Monday, January 31, 2011

When You are Happy

Hope this post finds you well. Everyone seems to dread Mondays so here's a little pick-me-up.

I can't say enough good things about When You Are Happy by Eileen Spinelli.  It's one of those books that if I were a millionare I'd purchase a copy for all my friends.  The illustrations by Geraldo Valerio are some of the most delightful, creative, playful illustrations I've ever seen.  He also, incidentally, teamed up with the same author for Do You Have a Hat?

It's not just a book about happiness but other emotions and physical states like sadness, sickness, loneliness, and fear.  Spinelli's words are pure poetry:

I will catch your tears
in a blue cup
and water the yellow flowers
and they will grow more beautiful.

In the end it's a book about being there for one another, in the good times and most definitely in the bad times.  Human connections--isn't that what life's all about?

Friday, January 28, 2011

Life's Messy. Play Can Help.

rocket, alien & astronauts
made by my sister

Today is the 25th anniversary of the space shuttle Challenger explosion and I'm feeling a bit reflective.  Perhaps partly due to my little guy having a bit of an obsession with everything space these days.

I didn't actually see the explosion live but I remember hearing about it soon thereafter in my high school health class taught by one of the coaches who would share stories of his eczema or whatever skin disorder he had.  I was a sophomore, a good student, but way too shy to really get the attention of that cute boy sitting next to me I had a crush on.  But this tragedy stopped even a self-absorbed teenager in her tracks.  Two women died.  And one was a teacher even.  And everyone saw it on TV and could watch it over and over.

This article points out that Challenger was the first tragedy to unfold on live TV.  And since then we've had "Waco. Oklahoma City. Columbine. 9/11. Shuttle Columbia. Katrina. Virginia Tech. And now, Tucson."  Not to mention war.

On the day of the tragedy in Oklahoma City a bit ironically I was giving a presentation in a graduate class at Iowa State University about whether or not there was a role for feelings in a somewhat new type of therapy called solution-focused.  A month and a half later my then fiance and I drove to Texas for our wedding in Dallas.  We stopped in Oklahoma City and saw the very site.  I'll never forget how quiet it was.

On 9/11 I was a fairly novice college professor who hadn't turned on the TV or radio that morning and didn't hear of the tragedy until I arrived at the college.  I immediately went to the cafeteria and watched the events unfold for the next hour.  At 1:00 I met my class for their first test of the semester (whether or not I should have administered that test is another story).  One student was visibly upset.  I took her outside the room and she told me that her roommate's brother was in New York and they haven't heard from him.

The stories go on and on.

How do children cope with such events?  You guessed it.  They do what comes naturally; they play.  Through play they can make some sort of sense out of that which doesn't make sense.  Through play they can have some control over that which is out of control.  Through play they can release some very powerful emotions.

For example, see this link for more information about art which will be part of the National 9/11 Memorial museum.  I remember, in particular, the children's artwork featured in the book, The Day Our World Changed: Children's Art of 9/11.  For awhile there was a website that shared the images.

I remember going to the 2002 Association for Play Therapy conference and hearing stories from play therapists who had worked directly with children impacted by 9/11.  So very amazing.

But what can we as adults do to cope with such events?  We can use play too in whatever form you choose to do it in.  Some draw, some do drafts, some write poetry, and some exercise.  The point is to just do it.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Every Child is an Artist

Every child is an artist. 
The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.
--Pablo Picasso

Photos of my daughter's artwork hung in her room.  Some she made an home and some at school.  Yes, thankfully she attended an elementary school that hadn't cut their art program.

Yes, my girl has a thing for hearts.

And my favorite made several years ago with the help of a lovely art teacher from here who would come to our house to give Meredith lessons.

You were once an artist too, you know.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Why Adults Need Play

Why Adults Need Play
AKA a little speech I gave in church about how I became a play therapist and why play is important to adults

I come from a family of German Lutheran, hard-work-ethic, overachieving perfectionists so the fact that I am a play therapist might seem a bit strange.
What brought me to being a professor and play therapist is a series of unplanned events.  God must truly have a sense of humor!  I’ll briefly and quickly share a few with you.
In my senior year at TCU, I was devastated when I didn’t get into the 10 psychology graduate programs I had applied to.  My advisor had filled out a reference for another student who was going to some school in San Antonio so I thought, why not? 
While visiting this school, a wise professor advised me to change my specialty to marriage and family therapy because of my interest in working with children.  I wasn’t so sure, since as a 22-year-old, single, person I couldn’t imagine counseling married couples.  But I took his advice anyway.  It was there that I met my future husband. 
While in Iowa, the state of my birth, doing further graduate work and freezing to death, I wasn’t satisfied because I wasn’t getting the kind of the knowledge I knew I needed to help children.  Somewhere in my investigations I heard of this thing called “play therapy” that made SO MUCH SENSE to me and was elated to discover that the largest and most well-known play therapy program in the world was back in Texas.  I applied and gratefully, they accepted me.
I became a professor at Lindsey Wilson because someone Jeff and I had met at a conference knew of two openings for professors in the Counseling department at Lindsey. 
I wasn’t even sure I wanted to be a professor.  In high school I knew I wanted to work with children but I didn’t want to be a teacher like my mother because they worked too hard and didn’t make enough money.  But here I am, a teacher after all.   
Moving to Kentucky has allowed me to meet all of you beautiful people, start the Appalachian Play Therapy Center at Lindsey Wilson, and share with others the power of play and play therapy.

That’s the life story part; which brings us to right now.
Close your eyes.  Think of the happiest moment of your life when you’ve felt most alive.  Chances are--whether this moment was as a child or an adult--it involved some sort of play.
Play is the most natural thing that children do.  You don’t have to teach them how to play.  Somewhere along the way, though, we lose this inclination to play.  We get serious.  We’ve got more important things to do.  We’ve got to be productive.  We’re supposed to be successful.  Meanwhile, we become stressed, anxious, depressed, hypertensive, overweight, sick substance abusers.
It’s no surprise that my favorite story in Children Worship and Wonder is of Jesus and the children.  I can hear my friend Jeana telling it right now:
“No! Don’t bother Jesus.  He has important work to do.” 
Then Jesus said, ‘Let the children come to me.  Do not stop them, for such belongs the Kingdom of God.”

Well, disciples: change of plans.  I’d like to think that Jesus got down in the dirt and played with those children.  Hmmm…  I wonder what this story is telling us?

Life without play is a life without games, sports, books, movies, art, music, dance, or jokes.  No fishing, quilting, knitting, word-working, wrestling, or making love.  Play is not just an activity.  It is a state of mind.

Many studies have demonstrated that adults who play mentally and physically are less prone to dementia and heart disease, adjust better to retirement, live longer, are more creative and are just plain happier. 
Charles Schaefer, the founder of the Association for Play Therapy said,
We are never more fully alive, more completely ourselves,
or more deeply engrossed in anything than when we are playing.
Through play our whole being is engaged—our bodies, minds, and souls.  To me play can be a profoundly spiritual experience.  It allows us to express ourselves and connect most deeply with the best in others, thereby improving relationships. 

There’s a reason why play is also called recreation.  It recreates us.  Play has no plan, no purpose other than to just enjoy the experience.  It is freeing.  Imagine the feeling you get when you are on a swing.

I’ll end my paraphrasing Mr. Rogers, one of my favorite people.

When we treat play as seriously as it deserves,
we feel the joy that’s in the creative spirit. 
It’s the things we play with and
the people who help us play
that make a difference in our lives.

So I ask you--will you play with me?

Friday, January 21, 2011

Who/What's Inspiring Me Lately

from my art journal
Who/what's been inspiring me lately?
  • The Art Journaling and Artful Blogging magazines by Stampington & Company, publisher of all sorts of artsy, craftsy stuff.  (I buy them at my local Barnes & Noble.)
  • The blogs, Kind Over Matter and Roots of She, especially because they often post a simple picture with an inspiring quote like this and this.
  • I know I'm biased but my sister's creative series of Menorah art videos are THE BOMB.  You can find the first one blogged about here.  They get increasingly better.  Love, love the last one so I've included it right in this post.  Her multiethnic people at the end make me smile.

Finally, it's a snow day here for the kids.  Fooled around with the Instagram app and shot this '70s looking pic.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

You are Special

Today's post is inspired by Brene Brown's playful assignment in the Mondo Beyondo Winter Dream Lab.

This is me playing church at the age of about 3.  Surrounded by lots of love.
And this is the song I dedicate to myself.  I'm sure you'll recognize it.

What song would you dedicate to the younger you?

Monday, January 17, 2011

I Have a Dream

I have a dream that my four little children will one day
live in a nation where they will not be judged
by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.
--Martin Luther King, Jr.

Lovin' that Google is showing children playing in their logo today.
To see more of these creative Google doodles click here.

Friday, January 14, 2011

The Importance of Free Play

rolling down a hill
rolling down a hill by woodleywonderworks on flickr

I never tire of watching children play.  Maybe part of it is I'm jealous.  They are so free, focused, and enveloped in their play.  Not a care in the world.  Play for its own sake.  The only purpose is fun.

How hard it is for us as adults to let go.  Let go of all the responsibilities, the to-do list, the "monkey mind" buzzing, buzzing away.  As if by letting go, nothing will get done and our world would fall apart.

Meanwhile, we as adults have encroached on the child's world and overscheduled them with activity after activity, rationalizing that if we keep them busy they'll stay out of trouble.  If we're really honest with ourselves, we can admit that our children are an extension of ourselves.  If they succeed, we succeed.  We think that we must give them every opportunity, every lesson, every experience or they won't go to an Ivy League school, make tons of money succeed.  But we've got it all wrong.

Free, unstructured play is the best kind of play.  Free, unstructured play is the best kind of play.  No, that's not an error.  It's so important I said it twice.

PLEASE, PLEASE read or scan this brief article from The American Academy of Pediatrics.  Download it, print it off, copy it, and share with everyone you can think of--friends, parents, child care workers, teachers, etc.

How can you add more free, unstructured play in your child's life?

Children model what they see the adults in their lives do.  How can you add more free play in your own life?  The kind where you really let go.  How will you do it for even 30 minutes this weekend?

P.S. This idea of overscheduled, free play deprived kids is nothing new.  One of the first people I heard speak about it was Dr. Billy Doherty at an American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy conference years and years ago. His Putting Family First is recommended.  And, of course, there's the classic The Hurried Child first written in 1981.

Monday, January 10, 2011

How I Miss You

Miles at a water park July 2010

yours truly July 4, 2010

Oh summer how I miss you!
The warm weather
Water play
Sidewalk chalk
Reading outside
I must be patient
You'll come again.

P.S. The book I was reading on July 4 is The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin.  Very recommended as well as her blog.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Play Article in New York Times

I whole-heartedly believe in the importance of unstructured,
imaginative, pretend play in the lives of children.

An article in today's New York Times discusses this very issue.
Please see this link for the article.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

I Love a Parade 2

Our favorite parade was definitely the one at Animal Kingdom.  Very unique indeed.

Happy New Year!

I Love a Parade...

Many, many parades we saw on our Disney trip.  Colorful, creative, playful fun!

So here are a couple of blogposts with parade pictures.

This group were taken from several yards away. 

Which picture you do like the most?

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

One Little Word

I am participating in Ali Edwards's One Little Word 2011 project through Big Picture Classes.

The above image is a Wordle consisting of the words chosen from this year's participants.  Doesn't that look creative and fun?

I'm excited about all the possibilities this will bring.  One Little Word is your theme for the year.  Much easier than making resolutions that probably won't last past mid January.

But coming up with my word seemed like such pressure, especially when I just haven't been myself lately since I've been sick since right before Christmas.  Then this post listed all the participants' words thus far.  A commenter noticed that almost every letter of the alphabet had a word represented...except K.  I wracked my brain thinking of a good K word.  And then it came to me... KIND.  My word for the year is KIND.  Yes!  I need to me more KIND to myself, I can always be more KIND to others (especially when I have judgmental thoughts), and it never hurts to be more KIND to the earth.

You don't have to be signed up to have a word.  What would your One Little Word be?

Monday, January 3, 2011

It's a Small World

Happy New Year!

I watched the network evening news for the first time in a very long time.  Much of it was about happenings around the world.

Yesterday I was speaking with some friends about prayer.  There are those that pray for themselves or someone they know.  But what about all the children halfway around the world?

So this brings me to my all-time favorite ride at Disney World.  I took so many photos, it was hard to narrow it down.  I could go on this ride again and again and never tire of it.

It is a magical place where no children are hurting or alone.  A creative, playful fantasy.  How I wish it were a reality!

What is your wish or prayer for the children of the world?