Monthly Archives: September 2013

Finding happiness

According to Unicef’s Child Well-Being in Rich Countries survey, Dutch kids ranked as the happiest in the world, especially when it comes to material well-being, educational well-being, and behavior and risks. After living in the Netherlands for twelve years, nine of those with kids of my own, I’m not surprised.

dutch kidsDutch kids have an extraordinary amount of freedom compared to American kids. My son walked to elementary school ~ all by himself. He rode his bike to the playground and his friends’ houses. If I ran out of milk or bread, I handed him a ten and he hoofed it to the grocery store up the road. And no, I never worried. Villages in the Netherlands are compact, and neighbors look out for each other. My son bounced from friend’s house to friend’s house, and he knew to be home before the street lights flickered on.

Kids have a lot less pressure to perform in the Netherlands, as well. Elementary teachers don’t browbeat their students with historical facts or cram multiplication tables down their throats or make them memorize the constitution, and yet kids still learn at a level comparable to American schools. What’s the secret? When a child enjoys learning, he or she will want to learn more.

Here in the States, my kids can’t walk to school. They can’t bike to most of their friends’ houses or run errands for me. Until they turn sixteen and can drive themselves, they are pretty much at my mercy to take them wherever they want to go.

And school is never done at three o’clock. There’s homework and studying and projects, all leading up to the mother of all pressure cookers: the SATs. On top of her studies, my 9th grade daughter squeezes in volleyball, drama, singing, Dutch lessons, and social commitments six days out of seven. Her Dutch cousins of the same age tease her about being a typical overachieving American teen, and who knows? Maybe they’re right.

Obviously, my family’s reality doesn’t fully fit in either country, and we often find ourselves straddling the two cultures, picking and choosing the aspects from each that most appeal to us. And maybe that’s part of why, despite my kids’ busy, pressure-filled lives, they still seem genuinely happy.

Because ultimately, happiness is a choice.

Gone Fishing

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| from freedigitalphotos.net |

I’m out today. No work at the office, no duties at home.

But I haven’t really gone fishing… I’ve gone on a field trip with Littlest!

We’ll be learning about agriculture and visiting a petting zoo, then going to a Kansas City rodeo. We’ll eat sack lunches and wear nametags, hold hands so as not to get lost from one another, talk excitedly, listen carefully, and have a grand ol’ elementary-school-day time.

I love to go on field trips with my girls. It’s fulfilling to experience the special day with them, be around their friends, people-watching, making memories. I’m fortunate to be able to tag along.

Have you been a school chaperone before? What sorts of field trips have you attended, or school events have you overseen? What’s most memorable?

Cutting…Are You Familiar With This?

My daughter and I are very close. She tells me many things about her school and friends that I would otherwise not be aware. One of the behaviors rampant in not just her school but at other high schools in our small (85,000 people) city is cutting.

Cutting is defined as “not an indication of suicidal behavior” but rather a “cry for help”. She knows more than four or five people who have cut themselves and/or are still cutting themselves. These teens suffer from depression and cut themselves to relieve their inner pain. Most of the people she knows use razor blades to make superficial cuts around their wrists. The cuts bleed but heal fairly quickly, sometimes forming dark red lines that can be easily seen by others.

I heard the other day that many teens have “cutting groups” during which time they all sit together and cut themselves and commiserate with each other about how they’re feeling. It’s akin to group therapy I would imagine, without the therapist.

“Life is too much,” they say. “Everything is too much,” they add.

What is it about our society today that is overwhelming these young girls and boys?

I’m glad I was not born during this time. Even though I’m happy using my iPhone, the internet and television, I think the immediacy and pace of today’s world is overwhelming. There is too much of which I am aware – immediately – and oft times I find it’s “too much” for me and I’m an adult. I can deal with it. I can shut it off, turn it off, cut it out of my life. But with teens today, in order to “fit in” and “relate to their peers” they jump on board this never-stopping train and go, go, go for very speedy rides through life.

What do you think?

We Interrupt This Program For An Important Announcement…

It took me three days to rewrite the major love scenes for Terms of Surrender, my upcoming October release. Three days of pouring over every word, rearranging body parts and character thoughts, and fixing everything in between.

Where the magic happens!

Where the magic happens!

As I tried to bring emotions and life to the page, my DH vacuumed around my feet, rearranged all of the books on the office shelves, and decided the walls needed to be repainted.

Okay, okay, I confess, I’m exaggerating a wee bit…but not much. During this three day stint, there seemed to be a multitude of interruptions. When characters come to life, it’s like an obsession and all the writer wants to do is spend uninterrupted hours with them.

So as my hero spilled his guts and the truth, certain my heroine would reject him, the phone rang…my mother calling to relay the latest news about her annoying neighbor.

And while my heroine attempted to deal with a situation guaranteed to keep the hero from ever committing, my cell phone buzzes…my sister texting to ask me to ask my DH a renovation question or twelve.

As I worked on getting the love scene to scorch the page (I hope!), my DH vacuumed around—and beneath—my feet, the geese and ducks demanded I stop so I wouldn’t miss their flight south, and the phone rang again and again and again.

I’ll leave you now with the blurb from Terms of Surrender, but before you go, tell me what kind of things interrupt the important parts of your life.

Lasso

A woman in need…

ER nurse Harley Jane Davis has dedicated her life to helping others. Now she’s the one in trouble, and the only person she can rely on is Gage Toryn—the man she’s secretly been in love with for years.

A man on the edge…

Gage would do anything for Harley…except give in to the hungry passion that sparks between them. He’s hiding a terrible secret, one guaranteed to destroy any chance at a relationship. And even though Harley haunts his dreams and makes him want to be a better man, he knows she could never love him if she learned about his ugly past.

Family, future, forever.

When a situation with Gage’s brother endangers Harley and his nieces, Gage offers them refuge in his home—and the battered pieces of his heart. But can he overcome his fear of commitment and open up about the past? Or will his secret destroy his last chance to have a relationship—and a real family—with the only woman he’s ever loved?

Where Has The Time Gone?

My kids are growing up too fast. Our weekends used to be spent rushing from one sporting event to another. We still do that, but not nearly as often. Case in point, my son’s football games are on Thursday and Friday nights now, so Saturday is free. My daughter isn’t doing a sport this fall and therefore our Saturday and Sundays are wide open.

And I HATE it!IMG_0256

I know. I’m as shocked as anyone would be. My husband thinks I’m crazy, but I can’t stand passing ballparks and football fields where scores of little kids and their frazzled parents convene knowing we don’t have to be there.

“But we can go to Athens and see the Dawgs play,” my husband says. Well, yes, we can and we do. But it’s not the same.

“We can go to the lake, get stuff done around the house, do whatever we want,” he continues. But I’m still not convinced.

When my oldest was three, I scoured our area for organized sports that he could participate in and found one not too far from our house. I bought us all Yankee t-shirts (even though I can’t stand the Yankees) because that was the team he was on. That long ago season seems like just yesterday and I can’t believe we are phasing out of that part of our lives already.

Yes, there will be baseball and lacrosse in the spring and we’ll be back out there again (thank goodness), but for now, on these beautiful fall weekends, I’m feeling melancholy.

Am I crazy??

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