Prayerful Parenting Messages Winter 2020

Prayerful Parenting, Winter 2020


close up photography of snowflake

Photo by Egor Kamelev on

Segment One/ Consistency: Welcome to Prayerful Parenting.©  2020. If one has 2020 vision, he or she sees perfectly. Is your vision for parenting in 2020 shape? Clear? Intentional? Spiritually Sound? This is Dr. Linda Karges-Bone, and each of these messages will focus on an aspect of family life that might benefit from a 2020 shape up. Let’s talk about consistency. When I see parents struggling, it is often because of a lack of consistency in both practical and spiritual areas. Children thrive on consistency. Schedules, routines, and patterns that they can trust. Bedtimes should be consistent. Mealtimes should be consistent. And, your disposition should be consistent. A sense of calm and peacefulness in your voice, your behavior, and your decision making helps children to be calm and peaceful. It sounds simple, but believe me, I know how difficult consistency can be. As you work on consistency in your parenting, consider what God’s word has to say: “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. “Galatians 6:9.

Segment Two/ Integrity : Welcome to Prayerful Parenting.©  2020. If one has 2020 vision, he or she sees perfectly. Is your vision for parenting in 2020 shape? Clear? Intentional? Spiritually Sound? This is Dr. Linda Karges-Bone, and each of these messages will focus on an aspect of family life that might benefit from a 2020 shape up. Let’s talk about integrity. Your children see and hear everything and this happens much sooner in life than you might imagine. Everything you do and say and everything you fail to do or say is registered in their tiny brains. So, it is important that what they see and hear and feel in your presence is good and wholesome and just and right. That’s an enormous responsibility. I cannot deny it, and neither can I deny the delight you will feel when you see your own children responding to others with goodness and righteousness. For this to happen, you must be committed to living a life of integrity. You cannot do it in your own strength. So, ask for help. I do. “The integrity of the upright guides them, but the unfaithful are destroyed by their duplicity.” Proverbs 11:13

Segment Three/ Marriage: Welcome to Prayerful Parenting.©  2020. If one has 2020 vision, he or she sees perfectly. Is your vision for parenting in 2020 shape? Clear? Intentional? Spiritually Sound? This is Dr. Linda Karges-Bone, and each of these messages will focus on an aspect of family life that might benefit from a 2020 shape up. Let’s talk about marriage. Ask yourself if your marriage could be better in three months, by the time the flowers bloom, would you take a few simple steps to make that happen? Marriages are fragile. When troubles come and they will come to every couple, it is easy to turn against one another rather than turn together against the real issues. That is what Satan wants.  It is a trick and it often works. So, when financial trouble strike, don’t fall into the trap of blaming one another. Avoid accusatory “YOU DID IT” statements and move toward a collaborative “We can solve this together” position. The second step, make sure that you have at least 5 positive statements or touches for every negative or avoidance behaviors each day. That seems to be the magic formula. Eccl . 9:9 had it right: “Enjoy life with the wife whom you love.”  Make loving choices that keep your marriage whole and strong and a model for your children to follow.


Segment Four/ Anger : Welcome to Prayerful Parenting.©  2020. If one has 2020 vision, he or she sees perfectly. Is your vision for parenting in 2020 shape? Clear? Intentional? Spiritually Sound? This is Dr. Linda Karges-Bone, and each of these messages will focus on an aspect of family life that might benefit from a 2020 shape up. Let’s talk about anger. Consider your ability to control your temper. Consider how a day night look like without anger? When I see families in trouble, real trouble, I often see anger percolating right under the surface. The sad thing is that much of what triggers anger is our own poor decisions. Think about it. Are your children really misbehaving or have you kept them up too late, out too long, or jacked up on sugar? Is your spouse really critical or have you let down your end of the deal to stop needless spending or to take better care of your health? Are your in-laws really nosy or have you neglected to have them over to supper since the holidays? A soft answer turns away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger. – Proverbs 15:1 You have choices to make in 2020, choices that trigger anger or bring peace into your home. What will you choose?

Segment Five/ Healthy Bodies : Welcome to Prayerful Parenting.©  2020. If one has 2020 vision, he or she sees perfectly. Is your vision for parenting in 2020 shape? Clear? Intentional? Spiritually Sound? This is Dr. Linda Karges-Bone, and each of these messages will focus on an aspect of family life that might benefit from a 2020 shape up.  Let’s talk family health. Did you know that inflammation is the key to most dangerous illnesses and health issues. In my workshops, I tell folks that “inflammation is the devil”, and they laugh, but I’m not kidding. Foods that trigger inflammation make you older, more tired, prone to disease, and less creative. So: Switch packaged treats for fresh or dried fruits. Let kids make their own trail mix with interesting combinations of dried fruits, nuts, and a bit of dark chocolate. Roast a whole turkey on a Tuesday instead of just on Christmas and use the soothing meat for soups, stir fry, and wraps. Switch soda for iced green tea, which actually kills some cancer cells and is associated with higher test scores in kids. Use brown rice, whole grain pasta, and dark, whole wheat breads. Scripture says: “Give us this day, our daily bread.” Matt. 6:11. Think about it, the bread that you eat should sustain life and make it abundant. In 2020, consider ways to help your family fight inflammation and gain strength and energy needed to live a blessed life.

Segment Six/ Intuitive Parenting: Welcome to Prayerful Parenting.©  2020. If one has 2020 vision, he or she sees perfectly. Is your vision for parenting in 2020 shape? Clear? Intentional? Spiritually Sound? This is Dr. Linda Karges-Bone, and each of these messages will focus on an aspect of family life that might benefit from a 2020 shape up. Are you an “Intuitive Parent”? I hope so. Dr. Deb Snyder, seeking ways to communicate with her own special needs child discusses the importance of responding to the cries of infants and toddlers. In contrast to some harsh parenting styles advocated by those who recommend letting a child “cry it out”, this gentle, interactive style resonates. Little tiny babies and children learn by experience. In the very early weeks of life, there is a direct connection between the amygdala, the center for fear and alertness and the ability to cry. When a baby cries, he or she NEEDS attention. It is a way to survive and to build those very first connections for communication. When a little one cries, the correct response is to pick the baby up and soothe. Walk, feed, change, sing, rock in the rocking chair. It is the intuitive response. If you don’t, I will. I cannot stand to hear a baby cry.

Segment Seven / Water of Life : Welcome to Prayerful Parenting.©  2020. If one has 2020 vision, he or she sees perfectly. Is your vision for parenting in 2020 shape? Clear? Intentional? Spiritually Sound? This is Dr. Linda Karges-Bone, and each of these messages will focus on an aspect of family life that might benefit from a 2020 shape up. This year,  ask yourself how you can help to bring clean water to desperate families. Water is the source of life,  and like our need for a savior, we have a fundamental need for clean water. I had never really understood this crisis until I became involved in Water Missions International.  Think about this: 1.8 million children die every year as a result of diseases caused by unclean water and poor sanitation. This amounts to around 5000 deaths a day, one every 20 seconds.  For those of us with access to clean water and sanitation, the death of a child is a real tragedy, fortunately rare.  It is difficult to imagine a life in which the loss of children is ordinary and expected. To find out more about helping to bring clean water to families around the globe, visit   or help to support my team in the annual “Walk for Water. “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Rivers of living water will brim and spill out of the depths of anyone who believes in me.”

Segment Eight/Get Active: Welcome to Prayerful Parenting.©  2020. If one has 2020 vision, he or she sees perfectly. Is your vision for parenting in 2020 shape? Clear? Intentional? Spiritually Sound? This is Dr. Linda Karges-Bone, and each of these messages will focus on an aspect of family life that might benefit from a 2020 shape up. In this case, let’s talk about literally shaping up your family by increasing physical activity. I’ll start with a pet peeve; seeing perfectly healthy young families piled into golf carts and tooling around the neighborhood each evening instead of walking or biking. Now, don’t get mad and run this old lady and her puppy over because you’re insulted. Golf carts are fun. I get it. But you and your kids need to be moving. 40% of adults and 17% of children are clinically obese and many more overweight and out of shape. It is a threat to your family’s physical and mental health, with connections to cancer, depression, and a host of other problems. In 2020, consider parking the golf cart at least 5 days per week and getting everyone moving.


Segment Nine/ Common Sense: Welcome to Prayerful Parenting.©  2020. If one has 2020 vision, he or she sees perfectly. Is your vision for parenting in 2020 shape? Clear? Intentional? Spiritually Sound? This is Dr. Linda Karges-Bone, and each of these messages will focus on an aspect of family life that might benefit from a 2020 shape up. Let’s talk about raising kids who have common sense and who can count out the “cents” while making change. A friend posted about the debacle that ensued when a young person working at a fast food joint couldn’t make change without summoning not one, but two managers, neither of whom could make change themselves. It is ridiculous. The examples abound. Students at the college routinely email me about assignment questions when the answers are literally bulleted right in front of them. There seems to be a crisis in critical thinking, problem solving, and purse life skills. Parents. Make your kids think for themselves and solve problems without devices. Make a game of counting coins, finding the answers on a written, page, figuring out recipes, and using tools like measuring cups and rulers. Growing up with cell phones and Google means kids don’t have to figure things out or solve problems any more. They can look up what they need online or call mom or dad for step-by-step instructions. Today’s helicopter parents are more than happy to oblige, whether their kids are 12 or 22.” Make this your 2020 resolution or risk an entire generation with little common sense.


Segment Ten/ Winter Blues: Welcome to Prayerful Parenting.©  2020. If one has 2020 vision, he or she sees perfectly. Is your vision for parenting in 2020 shape? Clear? Intentional? Spiritually Sound? This is Dr. Linda Karges-Bone, and each of these messages will focus on an aspect of family life that might benefit from a 2020 shape up. Let’s talk openly about the Winter Blues. Are you experiencing any of the following symptoms during these dark winter days?

  • Hopelessness
  • Anxiety
  • Loss of energy
  • Social withdrawal
  • Oversleeping
  • Loss of interest in activities you once enjoyed
  • Appetite changes, especially a craving for foods high in carbohydrates
  • Weight gain
  • Difficulty concentrating and processing information

You could have a case of SAD or Seasonal Affective Disorder and it can affect your life in negative ways. The combination of cold, post-holiday let-down, fewer hours of sunlight, and changes in melatonin and serotonin levels as one ages may trigger this form of depression. But you can find help in simple ways. Get outside every day. Engage in physical activity that gets your heart rate up. Choose super-foods that fight lethargy, such as berries, beans, citrus fruits, and nuts. And, most of all, keep your spiritual health robust. Nehemiah 8:9-11  says: “Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.”


Segment Eleven/ Making a Difference: Welcome to Prayerful Parenting.©  2020. If one has 2020 vision, he or she sees perfectly. Is your vision for parenting in 2020 shape? Clear? Intentional? Spiritually Sound? This is Dr. Linda Karges-Bone, and each of these messages will focus on an aspect of family life that might benefit from a 2020 shape up. Let’s talk about making a difference for Christ. I ask you this, if an alien landed tonight, and secretly observed your 10 random families in your neighborhood, would your family look and sound significantly different than any of the others? Would there be more kindness and mindfulness in your speech? Would you and your children be engaged in acts of love and service to those who suffer? Would you be gossiping? Critical of others? Would your marriage look more or less loving than any other relationship under observation? Would the programs in your Netflix feed and the music on you Itunes reflect values distinct to your Christian worldview? Would you feed or clothe or visit anyone out of your immediate circle of family? Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind says Romans 12. In 2020, will your family seem strange and wonderful in the eyes of an alien world?

Segment Twelve/ Bullying: Welcome to Prayerful Parenting.©  2020. If one has 2020 vision, he or she sees perfectly. Is your vision for parenting in 2020 shape? Clear? Intentional? Spiritually Sound? This is Dr. Linda Karges-Bone, and each of these messages will focus on an aspect of family life that might benefit from a 2020 shape up. Let’s talk about bullying. A recent study conducted by the FBI, suggests that a significant number of those young men responsible for school shootings and other violent attacks were themselves the victims of bullying. From an early age, these boys felt marginalized and unvalued. Somewhere along the line, Christian teachers, coaches, youth leaders, or social workers might have intervened. Do we recognize bullying when we see it? Are we aware enough of human frailty to understand that for many children, bullying does not toughen them up….instead it tires them out and breaks them down. Bullying is cruel. It is never acceptable. If we want to change the current path that so many boys stumble onto, leading to desperation and death, we must be prepared to fight for every child and to create classrooms and ministries that lift up broken children.” The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit. “ Psalm 34



Thoughts on the Circus Within the Circle of Life


A Little Bit of Therapy for 2020

Dr Linda Karges-Bone


circus theme party

Photo by Vidal Balielo Jr. on

When the original Disney “Lion King” movie was released in the summer of 1994, the hauntingly beautiful theme song about the circle of life seemed to be everywhere. Suddenly, everyone was a philosopher. As the old crooner Elton John sang: “In the circle of life. It’s the wheel of fortune. It’s the leap of faith. It’s the band of hope…” And so on. Quite profound. So, touching. Even true.

As we begin a new decade and one reflects on the changes and challenges of months that are in the rear-view mirror, I find myself drawn more to the circus of life, than the circle. Actually, I find, more and more that within those circles and cycles of life, as karma takes us for a wild ride and things come and go around and round, it is the unexpected, surprising, even ridiculousness of the “circus of life” that keeps us guessing. Perhaps your experiences align more with circuses than circles. Let’s talk about that, starting with some interesting quotes about the circus of life.

From David Niven: “Keep the circus going inside you, keep it going, don’t take anything too seriously, it’ll all work out in the end.”

From George Carlin: “Just cause you got the monkey off your back doesn’t mean the circus has left town.”

From  William H. McRaven: “ But if you want to change the world, don’t be afraid of the circuses.”

Polish Idiom: “Not my circus, not my monkey.”


If one looks at life from the perspective or metaphor of a circle it can be quote comforting. The circle has a beginning and an end. It is closed, yet forever going around and round. There is a sense of closure and a hope that things will eventually work out or perhaps come around again to where we want them to be. The circle of life is a simple, yet powerful worldview. Perhaps that is why so many of us are drawn to it. Think of how we incorporate circles into our path: wedding rings, the sun, the moon, hiking paths, the cycle of the seasons. In many cultures, the circle takes on spiritual heft, representing unity, infinity, totality. Wow. Pretty deep.

But what if your life didn’t follow a circuitous path? What if your experiences are more circus than circle? What if your job, your plans, your purpose took some crazy turns this year? Looking back over the past year, perhaps even receiving the first holiday newsletters with updates from old friends and acquaintances or checking posts on social media, you are struck by the decidedly unexpected, untamed, unfettered nature of life. Does any of this ring a bell?

*The “perfect couple” that suddenly split up after decades of marriage.

*The “health nut”, skinny, faithful runner who collapsed from a heart attack.

*The “trusted minister” arrested for a creepy crime.

*The “gold standard” stock that plummeted because of shady accounting.

* The “ideal job” that turned into a nightmare when a new boss came onboard.

*The “cruise of a lifetime” that turned into a norovirus mess.

*The “best friend” who had a secret life.

“The “achy hip” that needs a replacement, not an ice pack.

*The “top student” who was actually a cheater.

*The “romantic weekend” that turned into a sulking mess.

“The romance, wedding, pregnancy, adoption, or new house that just didn’t work out, at all.

*The “super economy” that flips into a recession.

“The “Ideal House for Flipping” that ends up being a money pit.

All of these scenarios happened to folks that I know and care about and they were confronted with decisions and challenges that turned their comfortable circle into a crazy circus, sometimes overnight. How did they manage to survive and even thrive? This is what I’ve seen.

7 Rules for Surviving a Circus Life

  1. Be prepared to change your costume. Life in a real circus demands costume changes. Flexibility, adaptability, and optimism. The job that ended before you were ready to retire might mean an opportunity to work as a consultant and make your own hours.
  2. Don’t forget to bring in the clowns. That’s circus talks for humor. Laugh at yourself. Laugh at the irony of life. Don’t take things too seriously.
  3. When you are on the tightrope, have a safety net. Be prepared with a back up plan, whether it is a nest egg or money or better still, a group of friends who will listen and love you no matter how crazy your circus gets.
  4. If you are going to have a circus, get a really big tent. Don’t be afraid to live big, try new things, entertain the unexpected. It can be messy, but such fun.
  5. Don’t be afraid to stuff many clowns into the little clown car. Remember that old act? If the clown car is your life, then find and keep as many good friends who share your vision of life and take them along on the adventure. In counseling, we call this “social capital” and it is associated with a longer, more healthy life.
  6. If you go into the tiger cage, bring a whip and a chair. I don’t want to offend animal lovers. This is just a metaphor. But be award of danger. Be prepared. Be careful, not foolish. One cannot control everything in a circus world, but one can be cautious around dangerous critters, like other humans!
  7. Like the ringmaster or ring mistress of a circus, consider yourself the ringleader of your show. Survivors in the circus of life speak boldly and insist that the “show must go on”. I call that resilience. Even when things get wild and the monkeys of life are flinging…..well….what monkeys life to fling, the show goes on. For me and for many other survivors of trauma and drama, simply putting one foot in front of the other and continuing to engage in life with as much normality as possible is the key to a worthwhile life.

Finally, the difference between a perfect circle of life and the less predictable, more confusing circus of life may be found in this adage, taken from a Polish idiom cited earlier: “Not my circus, not my monkey.”  You see, in the circle of life philosophy, there is an underlying belief that all will work out in the end, that there is a greater good at work. And, I still believe that. I am not a nihilist, one who believes that there is no plan, no principle. I actually embrace a hybrid philosophy, if you will. I see the circus within the circle. I believe the circle has detours and ripples and that many circuses set up their tents on the journey. So, in closing, be prepared to remove yourself from situations or circuses not of your own choosing, not consistent with your beliefs, not supportive of your health and well-being. Stay true to yourself, personally and professionally. Be prepared to say: “Not My Circus. Not My Monkey” and do what makes you a better, healthier person.

Tis the Season for Travel….Do It Well

Travel Tips for Busy Professionals

Dr. Linda Karges-Bone

            I love to travel.  It feeds my soul. It can also make me crazy. As a consultant who travels a great deal for work and a professor who has done a number of national and international trips taking educators on travel-study, I have learned a great deal. Often, the best lessons emerge from the biggest mistakes! Truly.

This article offers recommendations for professional travel. Of course, the tips translate nicely to personal and family treks as well, so use them as you see fit. Here are 25 tips to make your next professional jaunt more relaxed and comfortable. You may notice that many of the tips are useful for your daily commute or even a day trip in the region.

  1. Stay plugged in. I keep a clear bag with a phone charger, car charger, and a mobile power bank packed and at the ready. These are separate from my personal use chargers and stay in the bag for travel or conferences.
  2. Charge devices when you can. If I am below 50%, I charge up while having a coffee or on the plane.
  3. Keep all presentations on 1) A flash drive for back up and 2) In your email. I email the presentation to myself before the trip. 3) In the “cloud” for additional back up.
  4. Make hard copies of your travel and registration confirmations and keep them in a green folder marked travel. Hard copies are easy to write on and tuck in your purse and you have them if your phone fails or is lost.
  5. Use professional organizations such as AAA or AARP for substantial discounts on rental cars and hotels.
  6. Save receipts in a small zip-lock bag in your purse or messenger bag. These are tax deductible as a professional expense, including your conference registration.
  7. This sounds crazy, but do it. When you plug in your devices at the hotel room or conference center, talk to yourself out loud and say: I am plugging the phone in by the bed or wherever it is. You will remember your voice saying it! There is nothing worse than sitting on a plane frantically searching for a phone still plugged into a hotel outlet.
  8. Bring a good quality water bottle and fill it up at the airport after you go through security. Dehydration is your enemy, leading to headaches and fuzzy thinking.
  9. Ask for upgrades. It doesn’t hurt. Hotel, cars, even airline seats if things are slow.
  10. Ask for other things too. Free breakfast? Better wifi. Snacks.  Fancy coffee.  Ask and ye shall receive.
  11. Be safe. Lock doors. Be aware of your surroundings. Keep your purse on your person, not on the back of the chair. Do not go for walks or runs alone. There is a treadmill in the hotel. Use it.
  12. Consider using a cross-body purse when you travel. I like a messenger bag for documents , technology, materials and a small cross body for my money, cards, phone, and such.
  13. Send your itinerary to a trusted family member or friend and consider using a “Find Me” app so that someone can always see where you are.
  14. Pack in one or two basic colors and add vibrant touches with accessories. I like black and gray or brown and cream and then jazz things up with scarves and inexpensive costume jewelry, which I keep in zip-lock bags for easy sight and access.
  15. Notice the costume jewelry. I do not wear nor take any real jewelry. A simple wedding band only.
  16. Dress in layers. Planes and conference centers are notoriously chilly. I love a denim jacket that is in good shape. It looks fun with a knit dress or slacks and is easy to stash.
  17. Eat small meals, high in protein. My go to favorite is hummus with olives, pretzels, and carrots. I pack my own in a small bag and just add a cold drink.
  18. I don’t like a big meal before I speak or present, so I take my own protein bars or trail mix and just add the free hotel or conference coffee.
  19. Avoid hotel computers or if you use them, clear the history. Never use them for anything other than printing your boarding pass. Do not check email. NEVER shop online.
  20. Bring something to read and then pass it on. I love doing this. I bring a paperback and then leave it in the hotel lobby or reading area after I finish. I have even “traded” with someone I chatted with on the plane.
  21. As far as the plan or train, bring earplugs and headphones to watch a movie or listen to an audio book on your device.
  22. Bring a small flashlight. Keep it in your cross body bag and by your bed at night. Believe me, one night when the fire alarm went off in the hotel and I was negotiating stairs in the dark, it was a blessing.
  23. Keep your travel kit packed at all times. Use samples and travel size products of your favorites. Be sure to include a good quality antibiotic cream and a few band aids as well as headache meds and something like Dramamine or Bonine for nausea and to help you sleep.
  24. By October 2020, we will need “REAL ID” to travel in the US. If you haven’t upgraded yet, you can use your passport.
  25. Use your cell phone for more than Instagram. Take a picture of your parking spot in the giant lot. Take snaps of business cards, books in the airport shops that you want to get from the library instead of buy, and even keep notes on words and ideas for new activities and events. Also, keep a password list in a secret file in case you need to do some kind of work while you are away.

Learning how to travel like a pro can be a healthy part of your professional growth. As a coach and mentor, I often hear from folks who are intimidated by travel and avoid opportunities because of their fears and concerns. These strategies can coax and coach you through travel worries, so press on.

Dr. Linda Karges-Bone is a professor, author, consultant, and media influencer. Her latest book is “Rich Brain-Poor Brain: Bridging Social and Synaptic Gaps in Schools”. Find out more at

Bone 7

The Great Pecan Pie Love Story

variety of brown nuts on brown wooden panel high angle photo

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The Debacle That Led to a Love Story….

Dr. Linda Karges-Bone

Looking back, I realized that the tall, skinny Southern guy whom I was dating during the holiday season of 1978 was the one I should marry. I knew this because of the now famous “pecan pie debacle”. I was young, just 19 and an English major at the College of Charleston. My head was in the books, poetry mostly , with Emily and Walt. Cooking was not my forte, but this authentically Southern “good old boy” liked food more than poetry. And I liked him. A lot. So I decided to make him a pie. Specifically, a pecan pie, because that was what he liked the most and what he had been talking about for weeks as the holidays approached. How hard could it be? I pulled out the Fannie Farmer cookbook that my ever hopeful mother had secured for my Hope Chest, because nice girls kept such a chest 40 years ago, and looked up the recipe. Now, I must note here that I am Italian and from the North. Add that to my desire to become a writer and my absolute lack of knowledge of Southern cooking, pecans, and indeed any kind of baking and what happens next will become plausible. I assembled the ingredients and began to chop the pecans. The cookbook suggested a food processor for such work and not having one around, I thought the blender might suffice. It did for a minute or two, but began shaking and belching and emitting a horrible burnt cinder kind of smell as the ( unshelled) pecans resisted. I kept at it, mulching small handfuls at a time. “No wonder they only make this at the holidays,” I thought. “It is really hard to chop these nuts!” You see where this is going and so did my beau, once he bit into the nicely browned, nut filled custard of the pie. He was fooled for a moment, since the syrupy, buttery custard was less challenging and camouflaged  the jagged pieces of nut and shell that had been baked into it. He chewed carefully, occasionally removing ( carefully) pieces of shell and placing them on the dessert plate.  My family was busy devouring the traditional pumpkin and apple pies that my father had made earlier in the week. He had been at work and missed my own floundering attempts, or maybe he didn’t look too closely, in some kind of effort to gauge the worth of this suitor.  My brother recognized the truth first, laughing until he literally fell out of the chair.  “She left the shells in the pie! Who does that? Wait, she’s an English major. That explains it.”  Gary, now my husband of 39 years, lowered his head and grinned, thankfully pushing the plate away before he broke a tooth. “Why didn’t you say anything?” I asked, absolutely horrified at the realization of my error. “I couldn’t believe it, “he admitted. “Didn’t you ever shell a pecan?” I reasoned that Up North, we ate walnuts, not pecans, as if this explained anything at all. “You tried,” he patted my hand. “That was real nice.”  And I knew then, this guy was a keeper. So now, I make several, quite tasty pecan pies each season. My extended family requests them, since my sisters all married Southern men who can’ live without greens, cornbread, and pecan pie.  And every year, the story is re-told and my husband has to answer the question: “And you still married her?”  “She has other talents,” he’ll say with a sly smile, and that makes it alright.

The Holiday Minimalist : The Lazy Girl’s Guide to De-Cluttering

Dr. Linda Karges-Bone


balls celebration christmas christmas balls

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         We all know who she is, the diminutive, yet domineering queen of clean, that steely eyed princess of power cleaning who will organize your sock drawer, your spice cabinet, and your marriage in one weekend…Marie Kondo. She has a super best-selling book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing. , now a series on Netflix, and the ultimate adulation, a verb of her own. We now refer to “Kondo” as a verb….as in “Let’s kondo the garage this weekend and organize the Christmas stuff and tools. ” According to her website: “Our goal is to help more people tidy their spaces by choosing joy, and we are committed to developing the simplest and most effective tools to help you get there.”

That’s a worthy goal and I must admit to watching the new program while trudging away on my treadmill. However, the entire process seems a bit overwhelming. What about the busy educator who simply want to de-clutter and de-stress during this busy season?

In this piece, I’ll offer a holiday calendar of  30  days of suggestions to organize, sanitize, and strategize your home and work-space, using my own brand of thinking, ideas that I’ve seen, borrowed, created, imagined, and applied over 40 years of teaching, consulting, and homemaking. You might not get the full “KonMarie” treatment, which is quite awesome I would imagine, but you will feel a bit neater and calmer using a “Minimalist” approach to the holidays. These suggestions are not in any kind of order, but simply represent an assortment of helpful hints that I use myself.

The Calendar

Day 1 Buy, borrow, or barter for the following items that are absolutely essential to keeping your home and work space clean and de-cluttered: a feather duster, a hand-held vacuum, and an assortment of matching, assorted baskets and bins.

Day 2 Go through your books and magazines and sort them in some kind of order that pleases you. Then, do what I call a “purge with a purpose”. Ask yourself if there are others who could use these books right now or how you might use these books in a better way. For example, I routinely purge my books and give some away to a bookmobile or student teachers at the college, for their new classrooms.

Day 3 Decide on a “signature gift” that you will make yourself, in bulk, and have ready during the season for a quick, yet meaningful offering to colleagues and friends. I have bread machine and typically have a holiday loaf at the ready every day, to give away. I also like jars for this purpose. There are many cute styles now, inexpensive and accessible at discount stores. Two suggestions that are welcome: a healthy nut or seed mix with dark chocolate chips or a spice tea or cocoa mix. Create a label with your name and an inspirational message. Voila! Hint: Turn this into a craft for your residents so that they can enjoy it as well.

Day 4 When you decorate, decide to minimalize it and create a theme that can extend into the winter season. That means, get rid of or de-emphasize Santa and the elves and go with greenery, LED lights, and natural décor like pine cones and snowflakes. This not only gives you back days of holiday time, I have found that it helps to reduce winter depression when I still have a festive look to my home and porch into January and February. Hint: This year I took down my beautiful, live wreath from the front door and hung it on the fireplace screen inside after Christmas. It scents the room and keeps the holiday energy flowing!

Day 5. I may be the last person to discover this, but pillow covers are your friend. I love a throw pillow and use them on couches, for extra seats on the floor, and here in the South, on outdoor seating like porch rockers. But it was getting crazy to clean, store, and change them out. My sister turned me on to pillow covers…inexpensive and washable. Amazing. So now you can put snowflakes on rocking chairs and pinecones on porches and save time and money.

Day 6 . Ok…this is something that Marie Kondo actually does, but I have been doing it for many, many years and I am old ( 60 in April). Wear white during the winter ( or all year round). I actually saw it in ladies’ magazines that my mother read back in the 1960’s. We called it “Winter White” back then and it was tres’ chic! Marie Kondo, apparantly, always wears white because it evokes cleanliness, but I like it for a minimalist look. A white sweater with slacks or a crisp white shirt give you a polished look and are easy to accessorize for the holidays.

Day 7.  Decide on a wrapping theme for gifts and stick to it. I am a fan of glitter, so a silver or gold paper that you can use all year long and buy in bulk is a good idea.

Day 8 Commit to the idea of re-purposing found items. It is tempting to simply clean out and clean up, but can be so satisfying to re-purpose. Here are some ideas for your residents. 1) Gently used white athletic socks can be bleached and then stuffed with one or two found tennis balls for a nice massager. 2) Run glass jars through the dishwasher and refill them with holiday candies or potpourri.

Day 9  Pick one day a week and clean out and reorganize a single drawer in your kitchen, bathroom, and office until you have done them all.

Day 10  Play “dress up” with your friends. The prescribed way to declutter one’s closet according to the gurus is to take every item of clothing out and pile them on a bed to review and purge. But what if you aren’t quite ready for that? Here’s a fun idea that is perfect for pre-holiday time. Go through and identify your sparkly, party, dress up favorites including sweaters, handbags, costume jewelry, and shoes. Invite some girlfriends over and ask them to do the same and bring their treasures. Serve some festive beverages and “shop” each others’ items for holiday parties instead of buying new things. Once everyone is satisfied, bag up the remains for donation.

Day 11  Decide on a holiday scent and use it throughout the home and office. Pine? Cinnaomon? Cedar? Match your hand soaps, kitchen cleaner, and candles. Discount vendors such as Target feature organic brands at reasonable prices.

Day 12 Do a coat closet purge and be brutal about it. Bring your extras to the local homeless shelter.  Few things take up as much room as bulky coats and few donations are as immediately useful as winter jackets and coats.

Day 13 Do a search for holiday cards and computer stationary that you haven’t used, perhaps for years. Gather it all into a cute tote bag, also repurposed and bring it to an elementary school art teacher.

Day 14 Clean out your pantry and use at least 2-3 “found items” to make “Stone Soup”. A handful of lentils, a can of stewed tomatoes, a lone onion….put them all together with broth or bouillon cubes if you don’t have meat.

Day 15 Sort through your pantry for duplicates of items such as peanut butter, spaghetti sauces, and cake mixes. Give the extras to a local food closet before they go out of date.


Day 16 Clear everything off your kitchen counters except for the coffee pot, a sacred item and wipe the space down with a citrus scented natural cleaner. Try to keep it clear for a week and notice how much better you feel.

Day 17 Take out holiday ornaments and do three things. 1) Bag and drag those that you no longer love and donate them to a school, shelter, or newlywed couple that might not yet have their collection built up; 2) Try using favorite ornaments in a fresh way, such as filling hurricane globes with a dozen, floating around an LED candle or string of fairy lights; 3) Try using only one color or theme on a smaller tree. For example, only use your reindeer or animal ornaments or only use blue and gold or only use red and white this year.

Day 18 Go through your handbags and select only your favorites to keep. That’s step #1. Look through those that aren’t staying and see if any can be polished up or repaired and sold online. You might be surprised.  Extra holiday cash is lovely.

Day 19 Research on mental health and depression suggests that many adults are actually lonely and that they feel “stuck” in a cycle in which they work all the time and cannot find opportunities to reach out to friends. Choose a minimalist approach and address this in your life. Instead of planning a holiday dinner party, how about soup and cornbread and board games for a few old friends?

Day 20 Sweep your front porch and steps and put a wreath on the door. Choose one that can stay up through winter. This is a satisfying task that brings immediate gratification.

Day 21 Select an evening and simultaneously run a cleaner through the dishwasher, washing machine, and coffee maker. Clean the lint filter on the dryer. Wipe the sinks and run a few lemon slices in the garbage disposal.  The whole thing takes minutes to set up and then let it all run while you have a glass of wine.

Day 22 Go through all your drawers, tote bags, and containers and find every pen, pencil, and marker that you own. Make a cup of tea and sit down and purge, toss, and organize them into a clear container. If you have a lot, put some into a zip lock bag to put in the art room at work.

Day 23 Take a laundry basket out to your car and clean everything out that isn’t essential. Toss and purge. Either vacuum with a hand-held vacuum or plan to drop it by the car wash the next day. Nothing rejuvenates like a clean vehicle.

Day 24 Go through the bread basket, pantry, and cabinets and gather half used grain items into a zip-lock bag. Head for the local duck pond on your bike or on foot and feed the critters while you get a little exercise.

Day 25 Instead of many small items as holiday gifts, determine to give one or two meaningful, desired items to friends and family members. Use an app that allows family members to identify sizes and brands that really appeal.

Day 26 Set up a reading corner for adults and kids this season. Have a few throws, some snacks, and a basket of holiday themed stories and magazines to encourage less screen time and more reading time.

Day 27 Have a “date night” at home with your significant other, but keep it simple. Serve hot chocolate, perhaps with a dash of a liqueur and watch vintage, romantic holiday movies from the 40’s and 50’s. Nostalgia can be romantic as one experiences a simpler time.

Day 28  Use a free grocery store delivery service or pick up option and order only what you need to make meals or to replenish essential items. See if you notice spending less because you aren’t subject to emotional purchases.

Day 29  Visit the local library’s website and order in a few audio books that feature holiday classics that you haven’t read and listen to them as you drive, exercise, or clean. Stimulate your brain as you minimalize your home and work space.

Day 30 Skip the big holiday tree and experiment with one of the following: 1) A vintage ceramic lit tree on a tabletop; 2) A collection of poinsettia plants stacked on a tree like structure; 3) A small, live tree on your porch, in a planter, that will find a home in the yard after the holiday.

A minimalist holiday may be just what you need to put the focus on what really matters this season. You might be like my friend who applied a few of these strategies and actually found an important missing document and some cash while clearing and de-cluttering. Who knows what treasures, tangible and intangible, that await you?


People Boxes: A Teaching Trap

jack in the box toy

Advice for Educators and Therapists

Dr Linda Karges-Bone

Although the famous cowboy crooner Roy Rogers introduced the song in one of his western film hits in 1945, many people attribute the song  to Kate Smith’s radio program in 1944. It is the memorable Cole Porter tune, “Don’t Fence Me In”.  Why do so many connect to that tune? I think it is our natural inclination to resent being “fence in” or as one of my favorite children’s books says: “boxed in”.

We like to do that. Put people behind fences. In boxes. Into mental confinements where we can control them, or at least try to. And that’s a shame. In the story mentioned earlier, which I actually use as much in corporate training as in children’s lessons, the main character sees the world from a unique perspective. Everybody else sees a simple cardboard box, but he thinks more creatively, imagining everything from a robot to a mountain top chalet. He even refuses to call it a box, naming it his “Not a Box”, so that others might begin to understand that there are no limits except the ones that we impose. And, we do impose these limits.

Recently, a program director whom I respect greatly, encouraged me to write about this human trait. Terri Livingston works with young children and was talking about teachers’ tendencies to label children, especially in terms of negative attributes. “It is hard to undo or release those thoughts once they are poured over you,” she lamented. Then, she went on to say this, which I found critical. “It is like my childhood Jack in the Box toy;  that clown was always trapped in the box, while an outsider turned the handle over and over, controlling him, allowing him to pop up briefly and startle you, but then always pushed back inside.”

Wow. Isn’t that what we are likely to do to our students, residents, colleagues, and even those closest? We keep them in a box, or behind a fence, so that we can control what we think they are or should be.

Let’s change that.

Why Do We Do It?

Why do we put people into “little boxes” or “behind fences”? I think there are seven reasons. Which ones resonate with you as an educator?

  • Some people have strong qualities, either positive or negative, that make it easy to plug them into certain spots in our minds.
  • It is easier to negotiate relationships and communication when we know where everyone fits.
  • We have learned biases ( gender, race, age) that are difficult to overcome.
  • Past experiences in our lives, cultures, or community create natural niches into which we fit others.
  • We look only on the external or superficial features of the individual.
  • Individuals put up “masks” to protect themselves and we don’t stop to investigate further.
  • Fatigue, stress, time constraints and distractions limit our ability to apply intuition and discernment.

How To Let the Jack ( Or Jill) Out of the Box

Here are a few strategies to keep an open mind when dealing with students, residents, their family members, or colleagues. Start with this important advice from life coach Kate Nasser.[1]

Ask more questions. Talk to people. It keeps us in learning mode. It gives us knowledge and insight to replace labels. “If you’re tired of arguing with strangers on the Internet, try talking with one of them in real life. ~Barack Obama, Farewell Address Jan. 2017”

If we don’t like the behavior we see, state what change we want to see. For example, if a teammate isn’t completing their tasks and it’s delaying our work, it’s far more productive to speak with the teammate and express what we need instead of labeling them as lazy.

In addition, I recommend two additional strategies:

  1. Ask yourself why you chose the particular label. For example, if you labeled an individual  as “bossy”, is it because you genuinely feel she is overwhelming or is it because you haven’t found a way to keep her occupied and engaged? Keeping her in a “Bossy Box” is easier than creating new ways to help her feel calm and connected.
  2. Keep in mind that some of the handy boxes and labels that you use may actually be functions of personality and learning styles, especially if the traits you are attempting to cage and corral are very different from your own. For example, someone whom you label as “brash” or “flashy” may simply be an over the top extrovert. I remember, years and years ago, when I was interviewing for an early teaching job on a faculty that was made up of proper Southern ladies who only wore tiny gold post earrings and a set of pearls for adornment. My large, shiny earring and colorful clothing, a product of my vivacious Italian personality quickly earned me the label of “showy” and “outsider”. I found this out years later when I had made friends with the principal. “Wow,” he said. “We made a mistake not hiring you when we had the chance. You are such a gifted teacher. You just seemed so different at the time.” Yes. “Different”, a code word in the labeling world.
  3. Imagine that every word you use to describe students, residents, family members, or colleagues was going to be broadcast live for the next week. Every word. How would your tone and word choices reflect on you personally and professionally? Would they be kind or cutting? Then, rewind the tape and change out a few descriptors.

In case you are stuck in a rut, labeling folks too quickly and with a liberal dose of negativity, try this box to help you shift cognitive gears.

Current Label Positive Switch
Bossy Busy
Gossipy Friendly
Nosy Curious
Sullen Detached
Messy Creative
Challenging Bold
Hyper Active
Confrontational Concerned
Insolent Sassy
Loud Upbeat
  1. Conduct staff development that challenges the ways that staff think. I like using the children’s book mentioned above, “Not a Box”. Bring in a large cardboard box. Ask participants to describe what they see. Write down their responses. Then, read the story aloud and repeat the exercise. What happens?

not a box book

Why It Matters

When we fall into the trap of boxing people in, we lose valuable opportunities for living, learning, and leaning into life. We lose them for ourselves and we limit the possibilities for others. Like the classic children’s toy, the “Jack in the Box”, our labels trap the creative spirit and keep it from reaching potential. As an educator charged with stimulating the minds of students or residents and motivating others in the building to do the same, it is important to examine the role of labels, boxes, and fences in communication and interaction. Break out of the box. Tear down the fence. Shred the labels. It is so much more fun that way.


Dr. Linda Karges-Bone is the author of 34 books for educators and has done training or keynotes in 44 states. You can reach her at


Memories of Working At Summer Camp: A Special Experience

Memories of Working At Summer Camp: Not Always What You Expect

Dr. Linda Karges-Bone

photo of volkswagen kombi on dirt road

Photo by Alfonso Escalante on

Michael row the boat ashore, Hallelujah!
Michael row the boat ashore, Hallelujah!

Jordan’s river is chilly and cold, Hallelujah!
But it warms the human soul, Hallelujah!
This old world is a mighty big place, Hallelujah
It got Satan all over its face, Hallelujah

Pete Seeger

             By the time I was 18 years old, I could write a Federal Grant proposal, design budgets, supervise a staff of 25 counselors and therapists, plan bus routes, and provide summer fun experience for up to 120 special needs children. I’m not making this up. It was 1977 in the rural South, and the genesis of the “Community Living” shift moving special needs children from institutions back into their homes, public schools, and community settings. These children needed summer experiences and we had not yet evolved to mainstreaming them into existing day camps, sports’ teams, or even daycare settings. Special day programs were required and only a brave and perhaps fool hearty group of college kids were up for the challenge. It was called “Camp Joy” and it was an experience that was more than joyful; it was life changing.

I worked as a counselor, then director of the summer camp and school year weekend recreation program for five years. One might be surprised that such a young, inexperienced woman would be given such responsibilities, but remember, it was the 1970’s in a fairly isolated area and few were interested in that kind of work. And work it was!

During the 6 week summer camp, which was held at a local state park, my staff and I worked 10 hour days for about 50 cents per hour. Yes, by the time you figured out our time riding the bus routes with the children, conducting camp, taking the kids home, and then cleaning everything up, we were on the clock from about 6:00 am to 4:00 pm. That doesn’t count the planning, soliciting funds and materials, and meetings. I recruited my staff from three places: my family and friends; the local church youth organizations, especially the CYO, or Catholic Youth at my church, and my teacher education peers at the College of Charleston.

My best friend for the past 40 years was part of that latter group. She still recalls the first time we met, when I stood up in our “Philosophy of Education” class taught by Dr. Pete Yaun and invited folks to apply to work at the camp. I explained the long hours, the meager pay, and the amazing children and amazingly, several hands went up. Janis was one of those first staff members. The friendship blossomed and endured and both of us went on the have satisfying, productive careers in the field of education.

So did most of the staff counselors and program therapists. It should be a case study, really, the ways that so many young people, from ordinary backgrounds came together to create a unique experience for some of the most poor, disenfranchised kids in our area and ended up changing the course of their own lives. When I review the staff rosters, the story unfolds: 3 nurses, a doctor, 20 teachers, most of whom earned advanced degrees, school principals, published authors, professors, community advocates, and a Catholic monsignor. It is funny, but that gentle, freckled face, ginger haired young camp counselor from a devout Catholic family seemed like “Father Tim” even back then. The children, many of whom had no verbal language, were drawn to him, sensing that goodness intrinsically.

A large part of the staff each year was comprised of my own siblings. My brother George drove the bus and organized sports. My twin sisters Annie and Patty led groups and taught crafts. We even brought our baby brother, aged 7 or 8 along as a volunteer and helper when our parents were working. My dad’s company donated ice cream sandwiches every week, the boxes that “fell off the truck” that daddy drove. Not many families could work together with such seamless intention, but we were and are close and were bound together by a fierce family drive to serve and protect special needs children. Our cousin, Irma, was a Down’s syndrome child and a product of the archaic Willow Brook School in New York State, where so many children were abused and mistreated. We were on a mission to make things different on our watch.

Now, in the South, in the summertime, it is hot. Very hot. We held camp outdoors, next to a river, in a state park with rustic bathrooms, winding trails, and an assortment of wild animals and reptiles. Why? Because it was offered free and there was no other option. We held lunch and Bingo and some craft and music sessions under the three shelters. Much of the time, the children and staff were on the nature trails or playing in the “big field” in the center. Our favorite prop was a huge, green nylon parachute donated by the husband of one of the staff members, who was in the Air Force. We began each day with everyone in the center, holding the sides of the enormous parachute and singing songs, sharing announcements, and yes, even asking a blessing. The blessing was essential. We would pray that the lunch truck would arrive from town with our free, federally funded boxed lunches. We would pray that nobody would fall in the river nor be bitten by a snake. We would pray that the buses would start back up, because sometimes they didn’t. You get the idea. And we would end with  several versions of what is now known in corporate circles as “team building”, but we would just billow the parachute up and down several times, chanting and hollering and then let the children all dart underneath it and then crawl back out. It never got old.

It was called “Camp Joy”. There were similar programs in counties around the state. “Camp Hope” and others. We had donated staff shirts with a garish, smiling sun in the center. I say garish, because the colors were bizarre shades of yellows and golds that hadn’t sold and which the shirt company was willing to donate. I still have one. I’ll bet others do too.

The children were mentally disabled, some with physical disabilities as well and often had accompanying mental illnesses. They were delicate and yet resilient at the same time. They were ingenious. One day, a senior counselor named Brenda, whose husband donated the parachute, came to me and said that there was a strange, unpleasant smell on the bus. With our crew, that could mean anything. We looked and looked. Finally, under the back seat, in an empty cardboard lunch container, we found half a dozen containers of spoiled milk. We watched that day and saw a tiny little girl who had Down’s, totter up the steps of the bus clutching her stomach and bent over a bit. She went to the back seat and release two milk containers from under her Camp Joy shirt. When we asked her why she was saving her milks, she told us that they didn’t have milk for her cat and she didn’t want it to die. We started sending fresh milk home with her. Wouldn’t you?

You see, working a summer camp for mostly poor, special needs children is not like the experience one would have working at an elite summer camp in Vermont or Maine. No canoes, no archery, no dining halls. We used what we had or could get and modified things for the children in front of us. We used soft beach balls and plastic bats instead of regulation equipment. We did a lot of finger painting and coloring. And our Music Director, Miss Paula, ran the whole show with her guitar and a battered set of rhythm instruments that sat in the aisle of the bus in a cardboard box. We sang a lot.

On our Friday “field trip” days to bowling or skating and just imagine getting 100 fragile children into skates and shoes and helping them negotiate the games, the favorite song for the bus ride in and back was “Michael Row Your Boat Ashore”. It always amazed me, how these children, each with a unique disability and a story that would break your heart, could produce songs that would surely land a spot on one of today’s competitive “Voice” shows.  I can still hear their voices.

And others. For years, I would be accosted in a grocery store or at the gas station, by a child or teenager as time went on, who would run up and hug me and say: “Miss Linda! Are we having camp again?” Other staff report similar sightings and whenever we see one another, we share the stories. “Did you see Alice working at the Burger King? She’s bussing tables.” “Did you hear that Louis B passed away? He was always so delicate.” And so on. They were our kids. We built relationships with them and with one another. Four of the staff girls were in my wedding or served at it. One of my sisters ended up marrying the guy who directed the Recreation Program at the center where we took the kids swimming. He devoted his life to special children and she has a doctorate and helps at risk students complete college. My husband’s best friend ended up marrying one of the counselors after we introduced them a double date one night after camp. The stories go on and on. Summer Camp was for the children. At least that was what the Federal Grant forms said, but I tell you now, those of us who were “Healthy”, whatever that means, received much more.


Dr. Linda Karges-Bone is a professor, author, media host and of course, directed a summer camp program for special needs children from 1976-1981. You can reach her at