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Should I lie? 10 Gut-Checking Questions Parents Must Teach Their Children

lying2-276x300The first time your child lies to you can be a shock to any parent.  And while lying is part of growing up, we don’t want to encourage the behavior.  Our children need to learn right from wrong, reality from fantasy and truth from untruth.

The Powerful Word of the Month this month is Self Control– and part of self control is taking a moment to think to oneself; Is this safe? Is this fair? Will it work?  When it comes to lying, taking the time to think through both good and bad solutions can make the difference between right and wrong.

As parents, we always want our children to choose the safest, most fair and best decisions. When we are with them, we can ensure that it usually happens that way. When we aren’t, we leave it in their hands. This is why so many parents can’t sleep at nights even though we’re all so tired, right?

We must arm our children with some Powerful Questions that can help them to choose right over wrong.

(1) Is it safe? Or, perhaps for some we can teach, “If I lie, is someone likely to get hurt?” Some children will lie to protect someone– whether it’s a sibling or themselves. Sometimes when they are “sworn to secrecy” it’s not a big deal– someone is planning a special birthday party or a big surprise and they need to pretend they know nothing about it.  But other times lying about something can be unsafe. Think of the child who was told “not to tell” that a friend was planning to run away, an older sibling was throwing up after each meal or a younger sibling was climbing over a fence near a lake.  That’s when this question becomes crucial.

(2) Is it fair? This question certainly requires perspective-taking.  Clearly they are going to be more inclined to say something if it’s not fair to them.  But what about others?  Think of the child who knows that a friend is cheating off another student’s paper in class and both children involved get in trouble.  What’s fair?  Think of the child who knows that her sports team is doing something underhanded in order to get into the finals.  Is this fair?  The perspective-taking question that pairs well with this one is; if the tables were turned, would it seem fair to you?

(3) What is my gut telling me to do? When we teach our children to listen to their gut, we are providing them with a very important skill. Our bodies often tell us what our minds our try to disguise. If your child chooses right or wrong, ask them, what made you make that choice? What was your gut telling you to do? What will you do next time?

(4) Will I be able to look my parents/friend/teacher in the eye after I do it? We often know when our children are lying because they can not look us in the eye. Helping your children to understand that answering “no” to this question is a sign that they may be on the verge of making a poor choice.

(5) Could I look at myself in the mirror after I do it? This is really the crux of it, isn’t it? In fact, this is the way my own mother explained the meaning of integrity to me. If our children feel that they could not look at their own selves in the mirror after making this choice (and be proud of what they did), they should take it as a warning. Their conscience is telling them that the impending choice could bring them a feeling of regret or shame.

(6) Would I do this behavior whether someone was watching me or not? I often explain to children that the definition of good character is choosing to do the right thing whether all eyes are on you or all eyes are looking away. If your child can not answer “yes” to both scenarios, then she should probably not be doing it.

(7) Does the end justify the means? This can be a tough concept for children. After all, if they want an A on their book report and get an A on their book report that should be a good thing, right? Yes, accept when that A is achieved through dishonest means such as cheating. Sometimes, children have trouble remembering that parents actually care more about effort and character than about their children being the very best regardless of the cost or means. We must be patient and clear up this confusion so that children will choose “right” over “best” when faced with a question of integrity.

(8) Am I doing this because it is right or because it is popular? We have all heard of peer pressure. This phenomenon can happen on a variety of levels. Think of the child who argues that his friend, who clearly lost the race, crossed the finish line first. In this case, the child succumbs to the rules of friendship over the rules of fairness and integrity. We also see it when the child pretends not to like someone because his friends don’t think the person is cool. Either way, he is letting the popular thing get in the way of doing the right thing. We must teach our children not to allow popularity to cloud their judgment because in the end, the truth usually comes out.

(9) Am I being who I am or am I being who others want me to be? This question coincides with number 6. We want our children to be themselves. When they alter their thoughts, actions, appearance, or choices because others want it that way, they are doing a major disservice to themselves and others. On the one hand, they are not allowing others to get to know the real individual behind the farce. On the other hand, they are building their friendships on a lie. As Clarissa Pinkola Estes, author of Women Who Run with the Wolves, wrote, “If you live your life trying to please others, half the people will like you and half won’t. And if you live your life according to your own truth, half the people will like you and half won’t.” The underlying question it brings up is; “which half do you want as friends?”

(10) If I get caught lying, will I get in trouble? So, the lie unravels.  Everyone knows the truth.  Are their any negative consequences?  Obviously for the child who kept the “surprise party” a secret or even told her mother; “I’m going with Dad to lunch” when she really was going to set up for that party, there is no getting into trouble.  But what about the child who lies about a grade she got on a today’s quiz? Tells you she already studied for tomorrow’s test when she didn’t?  Says “I don’t know” when you ask where her big brother is when she knows he’s doing something you’ve told him not to do?  Your child likely knows that consequences would be imminent.

As we know, mistakes will happen. If we use those mistakes to help our children make better choices next time, we will be strengthening their integrity.

In the end, we are cultivating future leaders. And I imagine, as Powerful Parents, you would agree, that we want our future leaders to base their decisions on well-instilled values and principles rather than what is fast, popular, and self-serving.  These questions are part of critical thinking skills that they can apply today and for the rest of their lives.

 

 

 

Walking Your Talk: Showing Your Values Even When Your Kids Aren’t Looking

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“Remember, people will judge you by your actions, not your intentions. You may have a heart of gold — but so does a hard-boiled egg.” ~Author Unknown

As parents and teachers we often zone out when we get a moment alone.  It’s normal– I do it too.  I am far from perfect, lose my temper sometimes, say the wrong thing, and sometimes hover outside of myself with folded arms and ask myself, “is that REALLY the best you can do?”  That ever happen to you?  I’m working on it– just like everyone else.

The other day I was sitting in a café working during lunch time.  A few tables away, a black woman in her 40s, sat with 7 elderly men and woman which she was clearly taking on a much anticipated outing.  She was taking care of them.  She wiped their mouths, wheeled them in their wheelchairs, asked them questions about their lives and facilitated conversation between the group.

It struck me.  We often talk about those in care-taking positions (that may not appeal to a wide audience) as being underpaid and under-appreciated.  That always bothered me.  Teachers, nurses, aides—they work very hard and do such an important job.  I know we’ve all said this before– but it’s still true as true can be.

I watched her now and again show such patience, concern and, perhaps most importantly, curiosity to these people in her care.  And I was moved to do something.  Does that sound ridiculous?  That’s OK with me.

Someone once urged me, “imagine your child by your side, holding your hand andlooking up at you even when s/he is not with you.  What lessons would you want to teach through your actions?”  That visualization really stuck with me and I call upon it often.  It’s a good one, don’t you think?

I stood up and went to the cashier at the café and asked her if I could buy a gift card.  The caretaker’s name was on a “reserved” marker on the table—“Michelene”– so I simply copied it down and signed it “From an admirer.  You are doing great work and we appreciate it!”

When she was getting everyone ready to meet their van outside, I walked over to her and said; “This is for you.  Thank you.”  I don’t think she had a clue what it was or why I was giving it to her—I had sealed it so she wasn’t put in any awkward position as she received it.  Then I sat down and resumed working.

While a $20 gift card is not much—certainly not life-changing—I figured that if my daughter or son were standing their with me, they would have learned something about my values.  When we appreciate someone, we show it.  When someone deserves some praise, we give it.  When people give of themselves, we acknowledge that we’ve noticed.   As parents and teachers, we need to live our values whether the children in our lives are watching us or not. In my opinion, and I would imagine you’d agree, that’s living an authentic life.

No fanfare needed, no thank you was necessary– she was being the everyday hero, not me.  We make these gestures not because we feel sorry for someone or want someone to tell us how “good” we are, but rather, because that person deserves it and the gesture is part of who we are and who we hope our children become.

Have you ever done something like that on a whim? I imagine you have.  It’s not about money– it can be giving time, energy, attention, praise, love, donations or thanks in any form. We’d love to hear about it!

 

 

 

Heavy choices: Would you put your 7 year old on a diet?

dara-lynnweiss-300x168This morning I was on the set up for a segmenton Dara-Lynn Weiss- the mother who was made famous for publicly putting her daughter, age 7, on a diet. Her daughter’s doctor had told Dara-Lynn that her daughter was obese and was immediately put on a strict diet of limited foods and counting calories.

What would you do in the same situation? It’s a difficult choice. Clearly the doctor was concerned about the child’s health and we are all too familiar with the psychological repercussions of children, dieting and weight stereotyping.

Every parent wants their children to grow up healthy and happy. So it’s not surprising that when a parent hears their children’s weight is compromising their health, that they jump into action . But parents need to tread lightly here. Whatever you say to your children about weight and diet will provide the template for how those children will regard weight and diet for the rest of their lives. Will they see food as a delicious way to gain energy and health or will they view food as the enemy?

There are so many messages that tell children that they are not good enough the way that they are— we don’t want to convey a value judgment when it comes to food and weight, but rather, teach our children that when we eat in healthy ways, we gain the energy we need to live our best life. I believe we can change a child’s relationship with food without putting a child on a “diet” – do you?

Take a look at the segment. What do YOU think? If you were this mother, would you choose the same path or would you do something different?

 

 

 

Parents; How to Talk to Children about the Connecticut School Shooting

press_schoolshooting-300x182We have all heard the horrific news by now. At 9:40 this morning, a masked gunman named Adam Lanza entered Sandy Hook elementary school and fired a gun around 100 times. He killed 26 people, 6 adults and 20 children under the age of 8 before killing himself.

Since then it’s been hard to concentrate on anything else but this story.  As a parent of young children, it’s the unimaginable. You send your children off to school hoping that they will be happy but knowing that they will be safe.  Typical worries of a friend not being so friendly or a teacher giving a bad grade may cross our minds.  But not this.

There is no making sense of this tragedy but we do need to be ready for questions.  What do we do for and say to our children about this senseless shooting?

(1) Limit media exposure:  Conversation and information about this tragedy should come from you, not the TV.  You know your children best and can limit details as necessary.  Information on the news is for you and is not age-appropriate for a child.

(2) Underscore safety:  Ensure your children that the authorities and people in charge at their schools are doing everything possible to keep everyone safe.  Help them to understand that a school shooting in one location does not mean that there will be another one in a different location.  These incidents are thankfully very rare and your children and their friends are not at risk because this has happened. In this case, as the gunman is also dead, there is a finality to this devastating rampage.

(3) Remain calm and levelheaded: While it is natural to be upset and infuriated about the shooting, it’s important that we don’t overwhelm children with our emotions.  They need to know that we are strong and reliable if they have questions—and that we are there for them if they need to talk.  If YOU need to talk about it, call a friend or speak to a loved one.

(4) Expect some unusual behavior or feelings: Sometimes news of this sort can make the children act in different ways.  Some will become withdrawn and quiet while others may become hyper or clingy.  Ask them how they are feeling and if they would like to talk. Assure your child that they are OK and give them space to feel anyway that they do—validating their feelings as normal and natural.  Help them to expend nervous energy in productive ways without pushing them.

(5) Discuss fears: Whether you sit with them and have a conversation or use art, role playing or dolls, allow children to express their fears.  What will help them feel safer and more secure?  Fears are nothing to be embarrassed about– today or any day. Sometimes just listening and being their can assuage their fears.

(6) Do not dismiss or avoid: It’s a tough topic.  But if your children are asking about it, talk to them in an age-appropriate way.  You don’t need to go into details and if you don’t know an answer, just say you don’t know! Assure them each time that they are OK and the people in charge are working hard to keep everyone safe.  Remember, if you aren’t talking about it and they want to hear an answer, they will go to another source.  YOU need to be the source.

(7) Hug them tight:  Nothing says safety and security like being tucked into your parents’ arms.  Tell them that you love them and that you and everyone who loves and cares for them are doing everything you can to ensure their safety.

The hug, of course, is also for you.  At times, having children can feel like a really big, tough and even frustrating job.  Everyone has their moments.  But today, take time to hold your children and tell them how grateful you are to have them.  That your life is enriched by them.  That they fill your heart with the most delicious happiness and you thank goodness everyday that they are yours.

Do it.  Again and again. You’ll be glad you did.

 

 

 

Our Thoughts Are With You: Victims of Hurricane Sandy

As I live in NJ, we have seen and heard much of the devastation due to the most recent storm.  Hurricane Sandy lived up to the predictions.  Our thoughts and prayers are with you, our neighbors, and all those who suffered loss due to flood, falling trees and power outages.

hurricane-sandy-300x200My hope is that we all open our hearts and our homes to those who are still in need.  Do what you can even if it’s small– donate, lend out generators or extension cords, invite people over for dinner and to stay the night.  That’s been our plan of action as our power has been restored (thankfully) and we only had 2 fallen trees and some fence damage.  We consider ourselves very lucky– and hope for the safety and quick recovery of those still dealing with the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.

Amanda Todd: Teen Ends Her Life After Relentless Battle with Bullying

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vOHXGNx-E7E

I’m stuck. What’s left of me now…nothing stops.  I have nobody. I need someone. ?

amanda-todd-300x225Amanda Todd, a once, promising happy young Canadian girl committed bullycide on Wednesday after relentless, senseless attacks– physical, emotional and psychological– over several years followed her from town to town.

Her horrible story is hauntingly told in a youtube video with cue cards and shaking hands. What began in seventh grade when, she wrote, “I would go with friends on webcam [to] meet and talk to new people.” A stranger made her feel attractive and convinced her to flash the camera.  A mistake that would unravel into years of stalking, black-mailing and bullying, this girl was shamed and made to feel worthless.

Even when moving to place to place to get away from the abuse, the tormenters would find her and continue to cyberbully and physically bully this young woman who was trying her best to find someone who would love her as she is.  She spiraled into depression, complicated by intense and crippling anxiety, self hatred, self harm, and private self-bullying (see the connection between bullying, mental health and suicidehere and how to report responsibly on suicide here).

At one point, 50 kids bullied her at one time.  A boy had lead Amanda on, told her he liked her, and slept with her only to gang up on her later with his then girlfriend and friends.  “Just punch her!” they yelled.  The kids filmed it. Her father found her in a ditch later that day.  Even then, she didn’t want to press charges and get anyone else into trouble.  Her self worth was obliterated.  She went home and drank bleach– which landed her in the hospital– and urged on her tormenters to make fun of her that much more– and even urge her to kill herself.

Sadly, that’s exactly what she did.  At the end of this video, uploaded just last month, she writes “I have nobody.  I need someone.”

amandatodd_cheer-200x300I think this is the legacy she leaves– a message to all of us to be the someone these kids need.  Studies tell us that a majority of young people don’t feel that they have at least three people to turn to in a time of need or challenge (see more on this in the new Bully book I am proud to have been part of along with Rosalind Wiseman and Michele Borba).  As I tell my audiences when I present on bullying;

Please, be one of the three. Because you may actually be the only one. I know it’s hard. I know we’re all busy. I know we have no time. But cries for help don’t wait for a hole in our schedules.

It’s National Anti-bullying month and it’s way past time to make a change and commit to making this situation better for those who are suffering.

Peace be with you, Amanda Todd. I am so infuriated…So saddened by this tragic story and the many others that tell a tale of struggle and loss. How could this continue to go on like this? We must do better for you so it can get better for all.

 

 

 

Making Friends: Teaching Kids (and Ourselves) About Real Friendship

Navigating new friendships can feel complicated, but it doesn’t have to be.  Whether you are 3, 13, 33 or 63, certain rules of friendship are constant.  Here are some things I teach my children and also, remind myself of to this day:

(1) Allow great friendships to happen organically: We may feel lonely. And we may want a group of supportive, wonderful friends that seem to be featured all over TV today. That doesn’t mean it happens instantaneously. Friendships happen over time.  Create opportunity to allow friendships to grow and thrive without forcing them to happen.  When we force friendships, everyone feels awkward and the opportunity for real friendship to form is diminished.

(2) Just because you’re friends with certain people, doesn’t mean you can’t be friends with someone else: There is a tendency for cliques to form in both childhood and adulthood.  Be careful you are not shutting out the opportunity to meet other great people outside of your proscribed group.  When we shut out such opportunities, we also diminish our own chance to grow and become better, more well-rounded people.

3) Gossip is an ugly habit: If you are finding that you and your friends drama-201x300have a habit of talking negatively about others, give it a rest.  Gossip creates drama.  And frankly, it’s just an ugly thing to do. There are too many other wonderful and interesting things to talk about besides other people. If your typical friends won’t stop gossiping, it may be time to go out with some other friends.

(4) Branch Out: Try meeting new people.  Join a new class, go outside your town, attend a meet-up or go someplace you haven’t been before.  Spend less time on Facebook and give people more Facetime in order to get to know others better. Ask someone new to join you for a playdate, cup of coffee, or a walk around the park.  When we branch out, we give new friendships a chance to grow.

(5) Nurture the friendships that feel mutually easy, refreshing & positive: Sometimes we overlook the friends we have in exchange for focusing on the ones we wish we had.  Think of those people who have always been consistent, strong friends. Make sure you carve out time to be with them and show them that their friendship is important to you.

(6) Get back to people: If people call, message or ask you to get together, give them the courtesy of an answer.   Even if you would prefer not to go out with them, have the character to be respectful of their time and their feelings.  Ignoring people is rude whether you are a child or an adult.  It feels horrible. The Golden Rule Applies—do unto others as you would have done to you.

(7) If you don’t feel good when you are around them, move on:  Friendship should feel good most of the time.  If you find that you don’t feel like yourself or feel unsure of yourself when you are with certain friends, either talk about it openly with them so you can address the problem or move on. True friends don’t want you to be anything other than what you are because they like the real you.

While some friendships might take work, most of the time, they should feel pretty easy, meaningful, fulfilling and fun. Friendship should make you feel like the best version of yourself. If you have at least one friendship that does that for you, count yourself very lucky.  It’s a beautiful thing.

Dr. Robyn Silverman introduces the Powerful Word Accountability

The powerful word of the month is accountability! Accountability is all about keeping our promises and commitments while also taking care of our mistakes.  It’s important to allow our children and teens to be accountable for themselves (while still being age appropriate) so that they learn (1) Making mistakes is not the end of the world; (2) When you make a “mess,” clean it up; (3) Ask for help when you need it; (4) healthy promises and commitments are something that should be kept; (5) Accountability is a crucial part of goal setting and goal getting as well as a vital part of being a good friend, student, employee, and family member.

While it may be tempting to jump in and “do it for them” when we see a child/teen challenged by a mistake s/he made (i.e. forgot his homework, lost a book) or a promise he no longer wants to keep (i.e. wants to quit a sport, doesn’t want to go to the birthday party she said she would attend), learning accountability at a young age is a great life lesson.

Children may need support or assistance at times but at others, we need to step back and allow them to take the lead.  Encourage them to tell the librarian that they lost a book and want to pay for it with their allowance.  Teach your children that once they make a commitment to a friend, it’s important that they keep that promise.  Show them that when they make a mistake, they need to admit it, apologize for it and help make it right. If they can learn this when stakes are low during childhood, they will be able to apply these life lessons to their life when stakes are higher during adulthood.

Enjoy this month’s Powerful Word! How are YOU teaching accountability in your home?

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Parents forget child at Chuck E Cheese: 10 parenting tips for safety and preparation

chuckecheese-300x168I can’t believe I’m saying this…Parents are forgetting their kids at the children’s play place, Chuck E. Cheese’s.  While this may sounds like the makings of a Saturday Night Live skit to you, it’s actually the truth. Yesterday, Good Morning America called me to do a piece (which was squashed at the final hour) about a 5 year old girl who was left at Chuck E. Cheese’s last week.

It happened on Thursday night when the child was left at Chuck E. Cheese’s immediately following her own birthday party.  One of 10 children in a family, she was left behind by her mother—it wasn’t discovered that she was missing until the following day when her mother realized the girl wasn’t in her bed (she as getting her up for school).  Sounds completely implausible, right?

Perhaps.  But when 3 adults were attending the event with 19 children—things can get pretty hectic.  Was there a miscommunication of who was taking the child home?  Did everyone assume someone else was taking care of her?  We don’t know. The girl is now in protective custody until they determine what really happened here.

harmony-300x225But, believe it or not, this has happened before to other parents.  In fact, it just happened last Monday to another family! Three-year-old Harmony was left behind by her parents at a Chuck E. Cheese’s restaurant in Bel Air, Maryland. They only realized that they had forgotten her when they saw a report about her on the evening news. Apparently there have been other cases of this in other areas as well.

Were the children misbehaving? Were the parents trying to employ the safe haven rule at Chuck E. Cheese’s? No. Parents haven’t left their kids there because they were at their wits end, they were leaving them there…by mistake.

I know.  It’s ridiculous. How can people forget their child…let alone in a place that they attended for their children? But if you had 10 children…if it was a big crowd…if you made assumptions about who was picking up or dropping off your child…if you were exhausted or fed up or had a headache…could it happen to you or someone you know?

Whether you think so or not, this does beg some tips about parenting in a large, chaotic play place.

(1) Ensure that you have enough adults: When you have 19 children at a range of ages (some very young) and only three adults, you are out sorely outnumbered. There needs to be enough adults to ensure the safety of the children—especially when they may all be heading in different directions.

(2) Have an exit strategy: When you are dealing with multiple children, make sure every child and every adults knows where to meet, who they are going with, and how to check in with the adults.

(3) Make sure everyone knows the rules: Before entering a large play place, talk to your children about the safety rules. Even though this place is devoted to having fun, safety must come first.  Young children must be attended to at all times—they must be able to see you and you must be able to see them.

(4) Do a headcount: When you first walk in, periodically throughout the play time, and upon leaving and getting into the car, do a head count.  Not sure if everyone is there?  Roll call!

(5) Pair up buddies: Another safety precaution is assigning buddies.  When each child has another person they must keep track of and who must keep track of them, it adds another layer of security.  When you call out “buddies!” everyone finds their buddy or, alternatively, can tell you that they don’t know where their buddy is at the time.  You can pair up friends—but

(6) Appoint adults: When hosting a big group, each adult should be appointed to certain children such that the same people who came in the car on the way there should be the ones who return in that same car on the way home (unless explicit conversations and logistics beg otherwise).  When children pour into cars without thought, assumptions about the whereabouts of certain children can be made.

(7) Teach basic safety: Just like we discussed in the attempted Walmart kidnapping recently, each child should know how to protect him or herself. Who should s/he go to if s/he is lost?  What if s/he is approached by a stranger?  What if someone tries to take them away from the play area or outside through coercion or force?

(8) Teach life-saving personal information: Every child should learn basic facts about him or herself at a very early age.  For example, my daughter just turned 3 and already knows her full name and her street address.  If she needs it, she has it.  You can easily start to teach this to a young child by saying your address each time you approach your home—break it down a little at a time.  It can become a game of 20 questions—what number house do we live at? What street do we live on? What color is our home? What town do we live in?  Then teach him or her when to share the information and who s/he can share it with—and who s/he shouldn’t!

(9) If you can’t handle it, don’t do it: Think it sounds overwhelming to take a group of children to a large play area without more help?  Listen to your gut and don’t do it.  Even taking care of 2 young children in a large play area can be challenging if they go in two different directions—so know your limit and be sure you have enough back up.

(10) Recheck: At the end of the day, before leaving any venue with your family and friends, check and recheck that you have everyone!  Make no assumptions.

When Good Morning American did their preliminary interview with me, they asked if only bad parents would leave their child somewhere such as Chuck E Cheese’s. I can’t make assumptions about the character of any of the parents who have done this—but I can say that parenting begs incredible organization, preparation and attention.  In this case, these areas failed.

As parents, we will all make some mistakes. I’ve had very smart friends who thought the other parent was home and left their children to run an errand for a short time. I’ve had friends who thought the other parent was picking up their child from school and didn’t. Strange things can happen.

The Chuck E. Cheese’s situation pushes this to the limit considering that the parents didn’t know the child was missing until the next morning.  To that I say, check beds, kiss heads and make sure you KNOW where every one of your young, school-age, or pre-college age children are when you turn out the light at night.

What do YOU think? Has anything like this ever happened to you?

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Ask Dr. Robyn: How Can I Help My Child Show More Courage?

silverman_headshotCourage is the Powerful Word of the Month! How do we encourage our children to try new things? Meet new people? Stand up for what they believe in?  Dr. Robyn Silverman, child and teen development specialist, answers one reader’s question about developing courage in her child. Several tips are provided– which ones resonate with you?

 

 

What will you try with your children this month? How have you helped your children to show more courage?  Please share here or on our Facebook page— We’d love to hear from you!