Prayerful Parenting Radio Messages Summer 2019 Dr. Linda Karges-Bone

These messages are recorded at WKCL Christian Radio in Charleston, SC and are copyrighted by Dr. Linda Karges-Bone. All rights reserved.

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Prayerful Parenting Summer 2019

Segment One: Slow Down and Enjoy Life

Welcome to Prayerful Parenting.© If you could see into the future, would you want to know? This is Dr. Linda Karges-Bone and in this set of messages, I’m going to look into my gypsy crystal ball, courtesy of my Sicilian grandmother and tell you about your future as a parent. Here’s the first secret: you are going to be sorry that you wasted your precious parenting time on things that didn’t really matter. What kinds of things will you regret not spending time on in the future? Taking a walk and holding hands with your spouse. Eating ice cream on the porch with your kids. Attending church and really listening. Thinking before you speak. Spending money on music, books, or charity. Doing a random act of kindness. Taking a meal to someone who is sick. Visiting the elderly. Laughing. These are all things that don’t necessarily fit into an Instagram post, but that you will find, in the not too distant parenting future, really matter. God’s word says this: “So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.”– Psalm 90:12

 

Segment Two: The Importance of Fathers

Welcome to Prayerful Parenting.© If you could see into the future, would you want to know? This is Dr. Linda Karges-Bone and in this set of  messages, I’m going to look into my gypsy crystal ball, courtesy of my Sicilian grandmother and tell you about your future as a parent. Ready? Fathers matter more than one knows and biological fathers matter a lot. Consider new research, suggesting that a father’s presence in the home can affect the age at which his daughters enter puberty and whether or not they begin precocious sexual activity. Girls need their fathers in unique ways, helping them cross the bridge to puberty in a protected way. Girls in biologically intact families start puberty later and are less likely to engage in early sexual activity. Researchers at Vanderbilt University found that a biological father sends pheromones, chemical signals to his daughter, repressing her maturation until later. The presence of unrelated men in the home, even a stepfather, has the opposite effect, triggering puberty in girls. Girls with a biological father in the home are less likely to become victims of assault or teen pregnancy. In God’s plan, an intact home gives both boys and girls spiritual, emotional, and even biological cues necessary for health and well being.

 

 

Segment Three: Dr. Seuss Was Right

Welcome to Prayerful Parenting.© If you could see into the future, would you want to know? This is Dr. Linda Karges-Bone and in this set of messages, I’m going to look into my gypsy crystal ball, courtesy of my Sicilian grandmother and tell you about your future as a parent.  Are you ready?  Dr. Seuss was right about a lot of things and his iconic book Oh, the Places You’ll Go is a wonderful gift for grads. As we prepare for graduations, from kindergarten or high school, law school or nursing school, seminary or tech, it might be a good idea to consider the words of an expert on life, Dr. Seuss. Why? Because it is positive and that is what you’re going to need to make it in this complex world. The funny rhymes include some solid advice about starting out in the world, about new beginnings. Like this: “You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You’re on your own.  And you know what you know. And YOU  are the guy who’ll decide where to go. “I might only add, be sure to take God with you. He’s a pretty good companion on any journey!

Segment Four: Elders

 Welcome to Prayerful Parenting.© If you could see into the future, would you want to know? This is Dr. Linda Karges-Bone and in this set of messages, I’m going to look into my gypsy crystal ball, courtesy of my Sicilian grandmother and tell you about your future as a parent.  Are you ready?  One day, sooner than you think, you are going to have to take on a significant role in the lives of your parents or a close, older relative and you probably won’t be ready. This Fall for example, you might have to host Thanksgiving dinner because one of your parents isn’t well. Or your parents may hit a financial crisis and you’ll be shocked, because you had not idea at all about their dire situation. Whether it is physical, financial,  cognitive, or just pure accident, you will find yourself caring for elders even when you still have children or grandchildren in your home and it is exhausting. My recommendation here: seek godly counsel. Don’t try to handle this one on your own. Proverbs 12:15  “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice.”

 

 

Segment Five: Guard Your Hearts from Midlife Crisis

Welcome to Prayerful Parenting.© If you could see into the future, would you want to know? This is Dr. Linda Karges-Bone and in this set of  messages, I’m going to look into my gypsy crystal ball, courtesy of my Sicilian grandmother and tell you about your future as a parent.  Are you ready?  In the next few weeks, someone you know is going to do something stupid, destroying  their marriage and witness, leaving family to pick up the pieces when a spouse loses his or her footing & (perhaps his or her mind) in a mid-life crisis I’d like to warn anyone listening, especially anyone with a birthday coming up that ends in a “0”, like 40 or 50 or even 60. Try not to do anything stupid. I’m not kidding. From deacons to pastor’s wives, from doting dads to ordinary soccer moms, I’ve seen people who were perfectly normal and content one day suddenly chuck it all and abandoning spouses, kids, careers, and churches to “find happiness”. This often includes a serious of bad financial decisions, adultery, and the internet in some way, but I digress. These mid-life lunatics head after an elusive happiness that isn’t OUT THERE anywhere. It’s where it always was, in a contented heart.  Timelessly, scripture speaks: “Guard your hearts and your thoughts in Christ Jesus.”

 

Segment Six: Attitude is Everything

Welcome to Prayerful Parenting© If you could see into the future, would you want to know? This is Dr. Linda Karges-Bone and in this set of messages, I’m going to look into my gypsy crystal ball, courtesy of my Sicilian grandmother and tell you about your future as a parent. You are underestimating the importance and power of a positive attitude. Mean people are everywhere and you might be one of them. Check yourself. How do you speak to clerks in the shops? What tone do you use with your child’s teacher? With a neighbor? You don’t think it matters and you are wrong. Recently, someone I thought I knew well asked how my family was doing and I responded that we were having a rough time since some surgeries and illnesses. This lady retorted: “Well, everyone has problems. Now you know how it feels.” Yikes. She calls herself a Christian. In an increasingly mean-spirited, short-tempered, downright nasty world, are we living Hosea 11:4 ”I led them with cords of human kindness, with ties of love; I lifted the yoke from their neck and bent down to feed them.”

 

Segment Seven: Family Dinner Time

Welcome to Prayerful Parenting©  If you could see into the future, would you want to know? This is Dr. Linda Karges-Bone and in this set of messages, I’m going to look into my gypsy crystal ball, courtesy of my Sicilian grandmother and tell you about your future as a parent. You are making a mistake by neglecting family mealtime, the secret to raising a stronger family, helping teens avoid high risk behaviors, and boosting kids grades to the A+ level.  Eating dinner together as a family at least 5 times per week is a tonic for tired, out of touch, over-stressed families.  In fact, The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse reports that teens who eat with their families at least 5 times per week are twice as likely to earn all A’s in school as their peers who do not.  Eating dinner at least 2 nights per week seems to reduce teens’ likelihood of using drugs or alcohol by a significant amount as well. Here are some strategies. 1) Assign teens one night per week to shop and cook. 2) Clip coupons and order a pizza. 3) Use a crock pot and come home to a meal; 4) Turn off the phone and TV and make it a priority. Jesus knew about dinner time: John 12:2 “Here a dinner was given in Jesus’ honor. Martha served, while Lazarus was among those reclining at the table with him”.

Segment Eight: Buy Experiences, Not Things

Welcome to Prayerful Parenting©  If you could see into the future, would you want to know? This is Dr. Linda Karges-Bone and in this set of messages, I’m going to look into my gypsy crystal ball, courtesy of my Sicilian grandmother and tell you about your future as a parent. You may regret the bigger house or the more posh vehicle, but you will not regret watching shooting stars from the rim of the Grand Canyon, nor sharing a beach house with your siblings during a sultry July, nor the Broadway Play with your teen daughters, nor the romantic weekend in Asheville with your spouse, nor the Zip line in Costa Rica when everyone got sick from too many tamales….the list is endless. All around me, I see young families spending their dollars on mortgages and car payments and it makes me sad, because when it is all said and done, travel and the memories gathered in those experiences will last forever and will sustain your family during tough times ahead. Matthew 6:19 is spot on: “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.”

Segment Nine: Get Outside

Welcome to Prayerful Parenting©  If you could see into the future, would you want to know? This is Dr. Linda Karges-Bone and in this set of messages, I’m going to look into my gypsy crystal ball, courtesy of my Sicilian grandmother and tell you about your future as a parent. As your family grows up and moves on, from babies to toddlers to teens…you will regret not spending more time outdoors together. Yes, inside is nice. The holidays, the sleepovers, the lazy Saturdays doing chores, even the science fair projects that you worked so hard on. This is all lovely, but outside is different. As I think back, some of my favorite times with my own little ones involved outside. The first trip to the beach, the hikes in caverns and caves on vacation, riding out bicycles downtown to get an ice cream cone. These were magical. The outdoors are a great equalizer. Parents and children are young together for once, playful and curious. I think it is a gift. Job 12:7 says: “Speak to the earth and it will teach you.” Are you listening?

 

Segment Ten: Live Within Your Means

Welcome to Prayerful Parenting©  If you could see into the future, would you want to know? This is Dr. Linda Karges-Bone and in this set of messages, I’m going to look into my gypsy crystal ball, courtesy of my Sicilian grandmother and tell you about your future as a parent. Listen carefully. You are not living within your means and it is going to cause problems in your marriage, with your health, and ultimately with your witness. How do I know this? Even Dr. B cannot be that nosy, right? Just follow the research. According to CNBC, 69 percent of Americans had less than $1,000 in total savings and 34 percent had no savings at all. One emergency would destroy 7 out of 10 families in a single swipe. This need not be the case, with the lowest unemployment rate in recent history. Where’s the money going? New cars. New phones. Too many clothes. Eating out. Using credit cards. Student loan debt inflated by refusing to use technical colleges or in state tutu ion options. Not paying cash. We haven’t taught our children about the difference between want and need, because we never learned it. There’s still time. Living without debt is freedom. Proverbs 22:7 “The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower is the slave of the lender.”

 

Segment Eleven: Technology and Sleep Debt

Welcome to Prayerful Parenting©  If you could see into the future, would you want to know? This is Dr. Linda Karges-Bone and in this set of messages, I’m going to look into my gypsy crystal ball, courtesy of my Sicilian grandmother and tell you about your future as a parent. As time passes, you will regret letting technology steal your sleep and by your sleep, I mean your own and that of every human in your household. Those blinking screens are a menace. According to the latest research, 1/3 of teens wake up at night to check their phones for messages or social media updates and their parents aren’t much better, with ¼ doing the same. Lack of quality sleep is also affected by usage close to sleep time, interfering with circadian rhythms. This incurs something called a sleep debt and triggers inflammation in the brain and body, resulting in fuzzy thinking, lack of creativity, memory problems, and impaired creativity. Think lower grades, less productivity, and terrible moods. Does that sound good? Get a handle on it parents. Proverbs 14:1 says that “A foolish woman tears her house down”. Could a blinking blue screen be the weapon of family destruction?

Segment Twelve: School Matters

Welcome to Prayerful Parenting©  If you could see into the future, would you want to know? This is Dr. Linda Karges-Bone and in this set of messages, I’m going to look into my gypsy crystal ball, courtesy of my Sicilian grandmother and tell you about your future as a parent. You might not realize it now, in the midst of homework, projects, packing lunches, and pleading with teens to finish term papers, but the school years are amazing. Your child’s brain in flourishing. He or she is becoming a scholar, at whatever pace and in whatever way God has ordained it. It is a time of growth and promise. Are you paying attention? I cannot tell you how many parents have come to me, discouraged and disheartened over the fact that they didn’t give their children’s teachers, grades, reading, learning, and school activities their full attention. They could have done so much more and they simply “got through”. Don’t be in that number. Engage. Inquire. Collaborate. Participate. Be that parent who shows up and cares. You will never regret it. Be like Solomon and show your children that “Wisdom preserves the life of him who has it.”

 

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My Mother Took Home Economics…And It Showed. Dr. Linda Karges-Bone

Applesauce in Little Glass Dishes and Other Important Truths..

Generic, plain label cans of applesauce sold for a nickel each at the Air Force Base commissary when my mother was raising the five of us on a sergeant’s pay check, my dad being the sergeant and the five of us like stair steps in age and stage. The cans of applesauce, sliced peaches, and pear halves looked alike with their symmetrical white paper labels. One had to look for the stamp on the bottom that identified the fruit inside. But that didn’t stop mom from creating something special using these ubiquitous items.

Mom would set the table almost every night as if company was coming. Napkins folded, glasses sparkling, and several times a week, canned fruit displayed in fancy glass dishes at each place. I now know that the little glass dishes, and there were several colors and styles, were collected from yard sales, my grandmother’s cast offs, or by saving up Greenbax stamps in paper booklets. My sisters and I loved to paste the tiny green stamps onto the grids in the stamp booklets, celebrating each completed page.

Although most grocery stores featured their own brand of “trading stamps” to encourage shopper loyalty, the S&H “Green Stamps” were iconic. The color green of course evoked thoughts of valuable “green dollars” and ladies felt that they got something “back” when they traded the books in for treasures. Hence the memorable term “greenbax”.

Back to the little glass dishes. I recall three different styles. First, the thick, plain glass custard dish, oven-proof and sturdy. These could be used for hot custards or cooked puddings. Then, the pink glass, thinner and more decorative, it often appeared on Sundays or at Easter. Finally, a mixed bag of colored and clear dishes, unmatched and eclectic, these were salvaged from friends on the airbase who didn’t want to move too much glassware or from my grandmother, who shared mom’s appreciation for pretty things.

I realize now, that with five young children and a “fly boy” military spouse who kept long hours and was often deployed out of the country, my mother probably had little time for glassware frivolity. So, why make the effort? I think there were three reasons and they harken back to a different time and I think a lost and lovely way of looking at the world.

First, before there were blogs and “influencers”, people who make a living on the internet telling us what to like or buy or try ….women took classes in “home economics”, often in Junior High School. Yes….before there were middle schools, there were Junior High Schools and that is the stuff of another story. I was fascinated by mom’s home economics textbook and notebook when I was a young girl in the 1970’s. In the midst of the women’s liberation movement at the time, home economics had become the stuff of nonsense, a social construct designed to tether women to servitude at home and hearth. Now, I see something different. The book talked about balanced meals and frugal ways to keep a family fed and healthy. One of the recommendations for keeping family mealtime pleasant and finicky children enticed to eat fruits and vegetables was to serve them in attractive, separate dishes, small enough for little ones to handle on their own. My mother obviously paid attention. Setting a pretty table wasn’t just about making a good grade in Junior High home economics class; it was about doing a good job as a homemaker.

Second, though a household filled with five lively children, including a set of twins would seem like the last place in which one might be lonely, I realize now that the life of a military wife in the 1960’s and 70’s was often isolating and lonely. For many years, mom didn’t drive and who could have afforded a second vehicle during that time anyway? On base, during the cold war, one had to be very careful about what was said, so even among friends, conversations were often guarded. And what about mental stimulation? Though mom had gone to college to train as a teacher, she was never able to use her education in a formal way. So, I think she found ways to use her creative energy. Sewing, knitting, planning events for the other military brides, and serving pretty meals using her pretty glassware.

Finally, in the period before Instagram and eating out, folks actually ate most of their meals at home. I don’t know about your family, but there are only a handful of photographs from our meals at that time and they typically feature an enormous, glistening Thanksgiving Turkey. We simply didn’t have the time, tools, nor talent to capture the ordinary on film. So, when mom took out those seven little glass dishes time after time, knowing that they would have to be washed by hand, she did it to make the ordinary a bit special. She did it to make her table stand out. She did it to show us that you could make an effort even when nobody was looking. She did it because those stacks of off label, tinned fruit were not going to define her. They might have defeated a lesser woman, but not one with a collection of little glass dishes that she was not afraid to use.

fruitEpilogue

When I go to visit mom in her Assisted Living apartment this weekend, I’ll bring a covered container of hand-cut fruit, pineapple and cantaloupe. She’ll open the lid and examine the fruit carefully and ask me: “Did you prepare this yourself?” I will nod in affirmation and say: “Just like you showed me.”

 

 

 

Everybody Could Use a ( Free) Life Coach

Everybody Could Use a Life Coach…But They Cost $$$

A Mini Life Coach Session for …For Free

Dr. Linda Karges-Bone

http://www.educationinsite.com

             If I had a life coach, career coach, or any other kind of personal guru other than a handful of brutally honest, faithful buddies who tell me the truth, he or she would never approve of my last few life choices, including squeezing in a few cross country speaking engagements right before a major surgery. The last one in the crazy series required a red eye flight from Seattle to Atlanta. During this physical and mental marathon, I discovered a series of free and fabulous “mini life coach” sessions on the tiny airplane TV.  At 2:00 AM, munching tiny bags of pretzels and peanuts, while seemingly everyone else on the jet was sleeping, I enjoyed some life coaching sessions. They were fabulous. I may have been running on pure adrenalin and exhaustion, but truly, I felt empowered and smarter and more confident when I hobbled off the jet way in Atlanta at 6:30 AM Eastern Time. I thought to myself, “Everybody could benefit from some coaching. Maybe I need some for real?”

            So, while waiting for my connection to head home, I did a little research, starting with a few favorite coaches and experts whose blogs I follow a bit and whose books I admire. I am sure they are each wonderful and effective, but who has a few extra thousand dollars each month for the privilege or $10,000 plus airfare for a weeklong retreat session? Not me nor any of the educators, family support folks, or professionals of any ilk in my acquaintance, never mind their clients or residents living on a fixed income. So, should we do without? Muddle on without encouragement nor insight? I think not.

            Here then, are some generic, classic, and I might add “creative” coaching recommendations gleaned from my own readings and reflections.  True, I might not be on Oprah or Ellen, but I do have a long running radio program and a fairly successful consulting business, plus I do love to tell people what to do.  Go ahead and brew a cup of hot green tea (every coach loves the cup of tea for your brain) and consider these life coaching recommendations that work for everyone.

 

 

# 1. Seek Balance.  Every coach worth his or her salt and crystal ball understands the importance of Balance. It is so critical that I summarized the key Balance Boundaries in the sidebar.

 

#2. You cannot please everyone. Don’t even try. Life coaches are all about

recognizing that you cannot make everybody happy and doing so will only

make you crazy. My husband of 40 years, who is not a coach of any variety,

maintains that there will always be 10% of a group, 1 out of 10 who is going

to be displeased no matter what.  Accept that and move on.

 

#3. Practice self-care.  Some life coaches specialize in self -care, so it must

matter a lot. This means taking care of your sleep, diet, and exercise

routinely and establishing habits and practices that allow you to maintain

wellness. If you need to say “no” to a request because it would mean missing

your twice weekly yoga class and that yoga class is what keeps you from pain

and grumpiness, then say no or else ask the well- meaning friend to join you

at the yoga class. The same goes for small, special treats such as taking a long

bath, buying a new item of clothing that makes you feel special, or going out

of the way to have dinner at a restaurant that serves your favorite pasta. If

you are going to give of yourself, you must give back to yourself.

 

#4. Ask good questions. Life coaches are all about questions. Here are some

essential life coaching questions that I like to apply, especially when I’m

feeling overwhelmed. 1) Will this matter in 1 month, 1 year, 1 decade? 2)

Who is this for? 3) If this kind, fair, or helpful? 4) Am I trying to impress or

press on to a goal?

 

#5. Learn how to accept feedback. Any decent life coach will spend a lot of

time and your money on the whole feedback loop.  Remember, criticism is

not feedback. If someone is critical ( mean-spirited) he or she has another

agenda.  But good feedback in the form of specific guidelines and

recommendations are valuable. Learn to accept them and to listen carefully

when they are given.

 

 

#6. Work on your listening skills, particularly “active listening”. A reliable life

coach will probably start with your listening skills, after doing some kind of

lengthy assessment.  Being a good listener; giving others your full attention

and responding with affirmation and genuine interest is a gift to both

parties. For me, this is the toughest thing. I have so much to say….surely

everyone wants to hear it.  Maybe not. Perhaps I have been missing

important and interesting things because I don’t take time to listen. If I

actually retained a life coach, I suspect the poor soul would start with

listening, as in me learning to listen.

 

#7. Stop and re-evaluate. Life coaches embrace the “pause and refresh”

break and so should we. Some popular coaching strategies include: 1)

Periodically reviewing goals; 2) Considering the “big picture” in one’s life to

assess shifts and changes; and 3) Examining one’s satisfaction and status. We

change. What seemed good and right at age 30 might not hold true at age 35

with a new partner and a baby or two. What felt true 5 years ago might not

appeal after a health scare or a spiritual epiphany.  Don’t be afraid to pause

and refresh.

 

8) Small changes can bring big results. I think I would trust a coach who

encouraged more modest, precise changes rather than tossing out

everything and everyone I had worked to grow and nurture. So, how can you

make tiny shifts in your routine, workplace, health, relationships, or habits

and glean some useful, inspiring results?

 

9) Trust yourself. No coach can fix you nor anyone else. The answers are in

there, perhaps muddled and messy, but they are in there. Your life is worth

taking the time to tease them out and use them for good.

 

10) Attitude is everything. In fact, if I chose to shift careers to become a life

coach instead of a professor who write stories and also talks on the radio, I

would actually name myself as an “Attitude Adjustment Expert”. You see,

there is a cognitive science term called “Negative Forecasting” and it holds us

back. It is only supposed to keep us from taking unnecessary risks, but

sometimes it blocks our creativity and forward motion. When we anticipate a

negative result from every choice, our brains can get stuck. We get stuck in

unhappy emotional puddles and this attitude colors all of our interactions.

Optimists live longer and are more successful. That’s just science. It is true. It is like

the Mediterranean Diet for your emotions. Adding olive oil and a little red wine

makes your heart more healthy. Adding a dose of optimism may make your brain

more healthy. Just think about it.

 

            Free Life Coaching. There is a lot more, so I might do a “Part Two” of this in a future issue. For now, start self assessing, self-caring, and boosting your positive attitude. That should take a little while. Seriously, I forgot the most important thing of all. Be kind. Be kind to yourself when you fall short. Be kind to others when they disappoint. Become known as “The Kind One” and you will immediately begin to experience the positive results of all that this entails. You don’t need a Life Coach to tell you that kindness matters most.

 Balance Boundaries

  1. There is no such thing as BALANCE. There are only CHOICES. Choose wisely.
  2. Sometimes you need to CHECK OUT of the social media race and CHECK IN to what matters.
  3. Whenever you can, do things in BATCHES. If you are making lasagna or chicken pot pie…make 2. Freeze one or give one away. When you buy gift bags, buy a dozen, not one and keep them generic.
  4. Do the UNEXPECTED and make it your SIGNATURE. If you bake beautiful cakes, then use that. Give them as gifts. Make them the centerpiece of an event. Then cater or share the rest of the event.
  5. Take care of your HEALTH. Mental, physical, and spiritual.
  6. Maintain healthy BOUNDARIES.
  7. Learn to say NO graciously. Try this…Pause, make eye contact, smile and say….I would like to be able to help but cannot give it my full attention, but I can do this…..
  8. Make TRADES. If you cannot do lunch, do coffee. If you cannot help, send a gift.
  9. MULTI PURPOSE. REPURPOSE. SHARE. BARTER. CHOOSE.
  10. LIVE WITHIN YOUR MEANS.

 

You can reach Dr. Karges-Bone to book a keynote or training on this or other topics via http://www.educationinsite.com

 

 

 

 

 

Memories of Midnight Mass

brown wooden picture frame

Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

 

Memories of Midnight Mass

A Holiday Reminiscent Read Aloud

Dr. Linda Karges-Bone

When I think of the holidays growing up in a large and loud Italian-Catholic family, it is not so much the food, though it was abundant and delicious, nor the tree, though it was dazzling with fake tinsel and multicolored bulbs, but the pageantry and pomp of Midnight Mass that I recall with fondness and clarity.

For those of you who may be put off by what you anticipate to be a religious story, fear not. This account is more about the wonder of it all and about dressing up and about participating in the adult world for the first time. Memories of Midnight Mass captures each of our early experiences in the larger world, real and metaphorical. It is a story about the senses awakened by celebrations of the sacred and about family connections.

In our family, attending Sunday Mass was not optional. It was organic. One simply went to Mass no matter the age nor state of health nor weather permitting. By the age of 4, and I think I remember, I was walking through the North Country of New York state, braving winter snow and ice, holding onto the side of the baby carriage containing my infant twin sisters and younger brother as we made our way to Mass. My dad would have been deployed in the frequent Cold War airlifts of the 1960’s and mom on her own, without car nor driver. We walked to the Base Chapel. As I noted earlier, weekly Mass was a duty, but Midnight Mass at Christmastide was an opportunity.

Actually, celebrating Midnight Mass each Christmas represented multiple, important right of passage opportunities in my young life. These include: dressing up, staying up, and living it up. I shall elaborate on each.

Dressing Up

        Midnight Mass meant dressing up in holiday finery. Now, that may not seem special to you, but in a family of 5 kids, with just daddy to provide for us all on a sergeant’s salary, clothes and shoes and coats were necessities, meant to keep children clothed and warm. For Midnight Mass, there were exceptions, usually provided by a generous aunt and grandmother who lived in New York City and who would send elaborately wrapped brown paper packages in early December each year, containing what would become our Midnight Mass costumes, and even more generous checks tucked into holiday cards, to provide new “church shoes” and coats. Sometimes, my mother would actually ask for bolts of cloth from her sister or mother and she would make identical red or green plaid dresses, always with crisp white collars, for me and my little sisters. In an Italian world view, La Bella Figura, the best appearance is important.

My memories of Midnight Mass, you see, actually began weeks beforehand each year, as my mother began to organize our finery. Fittings for black patent shoes; shopping for black or red tights to match new dresses, and in the deep cold of the far North where we lived, suitable coats, mittens, and hats. One of my most vivid memories was the year that I received what must have been a faux, white rabbit hat and muff. Yes, a muff, as in tucking each hand into a satin-lined, fluffy white muff. I felt like an Ice Princess and this was long before the days of Disney’s “Frozen”. I was Princess Linda of Plattsburgh Air Force Base. I felt glamorous, but not very warm. You see, the fancy hat and muff looked adorable, or so the pictures and my memories tell me, but they were not nearly as warm and protective as the substantial, red wool hat and mittens knitted by my long-suffering mother. I remember shivering and my ever-vigilant grandmother, who was on site that year, insisting that I wear old brown mittens along with the muff. Even at the age of 4 or 5, I knew this to be a fashion faux pas and protested mightily. It did not matter. Grandma Anna LaPorta always prevailed.

Dressing up for Midnight Mass continued to be the catalyst for many important memories. There were several years when the twins and I had matching dresses and tights. Adorable. There was the year that we wore plastic white “go go boots”. It must have been the later 1960’s by then and fashion, not good sense prevailed. There was the year of thick, plaid kilts and matching sweaters. Not a favorite.

My dress up memories surrounding Midnight Mass also included my family. My dad loved to dress up for holiday services and would wear not only a suit, but a snazzy vest of some kind, often red velvet or purple satin. He was a handsome man and even more so in his finery.

My holiday memories of my little brother Georgie are less flamboyant but not less memorable. One year, my mother knitted him a ski hat with a large pom pom and matching mittens, all blue to compliment his beautiful white hair. How he would love to have all that hair now! Anyway, the story goes and I remember it well, that he was fascinated by the large and friendly Siberian Husky dog that lived next door. In the frigid climate in which we lived, just miles from the Canadian boarder in New York state, such an animal was right at home. Shortly after mommy finished the Christmas hat and mittens, little brother went outside to find his Siberian Husky friend, who promptly pulled one mitten off the hand of the toddler, no harm nor foul, and ate it. My brother returned home, tearful but unhurt and mother was furious. It was too close to Christmas to knit another. He would have to wear his too small, tattered old mittens. But wait, a Christmas miracle. The very next day, our canine neighbor pooped out the mitten, fully intact (remember it was toddler sized) in a pile of steaming feces. A watchful neighbor mom spotted it and reported it to my mother, who has shared her woeful tale at the morning coffee klatch of ladies. What happened next is the stuff of family folklore, but I swear it to be true. The almost new mitten was plucked out of the snow (and other stuff) pile, soaked in borax and returned to glory. These were hard times.

Dressing up for Midnight Mass continued to be an important part of my childhood and marked key passages into young adulthood. Wearing makeup for the first time. Trying a new perfume in order to catch the attention of a handsome alter boy. A tiny heel on my new shoe, the real mark of a young lady. Memories of Midnight Mass were about shoes, and hats, and purses and becoming a full participant in the adult world.

Staying Up

Memories of Midnight Mass are also about “staying up”, literally and figuratively. This part of the story has two parts. First, I know from pictures and stories, that I was taken to Midnight Mass as a very small child. Those memories are intact but not as relevant as the second set of memories, those involving my personal attempts to stay awake and engaged in preparation to attend the annual Christmas service. Staying up to attend Mass became as much a part of the holiday ritual as any song, food, or decoration. There are several steps etched into my episodic memories of the time. These include:

The pre-Mass meal. This involved pasta with red sauce, but no meat. The Vigil of Christmas is a holy time and meat was not allowed. Sometimes there was a clam sauce for the pasta, which was either long, twisted fusilli or rigatoni tubes.  Always, there was a crispy pile of “baccala” or fishcakes, an acquired taste. The house smelt like a fish market for days beforehand, as the dried codfish soaked in a tub of water in preparation for the feast.  Staying up for Midnight Mass was taken up, in large part by preparing, eating, and then cleaning up after the feast, which in spite of the absence of fowl or game was enormous. By 9:00 or so, when we were at the point of sipping milky coffee (every man, woman, and child) and sampling the cookie tray, it was time to begin the dressing up phase described above. We would all be washed, costumed, and in the pews for holiday music a full hour before the actual Mass. The holiday crowds, our need for one or more pews of our own, depending upon the number of guess and babies, and my father’s insistence on being the first ones there, for every Mass, meant leaving for the church by 10:30 pm at the latest.

All of this feasting and dressing and socializing, not to mention the potent coffee and requisite anticipation of a vibrant and beautiful holiday service made staying up for Midnight Mass fairly easy, even for a youngster. Buon Natale one and all.

Living It Up

Memories of Midnight Mass center around the trifecta of dressing up, staying up, and living it up. This final set of memories includes more serious reflections. At first blush, living it up may sound like a metaphor for frolicking, but that would not be accurate. A better word would be Celebration and with a capital C. This special evening, once a year, evokes memories of Celebration. I have already described those surrounding my immediate family, but now I think of community. Each year, the Christmas Vigil brought together hundreds of celebrants focused, just for an hour or so, on something bigger and more important than their own lives, needs, worries, or desires. By design, the liturgical calendar calls for beautiful vestments, rich and vibrant words, and everywhere, the waft of piquant incense. More than anything else, the fragrance of incense stirs my memory. Meant as a gift to the Christ Child from the three wise men, the valuable spices create a niche in my brain that will never be erased. The message is clear. This time is sacred. This place is anointed. This service is important to you little girl in ways you will never fully understand. Though I haven’t been a practicing Roman Catholic for many years, for many reasons, I have never lost the sense of gratitude for those early Christmas Eve Celebrations. We celebrated the coming of the Blessed Child, but also the importance of community, the gift of grace; the power of solemnity; and the joy of spiritual unity.  All of these made Midnight Mass memorable and meaningful, then and now.

 

 

 

Prayerful Parenting Radio Messages, Winter 2019 WKCL 91.5 fm Charleston, SC

Prayerful Parenting Winter 2019

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Written and Recorded by Dr. Linda Karges-Bone  http://www.educationinsite.com

Segment One: Counterfactual Thinking Welcome to Prayerful Parenting.© 2019 is a big year for me. This is Dr. Linda Karges-Bone, I’m a “Nana” two times over and I’ll be sharing some wisdom that it took 3 decades to learn and earn. Are you ready? Life is full of possibilities and your children know it. That is a good thing. Have you ever heard of “counterfactual thinking”? It is a cognitive science term that simply means….imagining the possibilities. Using one’s front brain, where creativity and critical thinking live, is hugely important to children and our current way of living is not friendly to this kind of thought. Too little sleep, too much technology, lack of outdoor play, and clutter in the home all sap the energy needed for counterfactual thinking. In the New Year, consider ways to boost opportunities and environments that sustain creativity. Teach your children to look for the possibilities in the world around them. Luke 1:37 For nothing will be impossible with God.”

 

Segment Two: What Really Matters Welcome to Prayerful Parenting.© 2019 is a big year for me. This is Dr. Linda Karges-Bone, I’m a “Nana” two times over and I’ll be sharing some wisdom that it took 3 decades to learn and earn. Are you ready? I’ve learned that what really matters can be counted on one hand and that I wasted way too much time as a young wife and mother on things that didn’t really count in God’s kingdom nor in my own. Here’s where you should focus your time and energy. 1) Family meal time. 2) Family worship time. 3) The value of quality sleep for all. 4) Reading and learning. 5) Keeping your marriage healthy.So many young parents put their marriage on the back-burner for years at a time, thinking that they will “catch up” later and then it is too late. Don’t underestimate your partner’s need to feel loved and cared for.  Ecclesiastes 4:9: “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone?”

 

Segment Three: Reading WisdomWelcome to Prayerful Parenting.© 2019 is a big year for me. This is Dr. Linda Karges-Bone, I’m a “Nana” two times over and I’ll be sharing some wisdom that it took 3 decades to learn and earn. Are you ready? I’ve learned that what really matters can be counted on one hand and that I wasted way too much time as a young wife and mother on things that didn’t really count in God’s kingdom nor in my own. Here’s where you should focus your time and energy. 1) Family meal time. 2) Family worship time. 3) Quality Sleep for All. 4) Keeping Your Marriage Healthy5) Reading and Learning. And I mean reading and learning as a family focus. Research is very clear on two things. Reading is the key to future scholarships, good grades, and flexible brains and too much screen time actually thins the cortical tissue. Babies and toddlers need their own collections of board books right from birth and they should be durable, portable, and colorful. Teens and pre-teens need strict limits on screen time and accessibility and encouragement to read a book a week during holidays and summer. Proverbs 18:15: “The heart of the discerning acquires knowledge” And that comes from quality literature.

 

Segment Four: Sleep Welcome to Prayerful Parenting.© 2019 is a big year for me. This is Dr. Linda Karges-Bone, I’m a “Nana” two times over and I’ll be sharing some wisdom that it took 3 decades to learn and earn. Are you ready? I’ve learned that what really matters can be counted on one hand and that I wasted way too much time as a young wife and mother on things that didn’t really count in God’s kingdom nor in my own. Here’s where you should focus your time and energy. 1) Family meal time. 2) Family worship time. 3) Reading and Learning 4) Keeping Your Marriage Healthy5) Quality Sleep for Everyone. My work in the field of cognitive science; the study of how our brains learn and work and manage time and tasks keeps bringing me around to issues of sleep debt and the consequences of poor quality sleep. Reliable studies link sleep issues to ADHD, obesity, depression, anxiety, and learning problems. More recently, addictions to screens and devices play a role in sleep disruption that affects learning and behavior. Sleep matters, to adults and children. Don’t ignore the value of rich, scheduled, reliable sleep for your family.

Segment Five: Family WorshipWelcome to Prayerful Parenting.© 2019 is a big year for me. This is Dr. Linda Karges-Bone, I’m a “Nana” two times over and I’ll be sharing some wisdom that it took 3 decades to learn and earn. Are you ready? I’ve learned that what really matters can be counted on one hand and that I wasted way too much time as a young wife and mother on things that didn’t really count in God’s kingdom nor in my own. Focus your time and energy on 1) Family meal time. 2) Quality Sleep for Everyone 3) Reading and Learning 4) Keeping Your Marriage Healthy5) Worship .I’ve had the opportunity to watch generations come and go…grandparents, parents, children, and now grandchildren coming along and when trouble comes to families, and it will come, don’t doubt that; the families built on faith and hope, buoyed by authentic worship and fear of the Lord are the ones that make it through. I’m not saying they don’t suffer, because the rains fall on the just and the unjust, but faith, kept alive by worship, prayer, and authentic fear of the true God that makes all the difference.  When times get tough, don’t drop away from your faith community. That’s Satan’s plan. Believe Joel 2:25 “The Lord will restore to you the years the hungry locusts have eaten.”

Segment Six : Don’t Let Your Job Take Over Welcome to Prayerful Parenting.© 2019 is a big year for me. This is Dr. Linda Karges-Bone, I’m a “Nana” two times over and I’ll be sharing some wisdom that it took 3 decades to learn and earn. Are you ready? Don’t let your job get in the way of what really matters. I’ve seen so many marriages and families falter when work became the main thing. Research on the state of the American workplace suggests that “with seemingly endless workdays and disappearing vacations Americans are coping with enormous amounts of job stress.” The toll is deadly, with stress-related illnesses increasing rapidly and 60% of work-related absences due to psychological stress caused by over-work. The Japanese even have a name for this: karoshi means “death from overwork. Make choices.  Turn off your phone when the workday is done. Ignore email on the weekends and renew your family and spiritual life. Learn to walk away. Remember the fairy tale about the girl who could spin straw into gold? The greedy king just kept demanding more, no matter how much she produced. Like the heroine in the story, you may have to be creative in order to save your own life.

Section Seven: Savor the Moments

Welcome to Prayerful Parenting.© 2019 is a big year for me. This is Dr. Linda Karges-Bone, I’m a “Nana” two times over and I’ll be sharing some wisdom that it took 3 decades to learn and earn. Are you ready? During the holidays, many of us do a good job of enjoying our families. There are celebrations and services and even the Christmas tree to gather around. But when the decorations are boxed in the attic, our minds begin to race once more. In 2019, try something new. This winter, slow down and enjoy your family. I have learned to decorate for winter, with fairy lights on the mantle, snowflake pillows on the couch, and scented pinecones on the table. Let winter be a time to: Build up memories. Look deeply into faces. Give your spouse your full attention. Hug more. Judge less. Days cannot be redeemed this side of heaven. Wait. Watch. Love.  Isaiah says it best: “Those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint’ (Is 40:31).”

 

Section Eight: Winter Play

Welcome to Prayerful Parenting.© 2019 is a big year for me. This is Dr. Linda Karges-Bone, I’m a “Nana” two times over and I’ll be sharing some wisdom that it took 3 decades to learn and earn. Are you ready? I have become a huge fan of exercise and movement as a tonic for everything from pain to depression to marital discord. As a younger wife and mother, I spent too much time on mindless tasks that kept me sedentary, when my body craved movement. Don’t make that mistake.  As Winter drifts by, it may be tempting to let children spend too much time indoors and that is a costly, brain-draining mistake. Outdoor play, for both adults and children is hugely important. The combination of sunshine, fresh air, and physical movement do three important things: 1) Release hormones that act like “miracle grow” for the brown, called BDNF; 2) Help to maintain healthy weight and strength; 3) Give the brain time for creative reflection and planning. Wow! God knows what we need and created nature to feed our brains. Psalm 104 says: “The earth is full of your riches.” So open the door, pull out the mittens and coats, and get outside this winter. Your brain and body will thank you.

 

Segment Nine: Family Meal TimeWelcome to Prayerful Parenting.© 2019 is a big year for me. This is Dr. Linda Karges-Bone, I’m a “Nana” two times over and I’ll be sharing some wisdom that it took 3 decades to learn and earn. Are you ready? I’ve learned that what really matters can be counted on one hand and that I wasted way too much time as a young wife and mother on things that didn’t really count in God’s kingdom nor in my own. Focus on 1) Worship. 2) Quality Sleep for Everyone 3) Reading and Learning 4) Keeping Your Marriage Healthy5) Family Meal Time. Why does “family meal time” matter so much? I’ll tell you. The research stacks up. They’ve even landed on a number. A minimum of 4 family meals per week separates the sheep from the goats, pardon the Biblical pun! Eating meals together creates a sacred space in which your family is separate from the rest of the world. Preparing healthy, tasty meals sends a message that your bodies matter and should be treated with honor. One study even suggests that family meal time is equated with higher IQ’s , since the banter of conversation stimulates language. Higher grades, retention in school, less use of drugs and alcohol, and better behavior all around. Everyone wins when families eat meals together.

Segment Ten:  Positive Expectations. Welcome to Prayerful Parenting.© 2019 is a big year for me. This is Dr. Linda Karges-Bone, I’m a “Nana” two times over and I’ll be sharing some wisdom that it took 3 decades to learn and earn. Are you ready? Remember the old saying: “Mind over matter?” Originally, the maxim referred to the triumph of willpower over physical obstacles, but in 2019, the meaning may be more spiritual. New studies suggest that “expectations”, not simply willpower can shape outcomes in a very real way. For example, hotel workers who were told that their jobs provided a great physical work-out, actually lost weight and lowered blood pressure, while others who did not have that expectation, experienced no change. What about your expectations are parents? If you send positive messages about your children’s behavior, grades, attitudes, and beliefs, instead of nagging, threatening, or predicting doom and gloom, might your entire family experience a pleasant surprise? I have learned that our attitudes matter and that children, using their mirror neurons, can read our minds. So take this scripture to heart:  2 Cor. 9:2 : “Your enthusiasm has stirred them to action.”

Segment Eleven: Winter Blues. Welcome to Prayerful Parenting.© 2019 is a big year for me. This is Dr. Linda Karges-Bone, I’m a “Nana” two times over and I’ll be sharing some wisdom that it took 3 decades to learn and earn. Are you ready? Take depression seriously. It can be deadly. Take the Winter blues. Everyone gets them. A little bit of depression can’t really hurt. Or can it? Research suggests that depression is truly dangerous, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. I reviewed just a few of the studies and can report that 1) depressed mothers can cause cortisol, the stress hormone, to rise in their babies, and this can depress a child’s mental development; 2) daily use of the Internet, for long periods can cause depression; 3) depressed college students can stimulate depression in their roommates,4) smoking triggers depression in teens.5) Lack of sunlight and outdoor activity can trigger depression. Truly, Depression can destroy a marriage and a family. God wants you to be healthy, so seek medical, spiritual, and psychological help for depression. 2 Corinthians 7:6 says: “But God who comforts the depressed, comforted us in the coming of Titus.”

Segment Twelve: 5 to 1 Rule. Welcome to Prayerful Parenting.© 2019 is a big year for me. This is Dr. Linda Karges-Bone, I’m a “Nana” two times over and I’ll be sharing some wisdom that it took 3 decades to learn and earn. Are you ready?   If you knew that there was a “magic formula” for marital happiness, fidelity, and even better intimacy, would you pay for it? $100? $1000? Tell you what, I’ll pass it on for free. Here’s the secret: Follow the 5 to 1 Rule. According to multiple, valid studies and a ton of anecdotal research from pastors and counselors,” Those couples that succeed in their marriages enjoy an overriding proportion of positive over negative sentiment. “ That ratio is about 5 to 1, with 5 positive interactions, words, or gestures  to every ONE negative. 5 to 1. If couples get out of that balance, iciness replaces intimacy and anger replaces admiration. In many situations where adultery destroys a marriage, the wayward partner will say: “I didn’t feel loved.” Typically, he or she really meant that the relationship was critical, not loving. At some point and probably for a long time, the 5 to 1 ratio had been a lost cause.  “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.” (Hebrews 10:24)” How would your relationship look if an outsider was observing for the 5 to 1 ratio?

Segment Thirteen: Welcome to Prayerful Parenting.© 2019 is a big year for me. This is Dr. Linda Karges-Bone, I’m a “Nana” two times over and I’ll be sharing some wisdom that it took 3 decades to learn and earn. Are you ready? Spend part of the Winter getting ready for a truly joyous Easter. I think of Father Tony, a Franciscan priest who influenced my walk as a believer, and whose passion for Jesus Christ led me to become an Evangelical Christian. Father Tony knew how to get ready for Easter.  As soon as the Christmas tree was tossed, he began teaching the sacrifice of Christ and how believers should prayerfully prepare for a remembrance of the Crucifixion. I remember one Holy Week service, in which he prostrated himself at the alter, overcome with sorrow and weak from fasting. He wanted us understand the pain and power of Christ’s love. My favorite devotional writer, Dr. Oswald Chambers cautions believers against teaching solely about a God of love, ignoring the huge price that Christ paid for our sins by dying on the Cross. Yet, we tend to gloss right over the death of Christ and start celebrating the Resurrection. Galatians 6:14 says:”May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ,”.It was a long walk down the way of Sorrows for our Lord Jesus, and we need to teach our children to appreciate the sacrifice of the Cross in order to celebrate the Freedom of the Resurrection

Segment Fourteen: Be a Revelation Ready Family. Welcome to Prayerful Parenting.© 2019 is a big year for me. This is Dr. Linda Karges-Bone, I’m a “Nana” two times over and I’ll be sharing some wisdom that it took 3 decades to learn and earn. Are you ready? This is the toughest message of all, so I’ve saved it for last. Be gentle with me listeners, because I’m neither prophet nor preacher…just a teacher. As you build your family, be a “Revelation Ready” family. By this I mean, set a tone of being aware of and respectful of God’s unveiling of the truth. Create an environment of healthy “fear of the Lord”. This is not fear in the horror movie sense, but a profound respect for a God who sees and judges us all. Fear of the Lord is an awe inspiring wisdom. Fear of the Lord is, in Psalm 111 “the beginning of wisdom.” Without this respectful, loving, acknowledgement that God is God and we…well, we are just us, there is arrogance, and foolishness and ultimately destruction. The book of Revelation shows us not just the future, but right now, a time in which families struggle and suffer and fall apart because they do not acknowledge a healthy FEAR Of THE LORD.

Dr. Linda Karges-Bone is a professor, author, keynote speaker, and media host. You can contact her to book an event at http://www.educationinsite.com

 

Telling the truth to young wives and mothers….

The Truth About Balancing Work, Family, Community

Dr. Linda Karges-Bone

WWW.EDUCATIONINSITE.COM

The Truth About Balancing Work, Family, Community

Dr. Linda Karges-Bone

WWW.EDUCATIONINSITE.COM

 

  1. There is no such thing as BALANCE. There are only CHOICES. Choose wisely.
  2. Sometimes you need to CHECK OUT of the social media race and CHECK IN to what matters.
  3. Whenever you can, do things in BATCHES. If you are making lasagna or chicken pot pie…make 2. Freeze one or give one away. When you buy gift bags, buy a dozen, not one and keep them generic.
  4. Do the UNEXPECTED and make it your SIGNATURE. If you bake beautiful cakes, then use that. Give them as gifts. Make them the centerpiece of an event. Then cater or share the rest of the event.
  5. Take care of your HEALTH. Mental, physical, and spiritual.
  6. Maintain healthy BOUNDARIES.
  7. Learn to say NO graciously. Try this…Pause, make eye contact, smile and say….I would like to be able to help but cannot give it my full attention, but I can do this…..
  8. Make TRADES. If you cannot do lunch, do coffee. If you cannot help, send a gift.
  9. MULTI PURPOSE. REPURPOSE. SHARE. BARTER. CHOOSE.
  10. LIVE WITHIN YOUR MEANS.

 

 

woman doing yoga

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Lessons Learned from 40 Autumns of Marriage…

Fall Into An Organized Home-Life

By : Dr. Linda Karges-Bone

As the writer and host of a series of “parenting minutes” heard on Christian Radio,

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I am often surprised by the messages that provoke a larger numbers of responses. It is not the “heavy” stuff related to morals or medicine that kindle a reaction from listeners. Rather, the practical ideas about home and family seem to matter.  Recently, I heard from a slew of folks who wanted more information about research showing a relationship between neat, organized homes and kids who performed better in school. Obviously, this message struck a chord.

Why? Home-making is more than cleanliness. It is the creation of a setting for living, learning, playing, and thinking. During this time of year, the Autumn Equinox and subsequent time change offer a natural ‘pause button” in the rhythm of family life and can be an ideal time to take care of details and duties that can easily be overlooked. These ten tasks can help you to “fall into a more organized home life”.

 

Task One: At the time change in fall and spring, run white vinegar through  coffee and tea makers. Vinegar is a natural cleanser and you will be surprised at how much better your beverages taste when brewed in a fresh pot. Be sure to run 3-4 cycles of distilled water through the pot afterward to flush the vinegar.

 

Task Two: Take time to purge  closets of sweaters, coats, and shoes. Why these particular items? As the autumn temperatures plunge, homeless and less fortunate friends in the community require warm clothing, and may not be able to afford what they need.  How many navy blazers or red ski jackets does one need? Drop by Goodwill, the Salvation Army, or a church outreach closet and exchange these treasures for a tax deductible receipt.

 

Task Three: The Autumn Equinox happens to intersect with the first grading period in k-12 schools and the dreaded “mid-term” reports in college. Parents can make a good assessment of their students’ progress at this benchmark in the academic year.  Is it time for a tutor?  Is your child placed in the appropriately challenging set of courses? Are there too many distracting activities or friends that may be interfering with progress?

 

Task Four: Clean out the attic. It is finally cool enough to brave the eaves and closets upstairs. In the same spirit as task two, look for items that might be useful to those in need and go ahead and pull holiday decorating boxes to the front. You will want them handy in about a month.

 

Task Five: Swap closets. Many folks keep winter clothes in a separate closet or set of boxes during the summer. It is time to pull those winter garments out and put the summer things away. The week after the equinox is a good time to swap if you have been putting it off.

 

Task Six: Check out your fireplace, furnace, and filters. The three F’s of fending off winter chills are best attended to before the bitter winds blow. While filter-changing can be done by most sensible adults, a good inspection of fireplace, chimney, and furnace is the domain of an expert.

 

Task Seven: Plant bulbs now for beauty later. The first chill of autumn is a signal to begin scouring the aisles of the nursery and home improvement store for the best bulbs. One of the most meaningful experiences in the outdoor memories of my children came when they chose and planted daffodil and tulip bulbs in the autumn and then observed in sheer amazement when the flowers popped up in March.

 

Task Eight: Take down curtains and blinds if you can and give them a good cleaning. Air conditioning is marvelous, but it keeps the house closed up and dust finds a natural nesting place in fabrics and crevices. With so many children suffering from allergies, this kind of home maintenance is almost a prescription.

 

Task Nine: Clean out magazines and paperbacks that have piled up through the year. Ask the local hospital, assisted living home or library if they would like your literary treasures. Many libraries hold a tag sale around this time of year and will gladly glean the paperback books for resale.

 

Task Ten: Make a family calendar for holiday activities. Believe it or not, the winter holidays are just six to eight weeks away. If you want good seats for a special ballet or show or a babysitter for the night of your festive office party, now is the time to make reservations and phone calls.

 

With the exception of task number three, these little duties are hardly the stuff of life changing magnitude. Why do they matter? As I go about them, they give me a chance to pause and enjoy my home and to deconstruct some of the clutter that presses in mercilessly. It is as much a mental process as a physical one. There is research suggesting that homes that are clean and organized offer children a respite from the clutter and messiness of the world. Will it produce a higher SAT score or an honor roll report card? Maybe. Maybe not. But at least your coffee will taste better when you get up on those brisk Autumn mornings.