Using Art To Help Our Kids Process Grief & Loss: A Q/A with Houston Author/Artist Roger Hutchison

“There is prayerful poetry woven through Houston author/artist Roger Hutchison’s work, a gentle reverence in his tone and posture toward the heartbroken. His recently released “My Favorite Color is Blue. Sometimes.: A Journey Through Loss with Art and Color” quickly became an Amazon Bestseller and is now in its second printing. This 32-page picture book live with vivid color takes the reader page after page through the emotions of grief and loss, such as anger, shock and hope. It’s Hutchison’s ambition to use art, color and poetic language to communicate love and promote healing in today’s hurting world. 

Hutchison’s book is a powerful companion to “The Painting Table: A Journal of Loss and Joy”, his earlier book, which brought inspiration to conduct Painting Tableworkshops and eventually connected him with the Sandy Hook Elementary community where he worked with survivors of the December 14, 2012 school shooting. 

Using his art and books as tools, Hutchison’s mission is to reach out to hurting communities, both near and far.”

Read in full in Houston Family Magazine.

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7 mistakes parents make with teens

‘There have been times when I’ve been frustrated and, I’ll admit it, a bit hurt over my inability to connect with my teens. I’m guessing my frustrations are shared by other parents who are trying so hard but going about this relationship in all the wrong ways. I’ve worked hard to figure out when and where I was getting off-track in relating to my teens. Along the way, I confronted several pitfalls worth passing along.

Do you speak to your teens as if they are still little kids? Parenting must change if you wish to keep your relationships strong. This includes not only the content but also the tone of conversation. “You need to treat them more like adults than children. Truly listen and heed their point of view, even if you disagree vehemently,” says John Duffy, clinical psychologist and author of the “The Available Parent: Radical Optimism for Raising Teens and Tweens.” “We all want our point of view respected, and your teen is no different.”’

Read in full on The Washington Post.

Keeping our kids safe: what our leaders are doing and what we as parents can do, too

“Many anguished parents across America have come to recognize Andrew Pollack, who lost his daughter, Meadow, in the Parkland, Florida school shooting on February 14. With his face flashing across various news channels, his passionate anger is palpable when he says straight into the camera, No more. “We’ve had 200 school shootings in America and it’s got to stop,” he recently told CNN. His life-long goal going forward, he says, is to make schools safe. “My agenda is to have kids go to school without worrying they’ll be shot.” His posture and message serve to summarize the mood of every parent: Fix it! Enough already.”

Read in full in Houston Family Magazine.

Sick As A Dog: When you have an ailing pet, it affects the well-being of everyone in the family

“FaceTime rang and up popped my daughter’s face, bringing her all the way from college into the living room. Her voice filled our home and, as we’ve come to expect, Ezzy started whining, desperately trying to connect with her old buddy. That we miss our daughter acutely around our home is no surprise, but it’s painful to watch our beloved family pet cry for her.

“How’s she been lately?” our daughter asked, alluding to Ezzy’s health.

In answer, our 16-year-old son picked Ezzy up and put her sheltie nose—such a cute one—into the camera. Ezzy is confused. She hears the familiar voice, but can’t find the person behind it and continues whimpering.”

Read in full on Purple Clover.

Whitney Ellenby & Her Journey To Save Her Autistic Child

“After years of sending her autistic son Zack to leading therapists and hemorrhaging hundreds of thousands of dollars, Whitney Ellenby woke up, angry. The system was failing Zack and in the process tearing her world apart. “I realized I’d been fed false hope. Zack’s progress was negligible. He wasn’t any closer to integrating with his peers and leading a normal life.” She felt duped by the inflated numbers providers offered, and discouraged about Zack’s future. It was a dark time, but Ellenby’s epiphany helped reorient her notion of what success and happiness looked like for Zack. It proved life-changing.”

Read my article featuring Whitney Ellenby in the March/April 2018 issue, Alexandria Woman and do check out Whitney’s book, Autism Uncensored: Pulling Back the Curtain on Amazon.

Family Travel Helped Our Kids Make Their Own Memories, Not Simply Step Into Ours

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“We lived in Germany as a young expat couple and a decade later traveled back to show our daughter and her seven-year-old brother our favorite haunts. I thought it promised to be a sweet walk down memory-lane, where our kids would enjoy stepping squarely into the footprints my husband and I had left years ago.

Instead, they insisted on pulling us in new directions, almost as if they, first-timers in Germany, were the tour-guides. A huge dancing mess of little prints resulted, sprinkled wildly around our larger ones. I should have known the kids would insist on making their own footprints, creating original memories driven by them.

They transformed our time in Germany into a nonstop quest to conquer towers.

Any signage with Schloss (castle), Feste (stronghold), or Burg (fortress) sent our car careening in that direction as if driven by the giggling youth in the backseat. Without exception, we would climb to the upmost height of the ruin, up the cramped, damp, spiral stairs to the lookout tower.

These ruins–unlike American historic sites—lacked the warning signs, the guardrails, the attendants and the guides. There were no disclaimers posted, no emergency phones available if help were needed, no brochure map to navigate the castle ruin’s maze. Kids sprinting from dungeon to teetering tower were solely under the protection of their parents.”

Read in full at Houston Family Magazine

Living in Jane Jacobs’ Neighborhood

In the Rainey Street District of Austin, Texas, a stranger approached my dog, hand extended. “Puppy!” she shrieked weirdly, a piercing decibel, especially for the hour of day. My first thought is that she closed the bars and is drunk, but, she’s not. She and her friend are in fashionable workout gear, probably all ginned up on coffee and ready for some speed-walking.

Otherwise, relative calm prevails early mornings in my neighborhood when I slip out the door to take Ezzy for her walk.

My neighborhood is a trendy downtown bar district, home to live music, food trucks, drinking holes and raucous partying. But early mornings, it’s even better, with neighbor brushing against neighbor and work crews quietly coming and going, cleaning up what was left behind from the previous night’s revelries. I stop to put a beer glass on an outdoor table that someone has left on the sidewalk outside of Bangers and exchange hellos with the manager.

“How’s the girl?” Brian says. My daughter worked for him the summer before college. He wrote a warm reference letter on her behalf for a volunteer program she’s now involved with at university. When my husband and I stop in for drinks, Brian sometimes says they’re on the house and we trade stories about vacation and raising teenagers.

In the early 2000s I read Jane Jacobs’ magnum opus, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, on the workings of a great city. This 585-page hardback enjoys a prominent place on my shelf, standing proud though dozens of fuchsia post-it-notes marking the best of the best sections from my first read protrude like a child’s unruly tufts of hair. Jacobs was a long-time resident of Greenwich Village and she starts her book at the beginning, with the humble sidewalk, the fundamental building block of a city.

Read in full on StrongTowns.org

Teaching Our Kids to Love Fully in an Unfair World

Today, a bird slowly died in front of my children. The impact against our sliding glass doors was deafening. Housebound by a winter storm, the kids and I quickly abandoned our hot chocolate in our rush to discover that a bright crimson cardinal had struck the glass. It now lay helpless in the snow.

Be honest and don’t construct a cover-up. What’s been seen can’t be unseen: I watched, helpless to intervene or make my kids unsee this tragedy. The suffering we were witnessing elicited, “Mom, let’s help it!” “Should we bring it inside and nurse it?” “What do we do?” “Poor bird.” Our 12-year-old’s large eyes were brimming with tears. Her younger brother couldn’t look away. I wanted as badly as my kids to watch this bird miraculously fly away. But the cardinal grew still and we, silent, mourning the loss of an innocent bird.

Show sensitivity and respect for their particular attachments: Unlike adults, children fall in love fearlessly, without baggage. Maybe it’s toys as much or more than the people surrounding them they cherish. In the case of my children, it was their stuffed animals—each complete with name and personality.

As enjoyable as it was for me to witness the creative powers at work in my children’s play, I knew that the depth of attachment would create a storm of trouble if any of these animal kingdom favorites were lost. After all, these were real as flesh and blood friends in my children’s world. On many occasions, we did come close to losing a stuffed friend. At the grocery, in the airplane, on the sidewalk, silently fallen out of the stroller.

In every instance, the look of shock and pain in the affected child’s eyes was a small step into the brutal world, where fierce affection is often accompanied by sorrow, a pain equal to the love.

Read in full at Houston Family Magazine.

Filipinos Finding Each Other In Washington, DC

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I published a personal essay about my childhood in the Philippines in Story|Houston a few years ago. But recently after moving to Washington, DC, I found myself frequently walking past the well-positioned Embassy of the Philippines. It got me thinking about the Filipino-Americans living around me. Although I grew up in the Philippines, I later lived the expat life with my husband (and eventually, kids) in Germany, Dubai and London. Did Filipino-Americans in Washington, DC feel lonely like I sometimes felt as an expat? Did they long to be with others who ‘get it’? Maybe they’d been away from the Philippines so long, immersed in American culture, that they felt detached from their homeland and longed to refresh their understanding of Filipino customs and culture. If so, how did they find each other to reconnect and enjoy mutual refreshment?

The point is, it takes a long time to carve out a place in another country enough to call it home. When you are with others to learn from, to commiserate with, to exchange stories and experiences with, it’s going to be a little bit easier. Gathering with others who share the same ethnic background could set things right.

This article I wrote for Taste.Company shows where this line of thinking took me. Special thanks to Editor Jenny Dorsey and Executive Director Jason Tengco of National Federation of Filipino American Associations (NaFFAA). Read in full here.

5 Ways Teens Changed My Parenting Style

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Parents of young children sometimes live under the illusion that if they parent well, they’ll be spared the challenges common to the teen years. It’s what I personally hoped for when my little ones were young. But as my kids grew and changed, I realized I needed to, too. Here’s what I learned along the way.

I learned to approach beloved family traditions with flexibility.

We raised our kids with the expectation that every Saturday morning started at the local coffee shop. It was a tradition we all enjoyed and looked forward to until my kids suddenly sprouted into teenagers and wanted to sleep until noon.

Instead of taking a hardline approach, KidsHealth professionals recommend flexibility when it comes to family activities. “Think back: You probably felt the same way about your mom and dad,” they advise frustrated parents.

Demanding rigid adherence to family activities will likely backfire, creating a tense situation — exactly the opposite outcome desired. So instead of an unyielding “always” tone, try the posture of “sometimes.” Then identify those family activities on the calendar that rise to the “mandatory” level and let the rest go.

I learned to accept a fluid dinner hour.

It’s long been my ambition to eat dinner around the table together, but things grew to a new level of helter-skelter with high schoolers coming and going amidst sporting events, invitations from friends and other commitments.

As life bulges to unprecedented levels of busyness, stick with family dinners whenever and however possible says clinical psychologist Dr. Laura Markham of Aha! Parenting. If one teen must be absent, carry on with the rest of the family. If a partner is out of town, make the effort to gather the teens on your own.

The humble dinner hour provides a level of connectivity with teens that’s been tied to better grades, lower levels of depression and suicide attempts and less experimentation with drugs, alcohol and sex, says Markham. Furthermore, teens who eat dinner with their families show a healthier approach to food, writes Cody C. Delistraty in The Atlantic. Wherever your family dinner comes from or however awkward your conversation may seem, Markham insists it’s worth being intentional about eating together around the table.

Read in full on ParentMap.