Wednesday, November 26, 2014

What I Know for Sure about Resilience according to Oprah

"Strength comes from our ability to face resistance and walk through it" 
(Oprah Winfrey)


Photo obtained from http://journal.media-culture.org.au/index.php/mcjournal/issue/view/resilient

According to most dictionaries, resilience is the capacity to adapt successfully in the face of threats or disaster. The idea is that although we all experience adversity in many different ways, we are all capable to adapt. So, resilience is the capacity to withstand stress and catastrophe.

In this second chapter of "What I know for Sure", Oprah presents her inspiring ideas and experiences about resilience. An important message that I believe Oprah is trying to communicate in this book chapter is that despite challenging life experiences, we all have the capacity to adapt and bounce back. Even more important, she suggests that we actually need those challenging life experiences to develop strength and grow as human beings.  

Here are some quotes or inspiring words about resilience that I extracted from Oprah's book. 


"There is one irrefutable law of the universe: We are each responsible for our own life.", page 33.

"You must be fearless enough to give yourself the love you didn't receive", page 33.

"Every choice gives you a chance to pave your own road. Keep moving. Full speed ahead.", page 34.

"What I know for sure is that the only way to endure the quake is to adjust your stance. You can't avoid the daily tremors. They come with being alive.", page 35.

"Balance lives in the present.", page 35.

"Every difficult moment has its silver lining.", page 37.

"When you have nothing to be ashamed of, when you know who you are, and what you stand for, you stand in wisdom.", page 38.

"When you remove the fear, the answer you've been searching for comes into focus.", page 39.

"No matter what challenge you may be facing, you must remember that while the canvas of your life is painted with daily experiences, behaviors, reactions, and emotions, you're the one controlling the brush.", page 41.

"We are all the artists of our own lives...", page 41.

"I hope you, too, will keep encountering challenges. It is a blessing to be able to survive them, to be able to keep putting one foot in front of the other -- to be in a position to make the climb up life's mountain, knowing that the summit still lies ahead.", page 43.

"All of our hurdles have meaning. And being open to learning from those challenges is the difference between succeeding and getting stuck.", page 44.

"There is no strength without challenge, adversity, resistance, and often pain.", page 47.



What Does Being Religious Mean to Me?


A few days ago,  I read an article about religion that made me reflect about religion and my attitude towards it. The article is entitled "Religious Attitude". In this article, the author says that religious attitude is "nothing more than holding our beliefs - personal or collective, sound or unsound, such as God, free will, humanism, even kindness - as a general truth. That is to say, we are religious as long as we let our beliefs govern our reasoning".


I was particularly interested on the last part of this statement "we are religious as long as we let our beliefs govern our reasoning". In my opinion, this implies that when you are religious, you are actually not "reasoning". According to most dictionaries (e.g., Merriam-Webster), when you are not "reasoning", you are not thinking about something in a logical way and cannot make proper conclusions or inferences. But, is this really true? I am religious and believe that I generally try to use my "reasoning" when analyzing or judging situations.

I have to admit that I have always found interesting the dichotomy that people make between "religion" and "logic". But, is it really necessary to separate the two? Many people assume that when you are religious, you can't be logical. For example, when I tell people that I am a scientist (an ecologist who has to teach about evolution and natural selection) who believes in God...I know that I surprise a few people.

Can someone be religious and still think in a logical way?


A common belief is that science holds the ultimate truth of everything because is based on "logic" or facts that can be proved. But, is this always true?

Personally, I think that we sometimes tend to forget that the whole scientific enterprise is based on certain assumptions that cannot be proved scientifically, but that are actually guaranteed by some religious beliefs, especially coming from Judeo-Christian religions.  For instance, the orderly nature of the external world, the reliability of our cognitive faculties in knowing the world, and the objectivity of the moral values used in science are all based on Judeo-Christian principles or assumptions. Science could not even exist without these philosophical assumptions and yet these assumptions cannot be proved scientifically. But, do we ask ourselves if science exists?

Don't get me wrong, I am a scientist and I do believe in science. In my opinion, science and religion can co-exist, thus a person can be religious and still be able to use logic to make decisions.

A famous physicist, Richard Feyman, once said:


I do not believe that science can disprove the existence of God; I think that is impossible. And if it is impossible, is not a belief in science and in a God -- an ordinary God of religion -- a consistent possibility? 

I believe that what Freyman was trying to say here was that science and religion can co-exist because as scientists we need to recognize the limits of science. The reality is that we don't know everything, and often times what we know is surrounded by uncertainty. Many questions and phenomena remain unanswered or unexplained by science; so, there is always a possibility! 


What does being religious mean to me?


More than being religious, I think that I prefer to see myself as a believer in God. I am not the type of person who goes to the church every weekend. Personally, I believe that we can connect to God anywhere. But, I do have some rituals and special moments that have religious, precisely Catholic, foundations (e.g., sign of the cross, prayer before sleep, etc). Why do I do them? I don't know...I just like to have them as part of my life. 

I don't care, or question what God looks like; or, whether God is a boy or a girl. I don't even care whether other people believe or not on God. I don't see God as a person, but more as a force that we all have inside us. For me, God is a force, a sort of spiritual being that is there for us.

I never ask myself whether God exists or not; the same way that I don't ask myself what dark matter looks like. I believe in God because it brings me peace, and an anchor that keeps me afloat during difficult times. I believe that miracles occur everyday and they are not necessarily big things. Miracles are all those little things and moments that bring a smile to our faces.

Like many people, I have had my doubts regarding God, especially during difficult times when I felt abandoned and lost. But, I know that these moments don't last for ever if you believe in yourself, and in that force or spiritual being that I call God.  I guess, I just have faith. 

I am not certain if my "beliefs" govern my logic, but what I know for sure is that believing in God brings an energy to my life that is irreplaceable. 

Thursday, November 20, 2014

The Trick is to Enjoy Life

Only a few hours away from the weekend. Many good, and other less good things have happened this week; but, they are all now part of the past. 

All I can do now is to enjoy the present because it's the only way to enjoy life!


Bullying in Elementary School

http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/Bullying/Pages/Antibullyinghelp.aspx


Last night, I posted a link about an article on bullying in elementary school published in Parents Canada. The main topic of the article was that bullying starts really early, thus it's essential to discuss with our kids about the issue of bullying early.

This morning, my 5-year old son acted a little bit different. He usually likes to get to school a few minutes before the bell rings, so he can have time to play with his friends in the playground area. But, this wasn't the case today -- he didn't want to go to the playground area today. So, I asked him what was wrong. After a few seconds, he told me that there is a kid in his bus who is bullying both him and his friend. Apparently, this kid (who is in grade one) makes fun of them and is also harsh. He has done this more than once. Although there has not be any bullying occurring in the playground area, I suspect that my son is a little bit scared that this may eventually happen there too.

I only had a few minutes to talk with my son because he did not want to be late to school. In a few minutes, I tried to explain him that what the boy was doing was wrong. I also told my son that it was very good that he told me what was happening because now I may be able to help him. My son knows that bullying is bad, but he is a very sensitive boy and doesn't always know how to defend himself. 

Of course, I went to the school and briefly spoke with my son's teacher who wasn't surprised by the story. Apparently, the school already knows that this kid is bullying other kids. The teacher said that they (school) have already spoken with the child and are currently doing something else with him. I don't know if they have spoken with the parents yet, but I will try to have a longer conversation with the teacher during the next few days because I want to make certain that a serious effort is being put to solve the situation. I told the teacher that I don't like to see that my son doesn't want to play outside because of the presence of another kid.


Besides talking to the kid who is bullying, I think that it's essential that we talk we other kids. So, I suggested the teacher to talk with the kids in her class about bullying. It's important that they know how to react when another kid is bullying them. I know that she has had this conversation with them before, but it's clear that kids need to be told about bullying more than once during the school year. Now some kids are very resilient, but others are very sensitive. It's a question of personality, I guess. Regardless, no kid should tolerate bullying.

Tonight, my husband and I will take time to speak with my son about ways to deal with bullying, and this kid particularly. We have a few books about bullying and I will also read him one of those books tonight. It's not easy to prepare kids for situations like this. But, at least, we can try to provide them with tips that can help them. I wrote a post about bullying some time ago -- I need to go back to my post and the sources of information that I used for the post.


It's really sad to see that bullying starts so early in the lives of kids; my son is only in kindergarten and the kid who is bullying him is only in grade one! 

Yes, it's never too early to bully-proof our kids. 

What do you think? What do you bully-proof your kids? Do you feel that you are doing enough?


Wednesday, November 19, 2014

King Pig Angry Bird Pinata


Few weeks, I wrote a post about the birthday of my 5-year old son, Elijah. My husband organized for him a fantastic Angry Birds birthday party that Elijah and his friends enjoyed very much. 

Among all the activities organized for the birthday, there was a pinata. It was a "pig angry bird" pinata that my husband made for the party. When I wrote the post, I only had an "after-party" photo of the pinata. I did not know that there was a "before" the party photo of the pinata. As you can see, there was one photo of the pinata!





Monday, November 17, 2014

What I know for Sure about Joy According to Oprah Winfrey

A day ago, I started to read "What I know for Sure" by Oprah Winfrey.




I am a big fan of Oprah. I admire her because she is passionate, strong, powerful, influential, funny, real and very generous. So, when I heard about her recent book "What I know for Sure", I knew that I have to read it.

"What I know for Sure" is a great book that is filled with lots of inspirational ideas to deal with daily issues associated with work, life, relationships, friends, family and even our relationship with pets!

 Although I have only read  the first 27 pages of the book, I have already found several inspiring and motivational phrases and ideas that I really want to incorporate into my life. 

I will write other posts as I read the book, but here are some phrases and ideas that I have found particularly inspirational in the first 27 pages of the book. In these first pages, Oprah deals with Joy.

"What I know for sure is that every day brings a chance for you to draw in a breath, kick off your shoes, and step out and dance -- to live free of regret and filled with as much joy, fun and laughter as you can stand", page 4.

"I hope that you aren't so wrapped up in nonessential stuff that you forget to really enjoy yourself -- because this moment is about to be over", page 5.

"I make an effort to do something good for somebody every day, whether I know that person or not", page 7.

"What I know for sure is that pleasure is energy reciprocated: What you put out comes back. Your base level of pleasure is determined by how you view your whole life", page 7.

"I need to practice what I preach and value myself more", pages 10-11.

"When was the last time you laughed with a friend till your sides hurt or dropped the kids off with a sitter and went away for an entire weekend?, page 13.

"Whether you flounder or flourish is always in your hands -- you are the single biggest influence in your life", page 14.

"Your journey begins with a choice to get up, step out, and live fully", page 14.

"Have you ever driven home from work, opened your front door, and asked yourself how you got there?", page 24.

"I know for sure that I don't want to live a shut-down life -- desensitized to feeling and seeing. I want every day to be a fresh start on expanding what is possible. On experiencing joy on every level", page 24.

"Delight in the Lord -- in goodness, kindness, compassion, love -- and see what happens", page 27.








Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Talking to Kids about Death: Where did Grandfather go now that he is dead?

Today, we talked to Elijah about death. This was certainly not the kind of conversation that I wanted to have with my 5-year old son, but it is sometimes the kind of conversation that cannot be avoided. 

 Explaining Death 

Today, early in the morning, we received a phone call that for an inexplicable or strange reason, we knew or sensed that would bring us bad news. It was a call from a family member to tell us that my husband's grandfather have passed away last night. Grandfather Albert was almost 97 years old when he died. Regardless of his age and the fact that he had Alzheimer's disease, his health was stable, so his death was unexpected.

Our 5-years old son, Elijah, asked me, Mommy, what happened with Grandfather Albert? Why is Daddy sad? As I was driving my son to school, I explained him that Grandfather Albert had died the night before. To make certain the he understood the situation, I told him that Grandfather Albert was very old and that he was a little bit sick. I also told him that Albert had a good life, worked hard during his whole life, and had certainly done many good things. 

As surprising as this may sound, I believe that at his young age, Elijah is capable of understanding that death is a normal part of life. He knows that people and animals have to die one day, especially when they get old or when they are sick. He is also able to comprehend that when someone or something dies, you cannot see the person or the thing anymore; they don't come back anymore. They are physically gone from your life, and all that remains are memories.

I don't recall exactly when it was the first time that we talked to Elijah about death. I think it was when he asked me about my father. My Dad passed away about 7 years ago, so Elijah only knows him from pictures and memories that I have shared with him. He often asks me questions about my Dad. He knows that he will never be able to meet him, but he is not scared to talk about him. I always share with my son the memories of the good moments that I spent with my father. I also tell him about all the things that my father taught me and how he helped me to love maths.

But, I have to admit that it was the death of our lizard pet, Jumbi, that taught Elijah about the dead of a loved one. Elijah was used to see Jumbi in its terrarium. He enjoyed his presence in the living room, and certainly liked to feed him. So, when Jumbi died, it was really the first time that Elijah experienced a loss. Although almost a year have passed since the death of Jumbi, Elijah still talks about him. He knows that he will never see Jumbi again, but he still likes to talk about his memories of interactions with his pet.

Where is Grandfather Albert now?

So, where is Grandfather now Mommy? Where did he go? Is he in Heaven?

I am not certain what is the best way to approach these questions, but I like to use my cultural and religious beliefs for the answers. So, I said: "Grandfather is now in Heaven with God". My son said to me: "Oh! he is now there with Jumbi and your father, Mommy".

It may not be the best answer, or even the most realistic answer, but it is the one answer that works for us, my son and I, now. Religion plays an important role in our family, and we often talk about God in our house. So, I don't feel that I am confusing Elijah by telling him that when someone dies, he/she/it goes to Heaven to be with God. At 5-year old, I don't believe that my son is ready to talk about a spiritual place or any other abstract concept that is often associated with death.

If there is one thing we can be certain of in life, it's that eventually we will die. Thus, I believe that it's important to be honest and open with children when they ask questions about death. Having said this, I also think that it's essential that we're mindful and careful with the answers or explanations that we provide to them. Some children may be ready for big and more elaborate explanations, but others just need more time and simple answers. 






Thursday, November 6, 2014

There's A Barnyard in my Bedroom



We recently bought the book There's a Barnyard in My Bedroom for our 5-year old son. With the help of their parents and their own imaginations, Jamie and Megan discover that nature is all around them, even in their own home. Sheets and pillows, fruits and furniture — they all come from nature. Here are some excerpts from the book.

"Oh no! It's raining! What'll we do, Dad?" "No problem," says Dad. "We can take our hike in the house." Jamie's eyes fly open. "How can we do that?" "We can start right here, with the sheets and blanket on your bed. Where did they come from?" "Oh, I know!" says Megan. "The sheets are made of cotton, and the blanket is made of wool..."

"That sponge used to be an animal. It lived at the bottom of the ocean."

"This flower smells nice," says Megan. "Yes. Bees can smell the flowers too. And when they come to get nectar to make their honey, they pollinate the flowers."


I have to admit that I initially thought that Elijah would find this book a little boring. I was uncertain whether or not he would be interested to know from where the food comes from, or that our house is filled with things that come from nature. The book is recommended for children aged 4 to 8 years old, but Elijah is only 5 years old, so I had my doubts whether or not he would find the topics/ideas presented in the book interesting. After all, we selected the book for him! We picked this book because both my husband and I really want Elijah to care about the environment and nature. We believe that it's important that he knows that we, humans, cannot survive without nature and all the services that it offers to us. 

Well, Elijah loved the book. I read the first story entitled "A Rainy Day Hike" to him in his bedroom, just before going to sleep. As I was reading the story, he started to look all around his bedroom trying to guess from where the furniture came from. For instance, he noticed that his bed and dresser came from trees and the curtains came from plants. He kept saying that nature was in his bedroom. I was so pleased to see him getting exciting about the story, and about the fact that nature was all over.  I took the opportunity to talk about other nature-related issues including recycling. He also enjoyed the other two stories "Seeing the Air" and "Time Travelers".

There's a Barnyard in My Bedroom is a great book for young children.  I like the fact that using imagination and curiosity, the stories help children to discover nature.  For example, they discovered the air they breathe includes water and life-giving gases. They also learn that the seeds they find will grow into vegetables. The main message of the book is clearly presented in each one of the three stories: nature is all around us, you just have to observe. With a forest growing in the living room and a stream appearing in the back garden. Each chapter ends with a page of related activities (answers are also provided!). The book is a great resource for parents and teachers interested in introducing children to nature and environmental issues. 

The author of There's a Barnyard in My Bedroom is the international renowned award-winning scientist, environmentalist and broadcaster David Suzuki. This beautiful book is filled with colour illustrations that give vibrant life to each one of the three adventures composing the book. In this book, David Suzuki really finds a captivating way to involve young children in learning how to be good environmental citizens of Earth.

I highly recommend this book!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Raise Up like a Mountain

Here is a refreshing and inspirational quote from Marcus Aurelius.

I like this quote because it reminds me that life is a marvelous gift that we should value every day. Like the Machu Picchu mountain, we should always remember that the power and strength that we need to be happy is within us

So, let's raise up like a strong mountain, and enjoy life!





Monday, November 3, 2014

Our Halloween 2014

Here is a photographic compilation of our Halloween 2014. We were working until the last minute on house decorations, costumes and getting enough candies for all our little monsters. But, we did it, and here are some pictures to prove it. 

An angry bird named Sheldon!



Trick-or-treat time with our friends and neighbours, Patty and Nicole (Elijah's sweet girlfriend).



Elijah's Halloween school costume: A pirate.



Keeping the angry bird theme for the situation, we decided to have the pig angry bird pumpkin.




It was a great Halloween!

An Angry Birds Birthday Party for Elijah


My son Elijah turned 5 years old last week, October 29th. My husband, Sheldon, organized a fantastic and exciting angry birthday party for him and nine of his friends (boys and girls). Sheldon worked for days on this party; I only ended providing him little help. He planned every single activity from the cake up to the pinata. 

First, let me show you some pictures of cake that Sheldon baked for the party. A gluten free cake nicely decorated with fondant icing and candies.



Both the slingshot and strap were completely edible. The slingshot was made with whole-grain brown rice krispies covered with brown fondant. The strap was made with ribbon candy. 


Here are some pictures of the decorations that we had on the table.  We used plates, glasses, napkins and all kind of angry bird decorations, including the balloons.




Although it was a cloudy and a little bit wet day, we organized one outdoor activity for the kids. Taking advantage of our tree house (built my husband few years ago), we organized a treasure hunt game for "pigs" and "birds". The kids didn't mind the weather, they were all running around trying to find the angry birds and other related items.


In the house, we had two pin-the-tail games as well as a balloon-slingshot game. Below you see the pin-the-tail on the pig, as well as the pin-the-tail on the egg.





My husband also made a pig pinata angry bird. The pinata was a big success. Unfortunately, we forgot to take a picture of it before the party, so all that I can show here is what happened to it after all the kids had their turns at hitting the pinata!




 It was a great party which my son and his friends enjoyed very much.