Category Archives: Values & Stories

When the children I love need some encouragement or a chance to celebrate, I often write brief pieces for them. My purpose is to turn every life event into a learning opportunity. Often, stories provide examples of values, which are critical for growth and learning.

Stimulate Appetites With a Spot of Red

This story, which took place when my son was around ten years old, lacks any substantial value. However, when the weather gets cold, I fondly recall an icy trip across Austin with two young boys who were on a swim team.

“Oh my goodness! I’m so stressed,” I told my husband after bringing our son and a teammate home from swimming practice. Traffic had been horrendous. Slick roads threatened safety and sleet and darkness impaired visibility. I felt particularly anxious knowing that the team member/young friend had been blind from birth.

Although I usually didn’t consume liquor, my husband demonstrated sympathy by fixing me a strong drink. “You need this,” he comforted. The first sip was disgusting. Amazingly, subsequent sips improved and by the time I finished the first glass, I wanted a second.

Feeling much more relaxed and pleasant, I started dinner. I explored the kitchen cabinets and refrigerator looking for possibilities. It seemed strange that everything I choose turned out to be the color red. “Red sauce helps almost every dish,” I reasoned. “Catsup improves the worst concoctions.” Leaning over the bar, I slung each dish Frisbee style onto our white table. Red spills began creeping across the table.

Happily I called the family to dinner. I still see their amazed faces staring at the red splashes of food. Everything tasted delicious so it surprised me that the family ate very little and left me contentedly devouring every dish by myself.Red Food

Marching Into the Gates of Hell or Seeking Love

Although I support responsible gun ownership, stockpiling weapons for the purpose of defending one’s home and family seems like a poorly thought through plan. A wiser proposal suggests abdicating responsibility for protection to police and military troops. In an effort to think about a new perspective on personal weapons, please join me on an imaginary time-travel journey as we contemplate the following question:

Can the words of Jesus work in today’s world?

Imagine for a moment that just outside the walls of Jerusalem, we mingle with devout followers of Jesus. The Last Supper has been eaten, Judas departed, and Jesus has withdrawn to pray. Although most disciples sleep, a few of us crouch around a small fire to discuss possible actions to take. All of us realize that danger lurks. Our Master’s life hangs in jeopardy.

 As we linger, we hear “Jesus will be arrested. He will be tried and found guilty of blasphemy. We have to do something.” Following a hushed moment, a disciple mutters, “We must arm ourselves. In order to protect our Master and our lives, we must resist. Let every man take up arms and be ready for defense. When the soldiers arrive, we will be ready.” Continue reading

Going the Extra Mile to Build Self-Confidence

From time to time, I write to my teenage granddaughter. This post goes to a special fourteen-year-old I love. 

To a large extent, a person’s accomplishments depend on the self-confidence enjoyed by that individual. A terrible, awful, frightening truth guarantees that choices about building or damaging self-confidence must be made repeatedly. Every single day, you will choose to see yourself as a victim or as a seeker of growth and adventure. Since one’s past can usually predict the future, let’s consider two memories I have from your first fourteen years ~

  1. On many occasions when you were young, you put on dramatizations for Grandpa and me. You showed no hesitation. You fainted, wept, raged, smiled and enthused as you frequently changed characters. It was all I could do to keep up with you. Did a video slow you down? Not for a second. You relished showing off in front of the camera. I never saw a hint of shyness.

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To Save or Discard an Old Treasure?

“Oh, please — please let me have that doll!” I begged. We stood in the toy section of Dunlap’s Dry Goods Store on Main Street in Pecos, Texas. Our small western town was going all out for Christmas in 1945 and Dunlap’s had a large supply of cloth dolls with golden hair. And so, it wasn’t’ a total surprise when the doll turned up as a gift from Santa under our Christmas tree. I loved the doll and played with her constantly. Maybe I played with her too constantly. Early one morning, I found the doll in the yard, chewed into pieces by my dog, Wags. “Oh Wags, how could you do this to me?” I wailed.

Mother quickly came to the rescue saying, “I’ll make a new cloth doll for you that will be even better than the first one.” The next day, we drove into town to buy a pattern, cotton stuffing, yarn, and material for a new doll. Mother stayed with the job for several days. When she introduced me to the doll, I whispered “Oh, thank you. She looks beautiful. She even feels better than the doll from Dunlap’s.” From that time on, the doll that Mother made slept with me every night. Continue reading

LAND OF MY BIRTH – Poem from Civil War

Yesterday, I located a poem, which was written by Elisha Peter Couch who was the father of my Grandmother Mary Cordilia Couch Glover. I typed his faded words, which he wrote during the Civil War. I suspect that many times young people leave for war with hopeful hearts. Reality brings such sorrow.

Farewell to the home of my childhood,
Farewell to my cottage and vine.
I go to the land of the stranger,
Where pleasure alone will be mine.
When life’s fleeting journey is over,
And earth again mingles with earth,
I can rest in the land of the Stranger,
As well as in that of my birth.
Yes, these were my feelings at parting,
But absence soon altered their tone,
The cold hand of sickness came o’re me,
And I wept o’re my sorrows alone.
No friend came around me to cheer me,
No parent to soften my grief,
Nor brother, nor sister were near me,
And strangers could give no relief.
Tis true that it matters but little,
Tho’ living the thought makes one pine,
Whatever befalls the poor relic,
When the Spirit has flown from the Shrine,
But, oh! When life’s journey is over,
And earth again mingles with earth,
Lamented or not, still my wish is
To rest in the land of my birth.
E.P Couch

Encourage Kindness in Children

Once again, Dr. Amy Campbell, counselor at the Rawson Saunders School for Dyslexia, shares a wonderful message. Amy’s post today describes ways to  promote kindness in children.  Being happy, isn’t actually enough. We also want children to be kind.

A recent Harvard study indicated that youth feel that the adults in their lives are much more concerned about their achievement or happiness than if they cared about other people. The study emphasized the need for all stakeholders in a child’s life to teach kindness. Here are some things that can help:

  1. Be conscious of the messages you’re sending. Understandably, adults can directly and indirectly communicate to children the message: The most important thing is that you’re happy. Think about sending (including saying it) the message: The most important thing is that you’re kind.

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Filling Auntie’s Purse While Zipping Down Old Highway 80

My cousin, Patty currently struggles with cancer. Family stories seem to cheer her up a bit as well as events she and I shared. This family story is for Patty. I ask that God grant her peace and comfort.  

It was summer 1950 on Old Highway 80 between Pecos and El Paso, Texas. Aunt Maggie instigated this family trip by suggesting, “We need to visit our El Paso relatives.” Darrell and Auntie sat on a bench seat in front. Darrell’s wife Mille, his daughter Patty and I piled into the back.

The road felt smooth and straight until we began to navigate hills and twists in the highway around Van Horn, Texas. Hills gradually grew into craggy desert mountains filled with mesquites, cedars, and brush. An occasional tumble week crossed our path as Darrell continued our drive west. Without air conditioning, hot, dusty air assaulted us through the open car windows. Continue reading

Find Calm When Unexpected Events Fail Expectations

One thing that excites me about this business of living involves the outcomes of unexpected — even unwanted surprises. Monday was one of those days that provided an unexpected bonus to an adventure we shared with our Austin grandchildren. I must admit that the adventure did not go as planned. Yet, at the end of the day, I felt satisfied.

The adventure started when I spoke words that should have struck fear in the heart of my husband, “Hey! I’ve got a great idea!” Naturally, the sweet man agreed to my idea. We arranged to pick up three children, one teen, two moms, one dad, and another grandmother. Off we drove in our RV to see the Christmas lights at Marble Falls and to enjoy a meal at the famous Bluebonnet Café. Continue reading

Teaching Gratitude by Naming Costs, Intent, and Benefits

Dr. Amy Campbell, counselor at the Rawson Saunders School for Dyslexia, shares powerful ideas for teaching gratitude and appreciation. Thank you, Amy for sharing this post.

‘Tis the Season to be…Grateful

Many researchers believe that gratitude is not something that comes naturally to children, but instead it must be modeled, learned, and weaved into the fabric of children’s lives. Here is a framework for parents to keep in mind when approaching gratitude with kids: Discussing intent: somebody put you first; discussing cost: what someone gave of themselves to me (time, money, energy, etc); and discussing benefit: what you got out of it. For example: “Hey Kelly, that was really kind of Jen to help you practice your spelling words when you were struggling (intent). It was nice of her to give up her recess time to help you (cost) and now you know your spelling list (benefit).

Also, here are some tips around gratitude with giving gifts any time of year:

Gift giving that helps children meet intrinsic goals. Gifts that provide personal growth or are shaped around kids’ interests (i.e., dance lessons, a keyboard, pottery kit) are typically linked more to feelings of lasting gratitude versus more temporary feelings of appreciation.

Identifying want and need. Remind kids that things they want and things they need are two different things. When kids say, “I need that new video game,” you can rephrase it as: “You need a new jacket. You want the new video game.” Some families give one want gift and one need gift. Continue reading

Expressing Thanks; Counting Our Blessings

For the second time in two years, my husband and I find ourselves “displaced” for the holidays. We currently live in a twenty-year old motor home in the driveway of our house, which flooded just before Halloween. In the past, I have occasionally written to our granddaughter, Catherine. Today, I write to ourIMG_3251 fourteen-year old granddaughter once again. This time, I’m reminding myself instead of her.

 Dear Catherine,

Do you remember three years ago when nothing seemed to be going quite right for your family? During cold, dark mornings, you had to wait by yourself for the bus? Middle school seemed overwhelming with crowded lockers, pressured bell changes, and boys spitting in the halls? Continue reading