Advice for the Unwanted & Unloved

Have you ever felt like a loser? Like the only one not chosen for a team? Like the only one not invited to the party? Although many people don’t admit it, most of us have felt that feeling of being left out, unwanted, and as though we don’t belong. What is profoundly sad is that it’s totally unnecessary. I find it incredibly sad that most people who were victims of abandonment, neglect, abuse, and/or dysfunction have no idea that they are some of the strongest, most resilient, most resourceful people on Earth. And that those qualities are highly transferrable and extremely valuable in the workplace.

For most of the first forty years of my life, I didn’t know about the awesome strengths, character traits, coping mechanisms, and compensatory skills I had acquired as a result of the pain I’d experienced. Consequently, I felt like a total loser until about 8 years ago. Oh, I knew how to hide it fairly well, but anyone who barely scratched the surface of the facade, would be scratching the barely healed scab off the life-long wounds of having been abandoned by my mother and father, severely abused by guardians, bullied by classmates, and rejected by just about everyone who saw the filthy, smelly, hurt and angry little girl I was. I didn’t know then how awesome I truly was. Had I known…had someone told me… I might not have been burdened under the weight of a feeling of being unwanted and unloved for most of my life.

After a lifetime of working hard to prove that I had some worth and value, trying everything I could to get people to like me, giving (and giving and giving) stuff, time, and money to others, something finally clicked. I had accomplished a lot of good things. I had achieved many goals and received awards of recognition. But most importantly, I had been blessed with some good relationships with healthy people who hung in there with me despite the drama that was driven by the continuously cycling depression and anger that was roiling inside me.

awesomeBecause of the good people who saw good in me, and pointed out specifically why they thought so, I was finally able to believe that there actually was good in me, and that, in fact, I was awesome in my own goofy way! No longer did I have to work hard at “acting normal,” (whatever “normal” is). No longer did I have to try to emulate the good qualities I saw in others (which was how I eventually untangled the tangled wiring in my brain from being raised by a mentally ill man and an alcoholic and addicted woman in a crazy-making environment).

When the light went on in my head and the “head knowledge” of knowing my good qualities dropped that long 18” into my heart, I finally understood that I actually am pretty awesome, and that it’s not arrogant or boastful to acknowledge it! Because not only am I acknowledging that about myself, but I’m now able to see the awesome qualities in others without having to be envious about what they have that I don’t. I realized that I’m not in competition with anyone except the person I used to be. Knowing the qualities that make me awesome, gives me the confidence to celebrate he awesomeness of others, which makes collaboration and powerful collective impact possible! It is for that reason that I’ve decided to help others find their unique awesomeness in the little book, HOW TO GET TO AWESOME—101 steps to find your best self.

I hope that everyone who’s ever felt unwanted, unchosen, or unloved reads it from cover to cover. And I hope that each reader finds his or her awesome self in the pages of this little book. And then I hope that each awesome person goes out into the world identifying the awesomeness of everyone within their influence.

Awesome people attract other awesome people. They attract amazing opportunities. And they seem to go from one awesome life experience to the next. Imagine awesomeness spreading like a “contagious virus” with every awesome person spreading awesomeness throughout the world! Could such a simple thing really change lives, and go on to change the world? I’m just goofy enough to believe it can! C’mon…join me!


rhonda-sciortinoRhonda Sciortino, author of How To Get To Awesome, used the coping skills from an abusive childhood to achieve real success which she measures by good relationships, good health, peace, joy, and financial prosperity. Through her writing, speaking, and media appearances, she shares how others can use the obstacles in their lives as stepping stones to their real success. Rhonda can be reached at [email protected]

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Do You Know the Signs of Trafficking?

OK, so by now we know that human trafficking in general, and the selling of children for sex (referred to in law enforcement as Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children, or CSEC) in specific, are happening in communities all over the US. We know that there is an entire industry on the “dark net” on which children are bought and sold for sex. We know that mothers who are drug addicted pay dealers for drugs by “loaning” or selling outright, their children for sex. It’s heartbreaking. It’s heinous. We’re aware. Now, what can we do??

Most people hear about these terrible things, and would do something if they could, but they don’t know what to do. This month’s article is about the resources that are available to all of us, free of charge. We can use these resources to educate and empower ourselves, our families, our friends, neighbors, and colleagues. We can work with management to organize a lunch-n-learn at our company. We can collaborate with local ministries to put on educational events. (If we can’t talk about these things in church, and ignite church- goers to stop this heinous crime, where should we talk about these things?!) We can email copies of this article or links for resources to people involved with Scouts, Big Brothers/Big Sisters, and other youth-related organizations. We can put “trafficking indicators” under our email signature lines.

6913435Human trafficking is a hidden crime, so the first step to combating it is to identify victims, or those at risk of being trafficked, so they can be rescued. I get that we aren’t all cut out for leading the charge against trafficking in our communities, but every one of us can learn and pass on indicators that help educate people who might just be the person who sees something and makes an anonymous phone call that saves a trafficked child’s life. If you think I’m being overly dramatic, consider that the average life span of a trafficked child is 7 years. Consider also that the average age of a trafficked child is 12.

Possible Indicators of Trafficking

Recognizing key indicators of human trafficking is the first step in identifying victims and can help save a life. Here are some common indicators to help recognize human trafficking:

  • Does the person appear disconnected from family, friends, community organizations, or houses of worship?
  • Has a child stopped attending school?
  • Has the person had a sudden or dramatic change in behavior?
  • Is a juvenile engaged in commercial sex acts?
  • Is the person disoriented or confused, or showing signs of mental or physical abuse
  • Does the person have bruises in various stages of healing?
  • Is the person fearful, timid, or submissive?
  • Does the person show signs of having been denied food, water, sleep, or medical care?
  • Is the person often in the company of someone to whom he or she defers? Or someone who seems to be in control of the situation, e.g., where they go or who they talk to?
  • Does the person appear to be coached on what to say?
  • Is the person living in unsuitable conditions?
  • Does the person lack personal possessions and appear not to have a stable living situation?
  • Does the person have freedom of movement? Can the person freely leave where they live? Are there unreasonable security measures?

Not all indicators listed above are present in every human trafficking situation, and the presence or absence of any of the indicators is not necessarily proof of human trafficking.

facts-about-human-trafficking-profitRed Flag Indicators of Trafficking

While not an exhaustive list, these are some red flags that could mean a potential trafficking situation that should be reported:

  • Living with employer
  • Poor living conditions
  • Living with multiple people in cramped space
  • Inability to speak to individual alone
  • Answers appear to be scripted and rehearsed
  • Employer is holding identity documents
  • Signs of physical abuse
  • Submissive or fearful
  • Unpaid or paid very little
  • Under 18 and trading sex for rent

What Do You Do?

If you see someone who you think may be trafficked, do not at any time attempt to confront a suspected trafficker directly or alert a victim to your suspicions. Your safety as well as the victim’s safety is paramount.

If you have the opportunity to speak privately with someone you suspect may be a victim, be aware that the trafficker could be watching. Be careful not to jeopardize the victim’s safety. Assuming it is safe to do so, here are some sample questions to ask to follow up on the red flags you became alert to:

  • Can you leave if you wanted to?
  • Can you come and go as you please?
  • Have you been hurt or threatened if you tried to leave?
  • Has your family been threatened?
  • Do you live with your employer?
  • Where do you sleep and eat?
  • Do you have your own money?
  • Are you in debt to your employer?
  • Do you have your passport or identification? Who has it?

If you’re unable to safely ask questions or the answers would indicate that intervention is necessary, contact local law enforcement directly or call the tip lines below:

  • Call 1-866-DHS-2-ICE (1-866-347-2423); outside the US call 802-872-6199.
  • Submit a tip at www.ice.gov/tips.
  • To get help for victims, call the National Human Trafficking Resource Center (NHTRC) by calling 1-888-373-7888 or text HELP or INFO to BeFree (233733). The NHTRC can help connect victims with service providers in the area and provides training, technical assistance, and other resources. The NHTRC is a national, toll-free hotline available to answer calls from anywhere in the country, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, every day of the year.
  • 911 Emergency. For urgent situations, notify local law enforcement immediately by calling 911.

Other Resources

For materials, trainings, and videos from the Department of Homeland Security Blue Campaign, click here or copy and paste this into your browser:

www.dhs.gov/blue-campaign/share- resources.

For online awareness training for:

  • groups or individuals, click here or copy and paste this into your browser: www.dhs.gov/blue-campaign/awarenesstraining
  • first responders in your community, click here or copy and paste this into your browser: www.dhs.gov/video/human-trafficking- awareness-video-first-responders
  • educators in your community, click here or copy and paste this into your browser: https://www.dhs.gov/video/human-traf- ficking-awareness-video-first-responders
  • for a Spanish translation of resources, click here or paste this into your browser: www.state.gov/documents/organization/25 2544.pdf

For specific resources for educators, click here or copy and paste this into your browser: https://www.dhs.gov/publication/blue- campaign-training-materials

Together, we can identify and help save the trafficking victims who are all around us.

rhonda-sciortinoRhonda Sciortino, author of the new book Successful Survivors: The 8 Character Traits of Survivors and How You Can Attain Them, used the coping skills from an abusive childhood to achieve real success which she measures by good relationships, good health, peace, joy, and financial prosperity. Through her writing, speaking, and media appearances, she shares how others can use the obstacles in their lives as stepping stones to their real success.

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When Dysfunctional is Normal

Rhonda Sciortino: When a child grows up amidst sudden outbursts of yelling and screaming or worse, physical violence, it changes the child. It influences the way his or her brain develops, the assumptions he or she makes, and the risks he or she is willing to take. Without appropriate intervention, these changes can often be lasting.

Actions and words of the people in authority become normal. Think about how a baby learns to walk and talk. The baby tries to mimic what he or she sees and hears. Imagine the baby raised by people who think it’s funny for the baby to learn curse words. These are the people who think it’s hysterical when toddlers learn to separate their middle fingers and “flip people off.” These people aren’t cautious about what’s on TV, about what they say in the presence of the child, or how others are treated in front of the child. Consequently, the child grows up hearing and seeing things that no one should see and hear.

With every raised voice and shattered dish or rough sexual act witnessed, the child’s fear and anxiety level raises and does not come back down. Eventually the vigilance the child feels becomes hyper vigilance, and that becomes his or her norm.

I’m not suggesting that those of us who grew up in a violent environment are too broken to be fixed. In fact, some of us grow up and thrive in careers that others simply wouldn’t be able to handle. For example, people in law enforcement and combat soldiers are often excellent in those roles because of the live-ammunition-boot-camp they experienced when they were too little to do anything other than figure out how to survive.

The fact that many of us use the lessons learned in violence to survive and thrive in our adult lives doesn’t discount the residual effect. For example, I recently posted a request on Facebook to let me know how experiencing violence as a child changed them. I received responses from accomplished, successful adults aged 20 through 60 that included, “I can’t stand loud noises,” “I can’t sit in a restaurant unless my back is against the wall because I can’t stand anyone walking up behind me,” “I don’t like crowds,” and “I won’t stand up for myself because I never want to argue.”

I echo all these sentiments. I refer to the residual effects of my violent childhood as my “goofiness.” I’ve embraced it. I no longer fight it. So, I don’t like crowds. So what? I don’t go places where I know no one. I won’t join…anything. I’ve tried, but I go once and never return. I understand that my friends often feel that I’m missing out on so much, and perhaps I am. But I’m fine with it. I can do whatever I have to do for work, but my preference will always be to create places and relationships in which I can feel safe. A deep desire to create and maintain safety is normal to the person who has experienced violence.

I hate that there are predators who take advantage of the changes that happen in kids who’ve been victims of violence. People who seek to profit from the vulnerability of victims Screen Shot 2017-02-01 at 10.27.53 AMof childhood violence are the worst kind of predators. They understand that children who have been hurt by those who were supposed to love and protect them want to be loved and protected. They know that children who’ve been hit expect to be hit. They know that children who’ve been raped believe, on some level, that being used for someone else’s pleasure is all they’re good for.

So what can caregivers do about kids who have been victims of violence? Tell kids that what happened to them wasn’t right. SHOW kids the right way to be in relationship. Accept their quirkiness and don’t force what doesn’t come naturally to them. Gently lead them to try new things while creating routine and consistency which spells S-A-F-E-T-Y to them. If you do these things, you will eventually help the children within your influence to create a new “normal.”

Dr. Sandie Morgan: The heartrending impact of environmental violence has been observed when newborns have tiny little scars in the palms of their hands from clenching their fists in utero. Reports of hyper-vigilance include children who sleep with their eyes open, or who do not sleep until totally exhausted. The results of sleep deprivation become part of the cycle of spiraling anxiety.

Children often develop adaptive behaviors that serve them well as they struggle to sur- vive abusive circumstances. However, after the child is removed from that environment or grows up, those same adaptive behaviors can then be identified as maladaptive anxiety or depression disorders.

The question is “what can we do?” The field of brain science is growing and uncovering new strategies that are very encouraging. *Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is one promising therapy that identifies maladaptive behaviors and cognitive processes and systematically uses psycho-education and skills training.

A student in my Family Violence class told me his story of growing up surrounded by violence and threats of violence that resulted in anxiety and depression issues. He wanted to tell me that what he was learning in class is that this is not forever. He realizes he has work to do. One encouraging insight he reported is that his brain is still forming for the next few years. He took the class to make sense of his past and now he’s finding a way forward to a resilient future.


Screen Shot 2017-01-13 at 8.02.12 AMRhonda Sciortino, author of the new book Successful Survivors: The 8 Character Traits of Survivors and How You Can Attain Them, used the coping skills from an abusive childhood to achieve real success which she measures by good relationships, good health, peace, joy, and financial prosperity. Through her writing, speaking, and media appearances, she shares how others can use the obstacles in their lives as stepping stones to their real success.


Screen Shot 2017-01-13 at 8.02.01 AMDr. Sandie Morgan, Ph.D., is Director of Vanguard University’s Global Center for Women and Justice, overseeing the Women’s Studies Minor, as well as teaching Family Violence and Human Trafficking and produc- ing the Ending Human Trafficking Podcast. Sandie’s background as a Pediatric Nurse brought her into contact with her first victim of Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children. She is committed to equipping our communities to be a safer place for vulnerable youth.

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You Will Do What You Think About

If you think about a hamburger for long enough, you’ll eat a hamburger. The more vivid the images of a hot, juicy hamburger just the way you like it, the quicker you’re likely to go get it. It’s just the way our brains work.

Psychologists have long advised athletes to harness this brain capability to envision successfully making their free throws, hitting the baseball out of the park, or running the ball into the end zone for the game winning touchdown. Our ability to think, verbally or in images, is what psychologists call behavioral rehearsal.

In the same way, if we think about a sexual fantasy for long enough, and vividly enough, eventually we’re likely act on it. This is why child pornography is often a precursor to sex with a child. It’s a vehicle by which people can vividly think through their fantasies. And when they think about those fantasies for long enough, and when they see their fantasies acted out in high definition images for long enough, just like the overwhelming urge to go get that hamburger, they’ll eventually begin looking for opportunities to do what they’ve been thinking about.

Most people reading this would never even consider child porn. In fact you may be wondering where all this is going— “why is she talking about this disgusting topic? No one I know is interested in that.” But the truth is that rarely does anyone start out with child porn. They start out with “average” porn. Some people eventually get to the point where the “culturally acceptable” porn does nothing for them, and they look for something more. Illustrating this point, a German study in 2014 (Brain Structure and Functional Connectivity Associated With Pornography Consumption: The Brain on Porn) found that the more porn that was consumed, the less brain activity in the “reward” circuit, which indicated desensitization, leading to an increased need for greater stimulation.

A joint study done recently by Indiana University and the University of Hawaii at Manoa (A Meta-Analysis of Pornography Consumption and Actual Acts of Sexual Aggression in General Population Studies) found a correlation between consumption of porn and verbal and physical aggression. The study concludes, “…the accumulated data leave little doubt that, on the average, individuals who consume pornography more frequently are more likely to hold attitudes conducive to sexual aggression and engage in actual acts of sexual aggression than individuals who do not consume pornography or who consume pornography less frequently.”

Unfortunately, the “something more” that desensitized, aggressive porn users are looking for is now readily available and easily obtainable. In fact, there are online “communities” of people who desire and actively seek violent sexual experiences. The sub-section of those predators who have a sexual appetite for children have found normalization of this behavior online. Those who used to be culturally shunned have now found camaraderie on what is commonly referred to as the “darknet.”

These pedophiles share pictures and videos, they trade ways to identify and abduct the most vulnerable victims, and they give one Screen Shot 2017-01-25 at 9.51.23 AManother tips and tricks to “grooming” children to go along with this heinous crime without telling anyone. One of these people was convicted of paying another to livestream the rape a young boy—a three year old boy who was abducted because he happened to meet the physical description given by the purchaser.

Ernie Allen, founding chairman of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, shared recently that the average age of child victims of commercial sexual exploitation is 12 years old. Many people justify their use of child porn by reasoning that the kids are adults dressed to look like kids. But the horrendous truth is that the pictures and videos contain real, live children who are being raped, humiliated, drugged, and who have no way to defend themselves. In fact, Ernie Allen explained that many pedophiles are now specifically seeking out very young, non-verbal toddlers, because they’re unable to communicate what’s happening to them.

It remains that the children who are most likely to be lured into sex trafficking are kids who have been abandoned, neglected, abused, or sold by their family of origin, many of whom have been in the foster care system.

Sadly, according to Pew Charitable Trust, the epidemic of parents using opioids is creating of too few homes for kids coming into foster care. When too many kids are in a home, they sometimes don’t get the structure and supervision needed to keep them safe. These kids are exceptionally vulnerable to the lure of traffickers. This is especially true for the children whose addicted parents sold sex with their child (or sold the child altogether) in exchange for drugs. This tragic behavior “normalizes” the transaction of sex in exchange for the child’s sense of belonging with the trafficker and his or her “stable” of others who are available for sale.

So, what do we do? We quit accepting porn as a “normal” part of our culture. We quit dismissing it as though it was harmless, because while it doesn’t lead every consumer to violence or pedophelia, it can. And the priceless life of one child saved because one person didn’t slide down the slippery slope of the never-ending search for ever-more-vile porn to find that no-longer-attainable thrill, is worth the effort we can make in taking a personal stand against it. Think about taking a stand. If you think about it long enough, perhaps you’ll take action.


Screen Shot 2017-01-13 at 8.02.12 AMRhonda Sciortino, author of Succeed Because of What You’ve Been Through, is the National Child Welfare Specialist for Markel Insurance Company. Rhonda is a foster alum who chairs the Successful Survivors Foundation and serves as a spokesperson for Foster Care Alumni of America.

 

 

Screen Shot 2017-01-13 at 8.02.01 AMDr. Sandie Morgan, Ph.D., is Director of Vanguard University’s Global Center for Women and Justice, overseeing the Women’s Studies Minor, as well as teaching Family Violence and Human Trafficking and produc- ing the Ending Human Trafficking Podcast. Sandie’s background as a Pediatric Nurse brought her into contact with her first victim of Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children. She is committed to equipping our communities to be a safer place for vulnerable youth.

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Pretending Suicide Isn’t A Problem

Victims of abuse are at higher risk.

We can’t prevent suicide if we don’t talk about it. So, let’s have an honest conversation about the fact that those of us who have experienced the pain of being abandoned, abused, neglected, sold, or treated in anyway that made us feel unloved and unworthy of love, are at a much higher risk of suicide.

According to Dr. Daniel J. Pilowsky of Mailman School of Public Health, adolescents involved with foster care are about four times more likely to have attempted suicide than adolescents never placed in foster care. This probably comes as no great surprise to anyone who has ever been in foster care.

Suicide is the third leading cause of death for 15-24 year-olds, and the sixth leading cause of death for 5 to 15-year-olds in the general population. According to the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, “teenagers experience strong feelings of stress, confusion, self-doubt, pressure to succeed, financial uncertainty, and other fears.” If teens in the general population experience those feelings, imagine the exponential magnification of those feelings by the factors of abandonment, neglect, and abuse that preceded time in the foster care system—a system of living with strangers (hopefully well-meaning, but strangers, nevertheless).

The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention says that every 40 seconds someone commits suicide in the US. This is a national tragedy, which is particularly poignant because it’s often foreseeable and preventable.

Depression and suicidal feelings are treatable mental disorders. The challenge is that many current and former foster kids don’t seek help. This unwillingness to talk about depression and suicidal thoughts can be rooted in various issues including, but not limited to, being unaware that no or low-cost services are available and accessible, an inherent feeling of hopelessness that there is anything that can make life any better, a feeling of being unworthy of receiving help, or the stigma and shame that can accompany thoughts of suicide.

Many of us have been touched by suicide. This is, in fact, one of the factors that increases our risk of suicide. Once someone in our life has taken their life that person’s action becomes an option in the back of our minds should the pain simply get beyond what we can bear. For people who had a parent who suicided when the person was young, there can be an additional underlying sense that it is their destiny to repeat that tragic family history. In addition to childhood abuse and knowing someone who suicided, other risk factors include previous suicide attempts, family history of mental health conditions, mental health diagnosis, and substance abuse.

Know the signs

There are many signs that a person may be contemplating taking his or her own life. The more signs you identify, the higher the risk is that the person will actually attempt suicide.

The top three signs are:

  1. Threatening to hurt or kill oneself
  2. Looking for ways to suicide, including seeking pills, weapons, or other means
  3. Talking or writing about death, dying, or suicide WON’T MAKE IT GO AWAY

A person who is actively planning suicide may:

  • speak of being a bad person or feeling rotten inside
  • give verbal hints like, “I won’t be a problem for you much longer, Nothing matters, It’s no use, and I won’t see you again.”
  • put his or her affairs in order, for example, give away favorite possessions, clean his or her room, throw away important belongings, etc.
  • become suddenly better after a period of depression—often because the decision has been made
  • have hallucinations or bizarre thoughts

Some of the many other warning signs can include:

  • Hopelessness
  • Rage, anger, seeking revenge
  • Acting reckless or engaging in risky activities
  • Feeling trapped as though there’s no way out
  • Increasing alcohol or drug use
  • Withdrawing from social interaction
  • Anxiety and agitation
  • Unable to sleep or sleeping all the time
  • Dramatic changes in mood
  • No reason for living or sense of purpose for life
  • Lack of interest in activities previously enjoyed
  • Mental health condition (risk increases exponentially with multiple diagnosis)
  • Change in eating or sleeping habits
  • Stressful life event
  • Prolonged stress
  • Experiencing seemingly unbearable emotional distress
  • Serious or chronic health problems
  • Chronic pain
  • Head injury
  • Reactions that are out of proportion to the situation
  • Persistent boredom
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Frequent physical symptoms like headaches, stomachaches, fatigue, etc.

Things to do

Take every reference to suicide seriously, even those made in a seemingly joking way.

Ask the person directly if he or she is considering suicide. The experts say that you will not drive a person to consider suicide if they are not contemplating it. But if the person is thinking about it, asking the direct question gives the person permission to have an honest conversation. That freedom, in itself, may relieve some of the pressure the person may be feeling. If you’re uncomfortable asking the question, you may consider saying something like, “if what you have been through happened to me, I’d probably feel hurt and angry. I’m wondering if you’ve ever felt like ending your life.”

Mental health treatment can prevent suicide. The first thing to do when you believe that someone is in imminent risk of suicide is to help the high risk person get appropriate mental health treatment. A good therapist gives the person a safe space to express his or her thoughts and feelings accompanied by non-rejecting and non-judgmental responses. Although the person may resist by saying they’ve tried it before and it didn’t help or there’s nothing anyone can do or say to make their situation any better, do not give up. Explain that every therapist is a different person with a unique perspective, and cannot be dismissed until having been given a fair chance.

Don’t leave the person alone. If you have to go, take the person with you or find someone else to stay with the person, but do not leave him or her alone. Doing so, would give the person the space to commit the act. Sometimes it helps to simply put some distance between the person and the opportunity to end his or her life. For example, The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention says that medication packaged in individual “blister” packaging is helping in avoiding suicide attempts in that it slows the person down to popping one pill out of the packaging at a time rather than giving him or her the possibility of ingesting an entire bottle of pills.

Make a contract with the person. For example, say something like, “please promise me that you won’t try to take your life before talking to a therapist or seeing your doctor.” In one case, a therapist who specialized in treating patients with suicidal ideation told of a patient who had called into a suicide prevention hotline. In the course of conversation, the patient mentioned having a big-screen TV. When the hotline operator had tried all she knew to try seemingly to no avail, she simply said, “If you do decide to take your life, may I have your TV?” The result was that the caller’s emotions were redirected away from self-harm toward anger toward the operator and a desire to live to keep his TV in his possession.

Know what NOT to say

Never dismiss or minimize the person’s feelings as absurd or ridiculous. For example, don’t say, “That’s crazy, you’re just overreacting. Your situation not that bad.”

Never tell someone that they should not feel a certain way. In fact, you may want to eliminate “should feel” from your speech. For example, don’t say things like, “you shouldn’t feel sad. Lots of people have it worse than you do.”

Self-care strategies

Depression, suicidal ideation, PTSD, and myriad other mental and physical conditions are treatable. It’s important to look at mental health challenges the same way that we would look at physical health challenges. People get sick with a cold or the flu, etc., they seek treatment, and they get over it. Other people deal with chronic conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease, which aren’t easily dismissed with treatment. Still, they are easily treated with medication, dietary change, and exercise so that the person can face life with a hopeful attitude and a sense of purpose.

The same is true for mental health issues. There are those bouts of depression, etc., like those caused by a tragedy, a loss, or some other sudden, dramatic change, which can be treated and recovered from by creating a new normal and moving toward it. Then there are those chronic conditions that must be treated on an ongoing basis like bi-polar, schizophrenia, etc. Like chronic physical conditions, chronic mental conditions can be managed with medication, a healthy diet, plenty of fresh water, regular sleep routines, exercise, and talk therapy. Just like there is no shame in seeing a doctor and taking medicine for diabetes, there is no shame in seeing a mental health professional, taking medicine, and making other changes to best manage a mental health condition.

Conclusion

If you or someone you know are considering suicide, call the National Suicide Hotline at 1800-273 TALK (8255). For additional information, go to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention at www.afsp.org. Know that you or your friend are not alone. Many people have considered ending their lives. The thought is more common than most people would imagine. Yet most people aren’t comfortable in discussing it. Let’s use this blog to start a dialogue with those in our lives who had a rough childhood or who have gone through traumatic loss. Sometimes the person considering suicide needs only to know that someone cares.


rhonda-sciortinoRhonda Sciortino, author of Successful Survivors and the 8 character traits of survivors and how you can attain them, used the coping skills from an abusive childhood to achieve real success which she measures by good relationships, good health, peace, joy, and financial prosperity. Through her writing, speaking, and media appearances, she shares how others can use the obstacles in their lives as stepping stones to their real success.

Posted in Depression, foster care, transformation, Uncategorized | Comments Off on Pretending Suicide Isn’t A Problem

You May Say I’m A Dreamer

I have some big dreams and visions. And I’m not the only one. There are lots of us who want to do big things with our lives. We want to make our lives count for something. Many of us try to accomplish big things, but because we only have our piece of the puzzle, we fall short. But when we come together, we’re stronger and better able to do big things.

I have a dream to see kids who are growing up in less than the best of circumstances to be connected with churches in communities throughout the country. I can envision kids who have experienced abandonment, abuse, neglect, poverty, or homelessness (or all of the above) connected with the good people in local churches who will look them in the eyes and see the value they don’t see in themselves.

I envision these kids, like the one I used to be, learning to mine the lessons out of all they’ve been through, learning work ethic and character building, and learning how to have healthy relationships with good people. Having been abandoned, neglected, abused, hungry, and homeless in my life, I am confident that what I envision would be prevention of homelessness, drug use, criminal activity, and trafficking.

Kids who feel valued and cared for are less likely to feel pain that leads to self medicating. The sense of belonging they would feel in a church family would make them far less likely to fall for the lure of a trafficker. And kids who learn relationship skills, work ethic, and good character in the safe environment of people who will gently teach rather than judge them are far more likely to find and keep a good job that will help them become responsible, self-reliant adults.

That’s why I’ve invested the last two years creating the YOUR REAL SUCCESS curriculum. The curriculum is designed to help foster kids and at risk youth learn the valuable lessons that will make them employable as they move toward independence. The curriculum is designed to be facilitated in churches in communities across America. It begins with a full day immersion program where kids learn their individual strengths, talents, and abilities, and begin to see themselves as the unique and awesome people they are. They leave the day with a Life Assignment plan, complete with goals, timeline for fulfillment, and connections with healthy people who want to help them achieve success.

That first day is followed by nine two-hour sessions held at the church one Saturday morning every month. In each of those sessions there’s guidance and accountability for execution of each participant’s Life Assignment plan, a lesson that builds on the founda- tion already laid, and the priceless camaraderie of all participants.

To my point of each of us having only one piece of the puzzle, I created the core materials, Screen Shot 2017-01-13 at 8.01.45 AMbut I’m not a teacher. I have no training in creating engaging, impactful curriculum. I want to see the emotional wounds of the trauma kids have experienced, healed, but I am a business person, not a mental health professional.

It’s expensive to create and print materials for a million kids and volunteers, but I have no clue how to get funding. But I have faith that I’m on the right track, and that others who have a similar dream and vision and who have the other necessary pieces to the puzzle will meet me on the way, so I keep moving forward.

Dr. Karen Bergstrom, Family Psychologist and Executive Director of Safe Families, Western States, has come alongside to help me make sure that volunteers understand trauma informed care before interacting with kids.

Dr. Sandie Morgan, RN, Ph.D., and director of Vanguard University’s Global Center for Women and Justice shares my dream of preventing trafficking by equipping vulnerable kids to avoid the “pull factors” that result in a life of slavery.

Mari Parlade, attorney and former judge is the Manager of Appeals, Records, Contracts, Fatalities, Litigation, Legislation, Community Partnerships & Engagement for Clark County Nevada’s Department of Family Services. In her work as a family law judge and lifelong child advocate, Mari has seen the tragedy of kids who didn’t have the benefit of a program like the one I’m advocating for, and who consequently live lives of incarceration, drug addiction, homelessness, and other desperate circumstances. Mari is committed to collaborating to do all we can together to help kids in Clark County and across the country to create good lives for themselves.

I’m grateful for the people and organizations that share the dream of kids who’ve had a rough childhood becoming the strong, resilient, resourceful people we believe they can be. Now, we need to figure out how to make the dream a reality in the lives of kids who desperately need our help. If you share the dream, please consider what puzzle piece you might bring, and contact me at [email protected] I look forward to hearing from you.

Screen Shot 2017-01-13 at 8.02.12 AMRhonda Sciortino, author of Succeed Because of What You’ve Been Through, is the National Child Welfare Specialist for Markel Insurance Company. Rhonda is a foster alum who chairs the Successful Survivors Foundation and serves as a spokesperson for Foster Care Alumni of America.

 

Screen Shot 2017-01-13 at 8.02.01 AMDr. Sandie Morgan, Ph.D., is Director of Vanguard University’s Global Center for Women and Justice, overseeing the Women’s Studies Minor, as well as teaching Family Violence and Human Trafficking and produc- ing the Ending Human Trafficking Podcast. Sandie’s background as a Pediatric Nurse brought her into contact with her first victim of Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children. She is committed to equipping our communities to be a safer place for vulnerable youth.

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Do you know how to attract awesome people into your life?

Most people don’t know what specifically contributes to having a great life, so they carry around aspects of awesomeness and aren’t even aware of it. They don’t act like the awesome people they truly are and the confident people they could be. Consequently, they miss out on the opportunity to live a great life and to enjoy all that comes along with it.

Some people go throughScreen Shot 2016-12-21 at 2.46.57 PM life with a chip (or a cement block) on their shoulders, eaten up by feelings of envy toward others who they think got the advantages that were not afforded to them. They feel like they were dealt a bad hand at the game of life; like they’re owed restitution by someone, somehow, but they go through life never quite able to figure out how and where to collect.

Those poor souls with the chips on their shoulders wish they’d been born into a loving family, or that Dad hadn’t left, or that Mom hadn’t lost her job. They wish they had gotten a better education, or that they’d had it as good as those kids who appeared to have all the advantages they didn’t have. They wish…they wish…they wish…but none of those wishes will ever change their present reality. No one can go back in time and choose a different family through whichScreen Shot 2016-12-21 at 2.47.08 PM to enter into life. No one can change where they grew up, what happened, or what they didn’t get.

The good news is that awesomeness is not a prize awarded at birth to only a select few, never to be attained by anyone else. Awesomeness is attainable by each of us. Every one of us can embark immediately on a journey toward our own awesome lifestyle. It’s not complicated. But it does require a commitment to a shift in our attitudes and thoughts.

Each of us is able to identify those things that make us awesome. We can develop each characteristic of awesomeness by doing every step in this book until one day we realize that we’ve become who we want to be, and that we’re living the life we want to live. Somewhere along our journey we can brush the chips off our shoulders and see ourselves in a whole new light as the awesome people we are—the awesome people we were always meant to be!

When that happens, no longer are we the ones left unchosen for the team. No longer must we stand at the sidelines like spectators, watching others play the game of life. No longer must we sit at home while others advance to greater levels of success.Screen Shot 2016-12-21 at 2.47.17 PM

The new book, How To Get To AWESOME, identifies the 10 key characteristics that make people awesome. You will see yourself as you read the characteristics and descriptions of awesomeness. You’ll see that you’ve had awesomeness inside all along, and you’ll likely see areas that you can work on to become even more awesome!

Screen Shot 2016-12-21 at 2.47.27 PMAlong with each of the 10 characteristics of awesomeness, you will find practical guidance for developing those characteristics and for applying them in every area of your life. This advice is broken down into 10 steps that will help you develop, strengthen, and hone each invaluable characteristic.

Screen Shot 2016-12-21 at 2.57.17 PM

Every one of us has a very special package of skills, talents, abilities, and characteristics that is unique in all the world. Once we arrive at an understanding of our awesomeness, we’re able to get along with others better than ever before. Why? Because we’re able to confidently communicate who we are, what we care about, and what makes us awesome. And, importantly, we’re able to recognize and celebrate the awesomeness of others. This is the basis for collaboration and collective impact because it eliminates the need for competition among colleagues because people who are confident in themselves know that when awesome people join together, each person’s unique package of awesomeness beautifully fills the weak places of the other, allowing the two to accomplish
more than either could on his or her own.

Screen Shot 2016-12-21 at 2.47.42 PMAwesome people don’t feel badly about what they don’t do well because their focus is on their awesomeness, rather than on their perceived weaknesses. No longer do they envy the awesomeness of others because they know that each person’s special package of unique awesomeness is theirs and theirs alone. Awesome people know that each one of us is truly in a category of our own, not better or worse than anyone else, but unique and valuable, each in our own uniquely awesome way. Consequently, awesome people attract other awesome people like steel attracts magnets!Screen Shot 2016-12-21 at 2.47.50 PM

How to Get To AWESOME will help everyone who does the steps to embark on their journey to the destination to their own uniquely AWESOME life!

 

 

 

rhonda-sciortinoRhonda Sciortino, author of the new book Successful Survivors: The 8 Character Traits of Survivors and How You Can Attain Them, used the coping skills from an abusive childhood to achieve real success which she measures by good relationships, good health, peace, joy, and financial prosperity. Through her writing, speaking, and media appearances, she shares how others can use the obstacles in their lives as stepping stones to their real success.

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Never Show Weakness

For over 25 years, I’ve been frustrated because my husband doesn’t help me carry the groceries in from the car. I’ve stewed about having to be the one who remembers what we need, drives to the store, deals with traffic, walks up and down the aisles (often in heels), and buys the groceries. I’ve concluded that THE LEAST he could do would be to come out and help me carry in the many heavy bags. SURELY I can get an “amen” from my girlfriends! 

Before you decide that Nick is an ogre, let me quickly add that never once have I actually asked him to help me.  I have, on the other hand, assumed that he should know when I pull into the garage that I may have a vehicle full of groceries. Furthermore, in addition to clairvoyance, I’ve simmered about him not immediately dropping whatever he’s doing to run out to the garage to do whatever heavy lifting may be necessary while thanking me profusely for keeping our house fully stocked, and thus a welcoming home.

It occurred to me recently, as I carried in literally 15 bags of groceries, my handbag, and a half-empty water bottle—all in one trip mind you—that if I were to actually ASK Nick to help me, he would gladly do so. The problem, it turns out, is me.

In my crazy childhood, I learned early on that it was dangerous to show weakness. I deduced that when you ask for help, you’ve tipped your hand to a vulnerability that can later be exploited. Consequently, I’ve gone hungry rather than ask anyone to share their food. I’ve walked rather than ask for a ride. And I’ve stayed home rather than ask to borrow something to wear to the party.

As I’ve grown older, and hopefully wiser, I’ve realized that I am who I am because of the awesome people in my life who saw right through my tough exterior, knew I didn’t have the resources, the clothes, or the self confidence, and stepped in without being asked.  I’ve been asked to stay for dinner, “we won’t take ‘no’ for an answer.” I’ve been told, in no uncertain terms, “you’re going with me, whether you liked it or not!” And, Screen Shot 2016-12-21 at 2.24.19 PM“please make use of this outfit so I won’t feel so bad about having it hanging unused in my closet.” I’m grateful for you in my life. (You know who you are!)

Because I’ve finally learned how to ask for help, I may actually be able to fulfill my life’s purpose of helping others mine the lessons from their pain, and use those lessons to create their own truly, uniquely successful lives. I know now that I cannot fulfill what I call my Life Assignment by myself, because it is much bigger than anything I’m capable of doing, which is to help millions of people to turn their adversity into their advantage and thereby succeed not despite, but specifically because of, what they’ve been through.

I have lived more life than I have left, and the clock is ticking. There are so many skills and talents that I simply don’t have and never will, like marketing, logistics, and strategic messaging, that are necessary to the success of my life purpose. The good news is that there are geniuses among us who do know how to do those things brilliantly. My hope is to find and connect with those awesome people, and collectively fulfill all our Life Assignments. I’m confident that together we can successfully accomplish this big, positive, transformational work, and now I finally feel safe enough to ask for help. And to practice my newfound confidence in showing my vulnerability, I asked my husband if he would help me bring groceries in. Not only did he agree, he offered to go with me to the store, carry it in, and put it away. Why didn’t I think of asking for help 25 years ago?

rhonda-sciortinoRhonda Sciortino, author of Successful Survivors and the 8 character traits of survivors and how you can attain them, used the coping skills from an abusive childhood to achieve real success which she measures by good relationships, good health, peace, joy, and financial prosperity. Through her writing, speaking, and media appearances, she shares how others can use the obstacles in their lives as stepping stones to their real success.

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Coming Out of the Closet (of My Own Making)

Screen Shot 2016-11-22 at 11.56.09 AMI used to curl up in a ball and hide in the back of the one tiny closets in the old shack I grew up in, for all the good that did because the closet had no door. It was a shack the size of the garage with only one place to hide. Duh.

Somewhere along my journey I realized that when I was reading, I didn’t get hit. Hmmm, having a book in my hand somehow created an invisible force field around me in which I was relatively safe, at least from physical harm–much better than the little doorless closet! In fact, when I was reading, it was almost like I, myself was invisible. Sweet.

Screen Shot 2016-11-22 at 11.56.20 AMFrom the time I was six years old, and thus eligible to get my own library card at Upland Public Library, they knew me by name. (God bless the people who thought up free, public libraries.) When I was done with the maximum number of books I was allowed to check out at one time, I’d go back to reading from the unlikely set of encyclopedias that were the only nice, relatively clean thing in that filthy little shack. I loved the feel of those hard bound books in my hands because that feeling meant that I was magically safe in the closet of my making–at least for a time. I loved those encyclopedias and read a little from them every day of my childhood, but I’d read the label on the ketchup bottle if necessary (sometimes ketchup was the only food in the house).

What a welcome reprieve reading provided. As the years went on, I learned a little about a wide range of subjects, my vocabulary exploded, and my test scores spiked. As an aside, I’m convinced that IQ scores reveal much more about a person’s vocabulary than they do about their intelligence. My heart used to break for the kids who only spoke a few words of English. They weren’t dumb. In fact, I knew that many were very smart–but they were often subjugated to the “slow kid” category and virtually dismissed because they had no idea what the foreign-looking words on the page said. I hope we are doing better for those kids nowadays.

Everybody Leaves

In my teenage years, after I emancipated and was on my own, I realized that it wasn’t just my mother and father who left. People I thought were friends left when I was no longer willing to go along with what they wanted from me or able to meet their expectations. I was like the kid who would give away the cookies in her lunch in order to be allowed to play with the cool girls. But the cookies always run out, and you’re no longer able to do what you always did to stay in the group. You either have to produce more cookies or get left behind. I always ran out of cookies.

Screen Shot 2016-11-22 at 11.56.29 AMSo since people who get close enough to harm, ultimately leave and tear out a chunk of your heart when they go, why would I ever leave my nice, safe invisible- force-field-closet? Irrefutable evidence demonstrated time and again that there was great danger in doing so. The guys who said they’d love me forever said the same thing to the next girls. The girls who said that I was the sister they never had evidently found other long-lost siblings. Other than my husband and some precious girlfriends, everyone, eventually left.

You can’t be hurt if you won’t let anyone close enough to do so. And you can’t be left behind if you’re happily in peaceful solitude. And what’s not to be happy about? Over the years, my tiny, filthy closet, in which I would roll up in a ball and cover my ears until I thought it was safe to dare to listen, became an elegant, comfortable, cozy space that is my own, private, no-one-else-allowed place. Like a backyard “boys-only” clubhouse, the closet I’ve erected is off limits to other humans—even the ones I adore.

My closet has everything I need. There’s a phone to the outside world (but I don’t care too much for it). I ALWAYS have my books. Only now I own them. I still love the public library, but with my financial success came beautiful shelves filled with hardbound books I’ve acquired, accumulated, and yes, assimilated into the fabric of my being. And the internet allows me to follow the journeys of others, and to share what I hope will help those younger abuse victims coming up behind me on the path… all safely from my cozy closet.

Hide and Seek

Life in the very safe “invisible closet” I had erected to protect myself from harmful humans was great. It wasn’t broken, so I wasn’t trying to fix it. And then a game of Hide and Seek rocked my world and resulted in the throwing open of the plutonium-strength door that protected my invisible-force-field-closet-safe-place.

Screen Shot 2016-11-22 at 11.56.37 AMI regularly play Hide and Seek with two of the most precious people in the world. The little boys, aged 8 and 11 as I write this, represent two-thirds of the “blood relatives” I have on planet Earth. (There are probably others, but I’d rather not to “seek” and “find” them.)

One date night I announced that I would be hiding first, with the oldest counting, because I had found the ultimate hiding place. I threw down the challenge, I gave them some vague clues (the whole idea is to help them learn to be adventurous in a totally safe way), and I ran off as soon as the counting began.

From my most excellent hiding place, I could hear the boys, along with my husband, looking for me. They looked in all the usual places. Then they looked in places they didn’t think I could actually squeeze into, but looked anyway because they were running out of potential hiding places. They called out, but I refused to “take the bait” and give away my position with a response or even a clearing of the throat—yep, I was that close. What they didn’t know is that I was hiding in a rarely used closet that the boys had seen a million times but had never been in. For them, it blended into the wall because they had never seen it open.

Screen Shot 2016-11-22 at 11.56.45 AMI stood totally still in the dark space behind the closed door, barely breathing, trying not to give myself away with an untimely sneeze or cough, when I heard the boys and my husband seem to stop searching and start talking. The voices faded farther away until they couldn’t be heard at all. At first I thought they were huddling to strategize on a new and yet untried response to my amazing disappearing act. But I didn’t hear them anymore. I waited in the dark closet.

I refused to give up the whereabouts of my most spectacular hiding place by simply walking out and taking the chance the one of them would see from where I had just emerged. So, I made myself comfortable. I sat down in the dark closet and waited, knowing from the experiences of my childhood that I was far more equipped to wait than they were. I would WIN this. (By now you are probably wondering if you’ve missed something…a woman in her 50’s playing Hide and Seek?! Yes, that’s correct. You heard right.)

Well, the time ticked by, and they never did come back to look for me. The boys and my husband had gone on to do something else. They quit looking. Darn.

When it finally became clear to me that no one was coming for me, I realized that regardless of how lovely my beautiful and comfortable closet is, I have always secretly hoped that someone would come find me.

As a little girl, I had hoped that my big, strong daddy would suddenly show up, break down the door, beat up my abuser, and rescue me from that place. Later I hoped that some big, strong, handsome guy on a white horse (or a white 8-cylinder Mustang) would sweep me up and ride out of town into our new, wonderful, pain-free life. When I figured out that none of that was ever going to happen (and that I didn’t want to be a victim to be saved anyway), I settled in, decorated the closet, installed multiple padlocks on the door, and ordered high-speed wireless.

Right up until the fateful Hide and Seek game, I had forgotten about the little closet of my childhood. It wasn’t until recounting this story to a friend, that I realized that I was actually quite content to be in the social isolation of my own making. It was in that conversation that my dear friend gently guided me to connect the dots between literally being left in the closet and figuratively keeping myself safely in the “closet of my making” so that others wouldn’t have an opportunity to hurt me.

Thank you, Dr. Karen Bergstrom, Director of Safe Families for Children, for leading me to the stunning realization that I had never stopped isolating myself, yet secretly hoping that someone would come looking for me. Thank you for refusing to give up on helping me feel safe with healthy social connections—almost as safe as I feel in the isolation of my beautiful closet. (SAFE families isn’t just for the kids and families served!)

Out of the Closet and Onto the Bridge

I eventually had to come out of the closet the night of that Hide and Seek game. It was time to make dinner. No one cared about the hiding place anymore. And they seemed to be so engrossed in their new game that they didn’t realize I had been missing in action. As I cracked open the door to what turned out to be the ultimate Hide and Seek hiding place, I realized that there were people in my life who had been knocking on the solid door of the invisible-force-field closet that separated me from all the people who wanted nothing from me other than, perhaps, return of the friendship they wanted to share.

One friend in particular had steadily rapped for quite some time without being hurt or offended by my lackluster response. Being a retired therapist, she knew that I couldn’t give what I didn’t have. So, she started where I was (rather than where she hoped I’d be), she waited, and she continued to gently knock, never giving up. It turns out that her ability to wait patiently surpasses even mine!

I knew from my friend’s persistence, and from my finely tuned weasel meter, that she was “safe.” Since gingerly exiting my beautiful, safe closet (where I would still prefer to be), my new sister-girlfriend,Screen Shot 2016-11-22 at 11.55.56 AM the one I never expected to find at this stage of my life, has gently led me out of the closet and is now encouraging me to step out on the bridge to the other side of life—to a life I never knew (or wanted to know) existed.

I’m out of my beautiful closet, and I’m enjoying the walk toward the bridge. But don’t push me. And please don’t get too close—I’m still not convinced that someone won’t push me off in a well meaning attempt to teach me how to swim in the waters below.

Rhonda Sciortino PhotoRhonda Sciortino, author of Successful Survivors and the 8 character traits of survivors and how you can attain them, used the coping skills from an abusive childhood to achieve real success which she measures by good relationships, good health, peace, joy, and financial prosperity. Through her writing, speaking, and media appearances, she shares how others can use the obstacles in their lives as stepping stones to their real success.

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A Blanket and an Evil Frog

A blanket in your trunk will help keep you warm if you are stranded out in the cold, but the better, funner use of a blanket is to make a totally spontaneous memory with the kids in your life by making a fort or a ground covering for an impromptu picnic.

I have a “fun kit” in the trunk of my car at all times. The contents of the kit are:

  • King sized, machine washable comforter
  • Plastic horse shoe game
  • Snacks (bags of nuts, bars, and other little semi-healthy things with a long shelf life)
  • Paddleball game
  • The evil frog

Every so often (I like to wait until they least expect it), I’ll take the kids in my life on an unexpected detour. We have a date on the same night every week, so there is routine and consistency that helps them feel safe and secure. But within the structure of the consistent date night, we have all kinds of different experiences.

When the kids see that we have taken a different route, they start to wonder (in a fun way) what’s going to happen next. When we pull up along side a park we’ve never been to, they know what to do. We pretend that we are the park review authority, and it’s our job to thorough check out every aspect of the park. Is it fun? Is it safe? If so, why? If not, why not?

Without knowing it, they’re learning situational awareness. They’re learning how to have spontaneous fun. And they’re learning how to have fun at very little expense.

Enter the evil frog. The kids had a plastic squeaky toy in the shape of a frog. I couldn’t stand it. It was ugly, and it was annoying. I don’t recall where it came from, so I’m relatively certain there was no sentimental value to the hideous thing. But the more I expressed displeasure, the more the kids took delight in placing it near me.

They’d sneak to place it on my chair at the dinner table before we ate. They’d sneak in and leave it in the bathroom knowing I’d wind up there at some point. They’d sneak into my office to put it in the middle of my desk or on a bookshelf where the evil-looking eyes would be gazing at me. The more displeasure I expressed, the more they’d laugh. I’d throw it away, and it would be retrieved from the trash can as soon as I wasn’t looking. So although I was having as much fun as they were, I’d put on my Academy Award worthy performance of feigned disgust every time the evil frog would pop up.

I put the evil frog in the fun kit in the trunk of my car for the times when the park we chose turned out to be just not all that fun. Because regardless of how boring a park is, seeing an evil-looking frog fly off a merry-go-round or launching a plastic frog into flight from a swing can be good for a laugh.

It doesn’t need to cost a ridiculous amount of money to make memories. Theme parks, miniature race car tracks, and carnivals can be fun (they can also be crowded, hot, and miserable), but the good memories and teaching moments that heal hurts and create solid foundations for the children in our lives can be had for little or no cost.

rhonda-sciortinoRhonda Sciortino, author of the new book Successful Survivors: The 8 Character Traits of Survivors and How You Can Attain Them, used the coping skills from an abusive childhood to achieve real success which she measures by good relationships, good health, peace, joy, and financial prosperity. Through her writing, speaking, and media appearances, she shares how others can use the obstacles in their lives as stepping stones to their real success.

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