toys but for acts of kindness, love, and caring.

How to Teach it? Work gratitude into your daily conversation. Lately, we’ve been trying to weave appreciation for mundane things into our everyday talk — When you reinforce an idea frequently, it’s more likely to stick. One way to turn up the gratitude in your house is to pick a “thanking” part of the day. Two old-fashioned, tried-and-true ideas: Make saying what good things happened today part of the dinnertime conversation or make bedtime prayers part of your nightly routine.

By learning gratitude, they become sensitive to the feelings of others, developing empathy and other life skills along the way, says Barbara Lewis, author of What Do You Stand For? For Kids ”On the flip side, kids who aren’t taught to be grateful end up feeling entitled and perpetually disappointed,” says Lewis. article

Jeffrey Froh, PsyD research shows there are plenty of good reasons to try to teach gratitude  He recently asked one group of middle school students to list up to five things they were grateful for every day for two weeks, while a second group recorded daily hassles and a third only completed a survey. “The gratitude group experienced a jump in optimism and overall well-being,” reports Froh. “Furthermore, they were more satisfied with school even three weeks later.” Likewise, a Harris Interactive survey of more than 1,200 kids between the ages of 8 and 18 found that those who were grateful for what they had were also more generous, even if they were fairly materialistic.  -Familycircle article

Be a Role Model of Gratitude: As parents we need to understand that we can’t expect our children to be grateful, if we are not examples of this ourselves. Find gratitude in the little things and you will also find it in the bigger things.

Say Thank you: Just the simple act of helping your children learn to say thank you will make a big difference in the energy they carry and the people they touch with their smile.

Explain to children why gratitude is important: The strategy: Explain why it’s important to be grateful when someone helps you out. “Kids sometimes have the belief that people ‘should’ do things for them,” says Froh, “so it’s helpful to point out that people’s kind deeds are often done out of the goodness of their hearts.” -Familycircle

Gratitude tree: I have seen this done with a simple tree made to hang on the fridge & paper leaves were then attached, an entire wall created into a tree in your home, something to add to the dinner table, etc. You could buy silk leaves, use paper tags, stickers…the ideas are endless. Just google, “gratitude tree” and look at the many images and ideas you could create. Have fun with this. When family comes to visit, have them write something for the tree. Have your children create a special leaf each day

Write Thank you notes: The strategy: Write appreciative letters to the important people in our lives. “Acknowledging your feelings on paper makes them more conscious and concrete,” says Robert Emmons, PhD, author of Thanks! How the New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier (Houghton Mifflin)   -Familycircle

Find a goodwill project: Whether it is volunteering at a local charity, collecting old toys for a toy drive, sending post cards to soldiers or making blankets for someone in need–find something that your whole family can get excited about.

Here is another idea I found: “We put our change in a ‘Pennies from Heaven’ jar,” says Barbara Owens, mother of four, ages 10, 12, 16, and 20, in Manalapan, New Jersey. “Every time something devastating happens in the world, we sit down and talk about how blessed we are, then send a contribution.”


Hope this helps you find one simple thing you can ‘GIVE’ to those you LOVE.

-Peace & blessings to you this holiday.  -H



Parenting with Spirit part 1

I just finished reading Jane Bartlett’s good book, “Parenting with Spirit.” I am always in search of more ideas to enrich the lives of those I love, so this was a good read. I am going to share with you some of the ideas and tidbits that I personally highlighted and the many take aways that you can use with your family. [note: these ideas jump all over from highlighted lines I was drawn to, the book carries many ideas and shares action ideas and many good things for your families, so this is just a glimpse—go buy the book! smile. smile.]

Image“the greatest enemy of the spiritual life is the human tendency to sleepwalk through life. Prayer calls us to wakefulness.” -Thich Nhat Hanh

Pray with your children: I wrote about the details of praying with your family in another blog post “are you sleepwalking through life”  God is not only to be found when we are on our knees with our hands together. I often find myself saying a prayer while driving my daughter to school, praying for her day, that she will be safe, that she will be a light to others…I will also find myself praying when I am alone, praying for my family, having those moments praying for my child, my husband, our life together, and it may be on a drive, parked at a park, sitting on my back deck, just looking at the sky, not necessarily on my knees.

Here was a creative idea that Jane shares from her book: Create a cairn–a pile of stones used as a marker to show walkers the way. This works best when there are a number of you gathered for a communal  [family] prayer. In turn, place your pebbles into a pile in the center and as you do so speak aloud your prayers.    This is an engaging way of helping children take stock of their day or week. Collect three stones: one smooth pebble, one a jagged piece, and the third a sparkling gem. Offer the children each of the three stones. As they hold the pebble encourage them to recollect an ordinary moment of the day for which they are grateful. With the jagged, they recollect a moment that was difficult for them. And with the gemstone they recollect a moment that was sparkly and happy.

Parental blessings: Giving your child a blessing is a powerful experience for both you and the recipient. You don’t have to be a priest or designated holy person to give a blessing, you just need to have a genuine desire to extend your love and care to someone else. Growing up in my home we had a designated chair that even had a gold plaque that read, “blessing chair” and the prayers in my home were very formal with oils and rules. I have come to a deep understanding that the above statement is so very true. It is a matter of the heart, it is not only men who can gift their child a prayer of wellness or a priest or bishop who is the only one with ‘special keys’, God wants us to care for one another & if our hearts are in the right place, thinking of someone else and there well-being, then so it shall be good enough for Him to help a need, calm a troubled heart, prayer for the gift of a child, heal a sick child, comfort a child on their first day of school, bless them to find a friend, etc.…a blessing is a gift from the heart.

Scientific Studies of Prayer: There is a small amount of scientific research that seems to indicate that prayer might work. One study published in the Journal of Reproductive Medicine followed nearly 200 women in South Korea on an IVF program. Unbeknown to them, half of the women were being prayed for by Christians in North America and Australia, who had their photographs. The results were surprising, particularly for the researchers who had intended to prove that prayer doesn’t work. The women being pray for had a 50 percent success rate, compared with a 26 percent success rate for those not prayed for.     Another study, published in the American Heart Journal, covered 150 cardiac patients. They had been divided into five groups: one group received just standard care and the others additionally received guided imagery, stress relaxation, healing touch or intercessory prayer (by seven different religious groups from around the world). It was discovered that, after allowing for all manner of variables, those who received the additional “therapies” showed a 25 to 30 percent better recovery rate, and the group being prayed for fared the best with a 50-100 percent better recovery rate.


ImageSacred Ritual: Sacred ritual, however, has been disappearing from modern Western culture. As traditional religion declines, so too do the opportunities to experience collectively our connection to God.      Light two candles on the mantle every evening after dinner, one to pray for themselves [your children] and the concerns of their own lives, and the second to pray for people in the wider world.   [She has lots of ideas for family rituals and traditions–check out her book]  I have another blog post all about rituals and traditions—great ideas for your family.

Family Meal: a quarter of families only get to sit down and eat together once a month, and only 15 percent manage it every day.  Mealtimes are very important and enjoyable way to gather as a family and share news about the day: in many ways they represent the heart of family life. Taking a moment to say grace adds a deeper level of meaning to the occasion because it makes us aware that the food in front of us is a gift. There is bounty in the world, and here on the table lies the proof. Briefly, we might contemplate the sun and rain that gave the food life, the human hands that brought it to harvest and stacked it on the supermarket shelves, and finally the person who cooked it. In its fullest sense to the forces of nature and each other. There’s something sacramental about sharing food together, and it feels utterly right to have a prayer at that time. I honestly believe that food tastes better when we have had a moment of contemplation.


ImageStory time: Leaving your child to listen to a story on an audiotape may be enjoyable for a child and easy for a parent, but it can in no way capture this magic, because children’s bedtime stories are as much about the intimacy between the teller and the listener as about the tale itself. If you have had a stressful day, this is an opportunity for healing, because on your lap or tucked beneath your arms, your children feel safe and loved. Together you share a story that is like warm milk, feeding your child’s imagination and understanding of the world. Here is a book list she suggested: Chronicles of Narnia, The Secret Garden, Tom’s Midnight Garden by Philippa Pearce, Pollyanna by Eleanor H. Porter, and the Wizard of Ozby L. Frank Baum. You can also look for book awards like the Carnegie Medal, The Whitbread, The Smarties Book Prize and the Guardian Award.  Favorite picture books include: The Big Big Sea by Martin Waddell, Guess How Much I Love YOu by Sam McBratney and Anita Jeram, The Rainbow Fish by Marcus Pfister and the Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams.   One of my other personal favorite authors—Nancy Tillman, On The Night You Were Born and ANY of her other magical books. Love them!

I LOVED this idea: I have started up a new ritual in our household on Friday evenings. It is called hot chocolate night. Instead of story time taking place in separate bedrooms with individual children, we all gather together, around the fire in the winter, for hot chocolate and a story.    You could also do cookies and milk during the warmer months OR ‘Watermelon and Wonder’