Tag: Family

Does your family most resemble The Cleavers or The Simpsons?

LeaveItToBeaverI can honestly tell you that while growing up in my family, there were times when we were the perfect “Leave It To Beaver,” Cleavers and other times we acted a lot like the Simpsons.

I know this is a little off my normal topic of reading books, writing books, reviewing books, and conducting blog hops, but this theme of family is one of the greatest importance to me. As a writer, I want to know where I got my writing gene.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve noticed that the Ozzie and Harriet family dynamics of the 60s bear no resemblance to the families of today. It’s shocking and disheartening. What was important back then – family dinners, family vacations, family recreation – is no longer seen as essential to our home life, or even desired by some families today. As I kid, I loved being with my family. We always ate dinner together, went on family vacations and shared stories of ancestors. That strength is part of my soul.

Our lives are busy, stressed to the max. I know mine is. The busyness can draw us away from the family nest. It can make it easy for us to forget about the ties that should bind a family together. It keeps us from being strong enough to face outside influences that might tear our families apart. We need to hold our families together even though life gets crazy. How many people do you know, or maybe it’s right in your own family, where family ties slip from their knots and unravel casting us into the murky shoals and dark abyss known as divorce?

After a divorce, what happens to the love of our current family let alone the loss of knowing generations that preceded us?

Bruce Feiler  who wrote the book, “The Secrets of Happy Families: Improve Your Mornings, Tell Your Family History, Fight Smarter, Got Out and Play, and Much More.”  in his article in The New York Times suggests that the need for stronger, more cohesive family units is more important than ever. Children growing up in families today don’t seem to know anything about their parents, let alone grandparents and beyond. They didn’t know the simplest things like where did their parents grow up, go to high school, or meet. Mr. Feiler suggests that knowing these precious facts about their family history will create a stronger familial bond. He said, “the single most important thing you can do for your family may be the simplest of all: develop a strong family narrative.”[i]

family narrative includes stories about one’s past that help us make sense of our present.

This idea of Mr. Feiler’s  came from a psychology professor from Emory University, Dr. Marshall Duke.  Dr. Duke spent years researching the myths and dynamics of the American family. He wondered why once a strong, proud unit of society had slipped its moorings. Dr. Duke  said, “There was a lot of research … into the dissipation of the family … but we were more interested in what families could do to counteract those forces.”[ii]

What can we do today to solidify family bonds and keep family units intact?

Other amazing facts began to emerge during Dr. Duke’s research. “The more children knew about their family’s history, the stronger their sense of control over their lives, the higher their self-esteem and the more successfully they believed their families functioned.” Who wouldn’t want this great blessing in their families? We want our children to succeed in life. We want them to know who they are, to feel like they’re part of a greater whole. This gives them confidence and fortifies them against the crap that life can hurl at them.

“’The answers have to do with a child’s sense of being part of a larger family,’ Dr. Duke said.” 

Many other countries, “go out of their way to capture their [citizen’s] core identity.” So says Jim Collins, a management expert and author of “Good to Great.”[iii]  He believes that these other nations’ drive to “preserve core,” will actually stimulate progress and that the same will apply to strengthening and preserving the family. He recommends having a family “mission statement” much like large corporations do to help “identify their core values.” Families with rock solid foundations are not likely to wash away at the first sign of trouble.

According to CDR David G. Smith, Permanent Military Professor of Leadership, even the military has learned that the obsolete tactics taught by the military with the former “dehumanizing” of individuals depicted in movies such as “’Full Metal Jacket’  or ‘An Officer and a Gentleman,’”  does NOT breed cohesion. “Incoming freshmen (or plebes) [are tutored] on history-building exercises like going to the cemetery to pay tribute to the first naval aviator…”[iv]

But … how do we build a strong sense of belonging and pride into our families?

It’s not easy and it’s not just talking with our children when stuff hits the fan. It’s more than that. It’s building those lasting memories in situations that require more than just a “don’t do that again,” sort of approach. Tell your children about a lesson you learned and how you overcame a bad time in your life. Share your triumphs, successes, happy times … and yes even the bad. Share stories of your parents and their lives, if you know any.

Can you and your children answer the 20 family history questions asked by Dr. Marshall P. Duke

The Do You Know Scale 

Please answer the following questions by circling “Y” for “yes” or “N” for “no.” Even if you know the information we are asking about, you don’t need to write it down. We just wish to know if you know the information.

1. Do you know how your parents met?Y N
2. Do you know where your mother grew up?Y N
3. Do you know where your father grew up?Y N
4. Do you know where some of your grandparents grew up?Y N
5. Do you know where some of your grandparents met?Y N
6. Do you know where your parents were married?Y N
7. Do you know what went on when you were being born?Y N
8. Do you know the source of your name?Y N
9. Do you know some things about what happened when your brothers or sisters were being born?Y N
10. Do you know which person in your family you look most like?Y N
11. Do you know which person in the family you act most like?Y N
12. Do you know some of the illnesses and injuries that your parents experienced when they were younger?Y N
13. Do you know some of the lessons that your parents learned from good or bad experiences?Y N
14. Do you know some things that happened to your mom or dad when they were in school?Y N
15. Do you know the national background of your family (such as English, German, Russian, etc)?Y N
16. Do you know some of the jobs that your parents had when they were young?Y N
17. Do you know some awards that your parents received when they were young?Y N
18. Do you know the names of the schools that your mom went to?Y N
19. Do you know the names of the schools that your dad went to?Y N
20. Do you know about a relative whose face “froze” in a grumpy position because he or she did not smile enough?Y N
Score: Total number answered Y.

Important Note: About that last question! Fifteen percent of our sample actually answered “Yes!” This is because the stories that families tell are not always “true.” More often than not they are told in order to teach a lesson or help with a physical or emotional hurt. As such, they may be modified as needed. The accuracy of the stories is not really critical. In fact, there are often disagreements among family members about what really happened! These disagreements then become part of the family narrative. Not to worry! From “Teaching Your Children the Language of Social Success.”  by Marshall P. Duke, Stephen Nowicki, Elisabeth A. Martin.

Though my son is thirty now, I can still share with him the stories I heard while sitting around my grandmother’s table on a lazy Sunday afternoon. How will you share your life with your children so they can find the cohesiveness to stay strong against the harshness of life?


[i] The New York Times Article dated 3/15/13 by Bruce Feiler “The Stories That Bind Us.” http://nyti.ms/18XYG2O

[ii] Huffington Post Article dated 3/23/13 by Marshall P. Duke, Candler Professor of Psychology, Emory University; Editor, Journal of Family Life. http://huff.to/1puqxkF

[iii] Jim Collins, a management expert and author of “Good to Great” http://amzn.to/1dG6Jt8

[iv] CDR David G. Smith, USN, Permanent Military Professor of Leadership; Chairman, Department of Leadership, Ethics, and Law http://1.usa.gov/1lwJLHn

Do you have an “attitude of gratitude?”

The season of giving thanks is fast approaching and I wanted to pause to express mine. During the “Gratitude Give-A-Way,” I’ve learned what you as readers, are most grateful for, and I’m thankful for your heartfelt reminders. For without a grateful heart, we would not be found on the path to true happiness. On my path I have encountered wonderful people who continue to lift me up, to mentor me. They make sure I trudge forward, not looking back, and put one foot after the other as I continue to walk the journey of life, yet in return they ask nothing.
Below is my gratitude list. I’d love it if you sent me yours.
  • First and foremost, I must express my gratitude to God for my life and the beauties of the earth. A great man once said, “how much happier we are in the presence of a grateful and loving soul, and how careful we should cultivate, through the medium of a prayerful life, a thankful attitude toward God and man.” i

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  • Family history has always been important to me, bringing me close to my roots for which I owe my life – literally. I’ll write future posts about my family history work and what I’ve uncovered.
  • I’m grateful for a loving, caring, loud and ruckus family while growing up. I’m especially thankful for parents who adored me and spoiled me relentlessly.
  • I even grateful to be the younger sister to four older brothers. I know what you’re thinking. How can she be grateful for four older brothers? It was hard to welcome their teasing and their playful torment, but that showed their affection.
  • I’m grateful to have grown up in a very, very small town where it could snow from September to July. But I could honestly say I walked uphill both ways to and from school in the snow. Beat that if you can.
  • I recognize the good times we shared and appreciate warm family ties with my brothers as adults.
  • I love my brothers, their wives, their children and their children’s children.
  • I’m thankful for the love of a good man who has reaffirmed daily for the past thirty one years, that he loves me and chooses to ignore or appreciate my phobias and antics, my stubbornosity.
  • I shall be forever grateful for his strength, because he kept me moving when I wanted to throw my hands up in aggravation or run for the beach shouting, “Life’s unfair.”
  • And yes, even though our life has been anything but smooth seafaring, we’ve negotiated troubled waters with faith, finding a safe harbor in each other.
  • My thirty year old son has been both the joy of my life and my greatest sadness. I’m still proud of him and what he has accomplished. He still tells me he loves me. What more can a mother ask?
  • My talents, though not great when compared with others, are none-the-less mine and what I have accomplished with them, I shall be forever grateful. It still amazes me I have written a book and it’s published for the world to see.
  • I’m grateful for the efforts of my mentors – those fabulous teachers who took raw writing talent and helped mold it. Toni, Shelly, Beth, Paul, Tim, and various other mentors who are far too many to name. I write because I have to – it fulfills me and lets me express my gratitude in words.
  • I’m thankful for music. It has been a source of happiness my whole life. One of the best thing my parents ever did for me was buy me a little record player and happy, upbeat children’s songs on old 78 records. When I was six years old, I wanted to be Julie Andrews. This obsession with music has served me well learning to play the piano and singing. I can usually answer my husband’s questions in the form of a line from a song and still enjoy sharing music in choirs today.
  • I share my appreciation with my readers in the form of a give-a-way this Thanksgiving season. Without readers, what would authors do? Write menus for local restaurants?
I don’t know if you’re like me and author Aldous Huxley who wrote, “Most human beings have an almost infinite capacity for taking things for granted.”ii  I hope at this season, I might inspire you to generously express your attitude of gratitude. “We cannot be bitter, resentful, or mean-spirited when we are grateful.”iii
Thank you so very much for coming to my blog to share in my gratitude for the season. May yours be a blessed one as you remember to share gratitude for the good, the bad, the unattractive and the beautiful. Everything we pass through adds to our character. Express it in your own way.
I’ll end with the words of one of my favorite hymns: “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing.” iv
Come Thou Fount of every blessing
Tune my heart to sing Thy grace;
Streams of mercy, never ceasing,
Call for songs of loudest praise
_______________________________________________

Joseph F. Smith, Gospel Doctrine, 5th ed. (1939), 263.

ii Aldous Huxley, Themes and Variations (1954), 66.

iii http://www.lds.org/topics/gratitude

iv http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Come_Thou_Fount_of_Every_Blessing

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