Monday, December 13, 2010

The True Meaning of Christmas

Valerie Steimle

The Christmas lights are glowing everywhere and people are still driving with trees on tops of cars. The thoughts of those pecan pies from Thanksgiving are still in our heads but we press forward as we are in full swing in the Christmas season.

Black Friday has past with little or no fan fair but as you remember a couple of years ago the news reported that a 34-year old man was trampled to death by Wal-mart shoppers trying to get into the store. I have heard only good reports of kindness to others on that day. Maybe we have improved our behavior. Maybe we can remember the true meaning of this time of the year.

This year for Christmas many people have lost their jobs. This year there may not be the material Christmas many have experienced in the past. This year those who have been more fortunate to have employment will hopefully remember those who have not been so lucky. Giving to others who don’t have much always leaves us with a great feeling in our own lives.

As Christmas has at times lost its meaning in years before maybe as a people we can realize that the number and cost of gifts isn’t as important as being with their family. Maybe we can remember that a few gifts to our friends and family are the tokens of what is really the true meaning of Christmas.

There are so many wonderful events that are fun and do not cost much to help us remember the true meaning of Christmas. Christmas concerts and parties, festivals in the park, parades, night excursions to Christmas lights and baking Christmas cookies at home are just some of the memories we can create for our children.

Agnes Pharo says it well: What is Christmas? It is tenderness for the past, courage for the present, and hope for the future. It is a fervent wish that every cup may overflow with blessings rich and eternal, and that every path may lead to peace.

We are alive on this earth and can do good for others. If we all had a glimpse of what George Bailey saw in the movie “It’s A Wonderful Life”, we would appreciate what we have so much more.

This is the season of love and giving to others. We should all learn what it truly means in giving of ourselves to others. Not just in buying material possessions but in spending time and using our talents to share with our friends and family. That is the true meaning of the Christmas season.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Homeschooling Children has Positive Advantages

Valerie Steimle

There is a certain group of people who live in our country, who have gone unnoticed for what they have done in their home. Mothers are the unsung heroes of a great country, this is true but there is another group that I would like to highlight in my writing today. Those are the mothers who homeschool their children. For a while, this topic was controversial and misunderstood at best but now homeschooling is so common, most people know at least one family in their circle of friends and family who do. Educating your own children definitely has its advantages. Here are a few:

1. Parents have the control of what their children learn. They don’t have to depend upon the public or private school arena to educate their children. They can add extra learning in certain areas that are important to the parents without worrying about government intervention.

2. Homeschooled children can speed up or slow down their progress depending upon ability. A child who has challenges in certain areas can practice as much as time allows in accomplishing a new skill. Time is so flexible in finishing a year’s work, you can do it anywhere.

3. Homeschooled children do not have the peer pressure of other students calling them names or belittling them. There is a worry free environment at home that is relaxing and much can be learned there.

4. There are more field trips open to children at home during the day. Parents can take their children in smaller groups and stay longer than other field trips sponsored by public schools because there is more time and parents are right there observing.

5. If you are worried about college, this is another advantage. Colleges and Universities love homeschooled students. They do well in their studies and get along with others. They are generally self-motivated and involve themselves in their community. There isn’t a lot of burn out from the time they finish their high school grades until they start college courses as well and most homeschooled students make learning a life long endeavor.

The only disadvantage to homeschooling a child is the parents’ own time. The time spent in schooling children takes away from the parents’ time to do other things but the sacrifice is well worth the effort.

I have homeschooled all nine of my children at different times of their life. Some stayed at home until after high school and some finished at a local high school. But, the blessings of having your child at home is that you can instill your values long enough that once your child leaves home to be on his/her own, you know you have done all you could to teach him/her to be a contributing member of society…..and in this troubled world that is a great advantage.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

More Time With Family Helps with Stress

Valerie Steimle

I woke up this morning in a panic. There is so much to catch up on every day. That feeling of dread spreads as I listen and read to what is going on in the world. I’ve been reading a lot of news clips, watching news on the internet and deleting emails about the news.

Our American way of life seems to be changing. It is stressful to watch the news, read the newspaper, or open emails. We are overwhelmed with what the future might bring. We are overwhelmed with all that we are expected to do and have to do. We are frustrated from stress at work and whether we will have a job to go to every day. We are frustrated many times from being overly tired from the lack of a goodnight’s sleep. Apathy occurs and then we lose hope.

From the website it is written: “Stress is an unavoidable consequence of life. As Hans Selye (who coined the term as it is currently used) noted, ‘Without stress, there would be no life’. However, just as distress can cause disease, it seems plausible that there are good stresses that promote wellness. Stress is not always necessarily harmful. Winning a race or election can be just as stressful as losing, or more so, but may trigger very different biological responses. Increased stress results in increased productivity; up to a point. However, this level differs for each of us. It's very much like the stress on a violin string. Not enough tension produces a dull, raspy sound. Too much tension makes a shrill, annoying noise or snaps the string. Just the right degree can create a magnificent tone. Similarly, we all need to find the proper level of stress that allows us to perform optimally and make melodious music as we go through life.”

So how can you find the balance you need to survive? Plan for more time with your family. It is no secret that the time with your family helps deal with the stresses of life even though we might wonder as a family how we all got to where we are now.
Erma Bombeck says it well: “We were a strange little band of characters, trudging through life sharing diseases and toothpaste, coveting one another’s desserts, hiding shampoo, borrowing money, locking each out of our rooms, inflicting pain and kissing to heal it in the same instant, loving, laughing defending, and trying to figure out the common thread that bound us all together.”

Make your important time, your family time. Life is much easier to deal with when you have the support of your family. As the old Chinese proverb says: “A family in harmony will prosper in everything”. I couldn’t agree more.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Life’s Lessons Learned at Summer Camp

Valerie Steimle

Having just returned from summer camp, I am encouraged and invigorated. Any time an organization puts youth together for a week out in nature, good things happen. Campers all learn to get along with each other as well as learn to appreciate nature; especially when they have to live without all the comforts of home. No television or video games. Even for the adult leaders, a bond is developed as we sit around the camp fire and talk.

Collecting firewood, keeping the campfire going, cooking over a fire, setting up tents, morning flag ceremony and hiking through the woods all contribute to lessons learned in life.

Collecting enough of the right kind of firewood and covering it with a tarp to keep dry helps us to think ahead in life and be more prepared for any emergency. Making goals for what we want to accomplish keeps us on target. If we forget to cover the firewood, dew or rain will wet the wood and you have a problem. Thinking ahead is always a smart way to go.

Keeping the fires going for a campfire can help you to understand the nurturing of a relationship. Staying in a long term relationship needs emotional support during the good and the bad and it teaches you patience. Just like being patient enough to stick around to keep the fire going at night, relationships will have the same benefit and it pays off in the end.

Cooking over a fire keeps you on your toes. You watch to make sure the fire doesn’t get too hot and not burn anything. It’s the way children are by the time they are teenagers. They certainly keep you on your toes.

Securing the tent stakes can remind us that we should keep ourselves grounded in life from the wicked ways of the world. It’s too easy to be swayed by what is popular. We can see the blessings of keeping ourselves unspotted against what comes along in life. Those stakes keep us anchored to one place just like we would keep our tent.

Having flag ceremony every morning reminds us that we should be thankful for our soldiers in arms from the first gun shot during the Revolutionary war to the bombs dropping on Baghdad. We are so blessed in this country for the many men who fought to keep us free and safe from the rest of the world.

Keeping on the path during the hike can remind us to focus on what is important in life. Stopping to smell the flowers and keeping on the straight and narrow even when the path is difficult are life lessons that stay with us. Some of those hills we climbed walking through the hot sun were brutal, but we kept going. We did not give up and go back. We did not stray from off the path we were to walk on.

Yes, living out in the wilderness has its insights and we can remember what we learned from our experiences at summer camp.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Remembering Our Freedom

Valerie J. Steimle

With our Independence Day landing on Sunday this year, there is some time to ponder the freedoms we have been allowed since the formation of our country. As it’s been a difficult year with all the political turmoil, we especially need a positive reminder of where it all came from and how it all started. We must never forget how our freedoms have been guarded all these years and who is responsible. Those courageous men and women should be given the credit of what freedoms we have today of which we should be eternally grateful. Here is a writing I was sent last week to share with others about our freedoms: (The author is unknown)

I watched the flag pass by one day, it fluttered in the breeze
A young Marine saluted it, and then he stood at ease.
I looked at him in uniform, so young, so tall, so proud, with hair cut square and eyes alert he'd stand out in any crowd.
I thought how many men like him had fallen through the years.
How many died on foreign soil? How many mothers' tears?
How many pilots' planes shot down?
How many died at sea?
How many foxholes were soldiers' graves?
No, freedom isn't free.
I heard the sound of Taps one night, when everything was still,
I listened to the bugler play and felt a sudden chill.
I wondered just how many times that Taps had meant 'Amen,'
When a flag had draped a coffin of a brother or a friend.
I thought of all the children, of the mothers and the wives, of fathers, sons and
husbands with interrupted lives.
I thought about a graveyard at the bottom of the sea, of unmarked graves in Arlington,
No, freedom isn't free.

A story I was told since a child was recorded by Constitution signer James McHenry in a diary entry: “Outside Independence Hall when the Constitutional Convention of 1787 ended, a women by the name of Mrs. Powel of Philadelphia asked Benjamin Franklin a question. “Well, Doctor, what have we got, a republic or a monarchy?” With no hesitation whatsoever, Benjamin Franklin responded, “A republic, if you can keep it.”

If we can keep it!!!! Very profound and insightful. We all need to work towards keeping our country a republic. From every walk of life up to the White House, we should be guarding our freedoms to the very end. We are the greatest country in the world and all eyes are watching our nation to keep the free world free. So whether it’s voting for the right person representing our Constitution or writing a letter to Congress in standing up for our beliefs, we need to keep our freedoms and appreciate all those who helped us along the way.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Hope For The Future

Valerie J. Steimle

Last week, my sweet mother-in-law sent this quote to me and I find great comfort in these words. Harold B. Lee, the eleventh president and our prophet of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints said these words back some time in the 70’s. Presently, we are experiencing such trial and tribulation in our country, this message gives me great hope. We will get through these troubled times where men want to destroy our Constitution and our great nation. It pains me to hear the news of what our so-called legislative leaders want to force through the infrastructure of our country all in the name of improving our welfare, when we know it will do no good at all. We feel so helpless. We do what we can in letter writing and phone calling but to no avail: our freedoms are slowly being reduced to almost nothing. Relish in these words and know that our nation will never fail.

"Men may fail in this country, earthquakes may come, seas may heave beyond their bounds, there may be great drought, disaster, and hardship, but this nation, founded on principles laid down by men whom God raised up, will never fail. This is the cradle of humanity, where life on this earth began in the Garden of Eden. This is the place of the new Jerusalem. This is the place that the Lord said is favored above all other nations in all the world. This is the place where the Savior will come to His temple. This is the favored land in all the world. Yes, I repeat, men may fail, but this nation won't fail. I have faith in America; you and I must have faith in America, if we understand the teachings of the gospel of Jesus Christ. We are living in a day when we must pay heed to these challenges. I plead with you not to preach pessimism. Preach that this is the greatest country in all the world. This is the favored land. This is the land of our forefathers. It is the nation that will stand despite whatever trials or crises it may yet have to pass through. (Harold B. Lee, "Ye Are the Light of the World", pp. 350-51)

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Fathers are Important Too

Valerie J. Steimle

For the past few Mother’s days, I have been writing about the importance of Mothers. This is only slightly unfair as I have not said a thing about Fathers so with Father’s day coming this Sunday, I thought it only right to present my feeling in the importance of Fathers.

What most people don’t know is that to understand how the circle of a family really works you need the presence of the father. Imagine two sons living in two separate families. Two parents raise the one son and only the mother raises the other. All are good people and do the best that they can. The son with both parents have the example of a father who loves his mother and treats her well as well as the example of taking care of his own children, where as the other son has no example of what fathers do at all and grows up lacking something he never really had.

Tom Wolfe said it well from The Bonfire of the Vanities when he wrote this about fatherhood: “Sherman made the terrible discovery that men make about their fathers sooner or later... that the man before him was not an aging father but a boy, a boy much like himself, a boy who grew up and had a child of his own and, as best he could, out of a sense of duty and, perhaps love, adopted a role called Being a Father so that his child would have something mythical and infinitely important: a Protector, who would keep a lid on all the chaotic and catastrophic possibilities of life.”

Children need protection and Fathers are the protectors. With great protectors comes the feeling of security. With this security, there is great comfort in being able to communicate what you are feeling with your father, which builds a lasting relationship. Not everyone can do this even with his or her father still here but there are opportunities of bridging the gap of a relationship when Dad sticks around for the duration of a child’s life.

Teenagers might not appreciate what they have now, but wisdom comes with age and appreciation of a father’s sacrifice will surface eventually. Mark Twain said it perfectly: “When I was a boy of fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be twenty-one, I was astonished at how much he had learned in seven years.”

So let’s honor our fathers this Sunday with a card or phone call or both. If your father isn’t here then honor the one who is a father to you and be a great Dad to those in your circle of friends.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The Importance of Senior Citizens

Valerie Steimle

Over the weekend I had the opportunity to visit with my husband’s family in Andalusia, Alabama. They were such great people: very sweet and friendly. Almost everyone was over 55 and it was a pleasure to sit down and visit with them. Many entertaining stories were exchanged and five hours just flew by. This got me thinking about our senior citizens and how blessed we are to have these friends and family who have come before us in our life.

Thanks to the marvels of medical science , our parents, aunts, and uncles are living longer than ever before. Adults over the age of 80 are the fastest growing people of our population in the United States. Those in the retirement age are many times dependent on others for their basic needs and most times, it falls to their children. We don’t always remember how important it is to take care for those who lived before us but they are a great blessing to the baby boomer generation. Listening to the great lessons and experiences they have to share, those over 50 are of great value and they need to know we care for them and appreciate what they know.

Many people over the age of 60 are finding that life can be very rewarding and those dreams of long ago are now a reality. There are many news reports of retirees biking across Europe, writing that long awaited book rolling around in their heads or visiting with family far away. It can be a very exciting time and keeping healthy is the key.

It has been found that simple walking 3 to 4 days a week can be very helpful in keeping healthy. Learning something new keeps our brains active and can be a blessing in disguise. For example, learning your way around a computer and the internet can bridge friendships and family members who are far away. Joining community groups, which feature senior citizen clubs, are a great way to spend some time with others and you might even find you have hidden talents you never knew before.

There is a downside of reaching the golden age and that is living in a nursing home. That is where the younger generation should jump in and plan monthly trips to visit with family and friends who are cared for in a home where the residents are wheel chair bound. Youth groups should remember the importance of visiting these special people because after all, we will eventually find ourselves in the same position someday.

So let us remember those who came before us in our life and show them the respect they deserve in our day-to-day living. We will not regret it.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Staying Positive

Valerie Steimle

I have been reading and listening to a lot of motivational talks to help improve my attitude. For humans, it is difficult to plod along the path for our work, in whatever we do, without getting discouraged. We try to attain the goals that we make but the burden gets heavy at times and we need an uplifting word to keep us going.

Here are a few suggested actions for us to stay positive in 2010.
1. Finish what you start!! When you get into something, finish it. Don’t let it go. Whether it’s playing soccer or taking a class, finish what you have started and it will give you the feeling of accomplishment.
2. Get a Vision: Find the vision of what you want to accomplish. Stay motivated by reading or listening every day to whatever it is you want to do.
3. Persevere: When the going gets tough the tough get going!!! Get up and do something to contribute to your vision of what you want to accomplish.
4. Be Courageous: It takes courage to have the convictions in accomplishing what you deem very important. Whether it’s raising children or finishing a book, work on it everyday and remember your convictions in what you want to do.
5. Be a good example: There are so many people who are lost and looking for something. Be a good example to those around you and it will help them and you to be better people.

Through all the tragic news we hear every day, keeping a positive attitude becomes a chore. Think of these five helpful suggestions and your attitude will improve over time.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Spring Cleaning

Valerie Steimle

Spring has officially arrived which means many people turn their focus to spring cleaning. All the clutter that builds up over the last year with unnecessary items inside your home and around the yard need to be sent to the trash can or given away to someone in need. Reorganizing closets can give you more space than you realize. Deep cleaning all the dirt off the walls and floors will help everyone in your house feel better. Besides removing dirt and unwanted items from your home there are other spring cleaning jobs which need to be considered.

Consider cleaning your life habits. A reevaluation of how you spend your time and what you are doing for most of the day can help you get back on track in what is really important in your life. Time wasters and addictions can be tossed out of your life as life is too short to miss out on the good stuff of spending time with family and friends. Relationships can be developed which are much more fulfilling than time spent with electronic machines.

Another aspect of spring cleaning you might not have considered is within your own person. As most health care providers will tell you, your body is a temple and should be a priority in the utmost care. Cleaning your system with detoxification of lots of water and wholesome foods can make a big difference in how you feel every day. According to Psychology Today, “detoxification is not for everyone (pregnant women and people with serious medical conditions) but for those who are able to improve their diet with more clean liquid intake and unprocessed foods such as brown rice, fresh fruits and vegetables, can thoroughly clean out your system.” Bodies need to be cleaned inside as well as out, as waste is built up inside and can cause a body to not function properly.

Election time will be arriving soon and we have the task of electing the right person to do the right job. Spring cleaning can be applied to this task as well. We need to remove all the dirt and unwanted items from all areas of the state and country to get our government running back on track again. Take a good look at where the country is headed and realize that our future is in our own hands. We need to carefully consider all candidates and make the right choice as we want to retain our liberties living in this free land.

Spring cleaning is a useful task in all aspects of our life. By cleaning out our homes, our lives, our bodies and our government, we can improve the quality of our life ten-fold.

Olympian Courage

Valerie Steimle

As the Olympics came to a close, I have reflected on the example of one athlete. The courage of Joanie Rochette from Quebec , Canada was amazing. Two days before Joanie was to compete in the woman’s figure skating, her mother (Theresa Rochette-age 55) had a massive heart attack and passed away after arriving in Vancouver to watch her daughter perform.

Almost anyone experiencing tragedy like that would have pulled out of the competition. In such a competitive sport, each participant has to have full body and mind concentration to do well. Joanie Rochette did above and beyond what any 24 year-old figure skating athlete would have done under the circumstances. She stepped out on the ice with grace and great composure and skated her best performances to win the bronze medal taking third place behind two excellent skaters from South Korea and Japan . Canada hadn’t won any medals for women’s singles skating since Elizabeth Manley won the silver in Calgary in 1988.

It was an amazing experience to watch Joanie, knowing what her heart was feeling for the death of her mother, as she performed her skating routines. She carried on with great courage and became an Olympic favorite because of her remarkable character. How many of us would be able carry on so well after losing a loved one so close to us? She was even given the distinguished honor of carrying her country’s flag in the closing exercises on Sunday night. She didn’t think she deserved the honor because her performance on ice was awarded third place but after talking with many of her own country’s athletes she changed her mind. They explained to her how her determination and character had greatly helped them get through their own performances and she was absolutely the right person to carry their flag.

It is so refreshing to see how the life of one athlete could have such a positive affect on so many people. We all have trials to overcome but how many of us would continue on as Joanie did? We have become a world of only thinking of ourselves. We think what is best for us instead of what would be best for everyone around us. Joanie could have walked away from the competition and we would have all understood why but she chose the better path to complete what she started.

As Robert Frost so eloquently wrote in his poem The Road Not Taken, “I took the one less traveled by and that made all the difference”. Joanie Rochette took the road less traveled by. She did her best and that made all the difference.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

A Reminder of Life's Pursuits

Valerie J. Steimle
Right about now, you have probably forgotten about all those New Year’s resolutions you made over a month and a half ago. Life gets busy and we forget all about what we thought was so important then. It’s the mid-winter blues and we need a little boost. Although the weather has been beautiful here it’s that time of the year when there is a long stretch of work time with no holiday until Easter. I was sent this poem a while ago through an email. I wish I had written it but I didn't. The author is unknown. This is a great shot in the arm and we all need that once in a while. This poem gives it to us.

Don't Quit
When things go wrong, as they sometimes will,
When the road you're trudging seems all uphill,
When funds are low and the debts are high,
And you want to smile but you have to sigh,
When care is pressing you down a bit,
Rest if you must, but don't you quit.
Life is queer with its twists and turns,
As every one of us sometimes learns,
And many a failure turns about,
When he might have won if he'd stuck it out.
Don't give up, though the pace seems slow -
You may succeed with another blow.
Often the goal is nearer than
It seems to a faint and faltering man;
Often the struggler has given up
When he might have captured the victor's cup,
And he learned too late, when the night slipped down,
How close he was to the golden crown.
Success is failure turned inside out
-The silver tint of the clouds of doubt,
And you never can tell how close you are
-It may be near when it seems afar;
So stick to the fight when you're hardest hit
-It's when things seem worst that you mustn't quit.

We all need a way to remember what is important to us. We all need that reminder to never give up. So as we go through the last weeks of winter into the hot days of summer, we should remember to fight the "fight when you’re hardest hit—when things seem worst that you mustn’t quit". Don’t ever quit.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

2010 Handbook For A Better Year

It is hard to believe the year is 2010. It sounds too much like a futuristic science fiction movie but in reality, it really is 2010. A message sent to me by my mother-in-law gave me seven handy hints for a great new year. One to remember each day of the week.

One: Drink plenty of water. This is a great tip for a healthy body. It is common knowledge now that we should all drink at least eight glasses of water every day to feel healthy.

Two: Don’t waste your precious energy on gossip. I would say most of the time those unkind things you hear from others are not true and if they are you shouldn’t repeat them. Life is too short to waste time in passing on unwanted news. You have no idea what the other person has gone through so don’t pass on any gossip.

Three: Live by the Three E’s: Energy, Enthusiasm and Empathy. All that you spend your time doing can either uplift you or drag you down. Calling your family often, doing something good for others and forgiving others of any inconveniences can be of great worth in living by the “E’s” of life. No matter how you feel, get up, dress up, and show up.

Four: Make time to pray. The world would tell you that praying is a waste of time, but I don’t believe that. No matter what religious sect you belong to, there is always time to pray. You can pray while driving to work or cleaning the house or before eating breakfast. It helps the day go by much better and you will find that enthusiasm and empathy stay with you longer.

Five: Play more games. This reminds us how fun life is or is supposed to be. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy so find time during the month whether weekly or every other week to play games with your friends and family.

Six: Read more books than you did in 2009. Reading is so good for the mind and it can take to far away places which makes it less expensive than taking a trip to Europe . Reading also helps you ponder the challenges you face every day while also giving you an escape.

Seven: Take a ten to thirty minute walk daily, and while you walk smile. I learned something very profound from my own son last week. His secret to a happier life was to smile all the time. I was very surprised to hear him say that as he has not always been a happy kid. No one is in charge of your happiness except you. While the walking is physically good for your heart, the smiling is emotionally good for your soul and everyone else around you.

So there you have it, seven helpful hints for a better 2010. Happy New Year.