Thursday, November 21, 2019

Children's Grief Awareness Day: How to Help a Grieving Child



Here are ways to help support a grieving child in your life: 

1. Take them out for a fun activity to give them a break from the home. This works best if you are ALREADY close to the child, so they feel safe and trust you. Help the child know that having fun is ok, and all feelings are welcome!

2. Help them memorialize the one they love by doing a craft together: making a photo album, a stepping stone, or a pillow with significant symbols, words, etc.

3. Bring up their loved one, again and again, even when it seems as if everyone has gone back to normal. Share memories and photos you have of their loved one.

4. Give a meaningful gift such as a bracelet, necklace, or pocket token that can be an everyday reminder of the one they love. You can get it personalized with a name, photo, birthstone, or even handwriting.

5. Buy a book or journal. A Hug from Heaven (Mascot Books, Amazon, Barnes and NobleTarget online and Walmart online) is a love letter from the point of view of the person who died. There is space in the back for photos or journaling. The Invisible String is not a grief book, but it gently shows we are always connected!

6.  Provide resources to the child’s caregivers. Rather than asking, “Is Sophia in counseling?” which can seem overwhelming and even judgy, try: “I’ve asked around and found 3 grief counselors in your area. If you are interested, I’m happy to call and make an appointment for you, and if Sophia is comfortable with me, I’m happy to take her.” “I’ve researched grief camps and am happy to help register Sophia for you if you are interested. This is an open-ended offer, so I’m happy to follow-up with you later if you think that would be better, or never bring it up again.”

7.  Remember significant dates and reach out: birthdays, death days, and major (and minor) holidays: Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Halloween. If you are not in the nuclear family, ask if the child and family would like to be included in your family’s traditions. 

8. Meet physical needs such as back to school shopping, and taking the child to church, if the primary caregivers are having trouble doing it. Ask first.

9. Be a shining light. If you experienced early loss, show them by example there is hope for a great life ahead. 

10. Answer questions honestly, using age appropriate language. Ask if the child has any questions about the loved one’s death. 
💙No matter what you choose to do, you will help the child know he or she is important! 💙

I’m sure there are many other suggestions! Please add yours in the comments.

This post may contain affiliate links 

Monday, November 18, 2019

College Students and Depression: Resources and IMPORTANT SURVEY FOR YOU


This is a sponsored post.




Sending a child off to college for the first time has been a learning experience! Sure we miss her, but it has been great to be more hands-off and to start developing an adult relationship with our daughter. I am so proud of her for everything she has figured out on her own so far. We got to see her one Sunday to go apple picking and we'll see her again soon for the holidays. 

I can't think of another life-stage with as much rapid-fire change as the beginning of college, from deciding where and when to eat, navigating a campus, living with strangers, doing schoolwork without your parents breathing down your neck, deciding how much partying is too much, making friends, and managing one's time. It's startling, really. And with all of the happy posts on social media, you can get the impression that you are the only one experiencing any struggles adjusting. Ugh. That's just one more reason to be glad there wasn't social media when I was in college! 

You may remember that I teamed up with Med-IQ to help generate awareness and education around teen depression and reduce the stigma associated with mental illness. Med-IQ is an accredited medical education company that provides an exceptional educational experience for physicians, nurses, pharmacists, and other health-care professionals. 

Like our daughter, other college students are figuring out how to "Adult" for the first time in their lives, and parents are figuring out how to be supportive without micromanaging. It sure is nice not to know how much (or how little) sleep she's getting or how much Netflix she watches, but being several hours away and communicating only through text and the occasional FaceTime, means we can't really know how she's doing like we would if she were home. Like other parents, I've found myself wondering: is what I'm hearing discomfort at starting something new, is it homesickness, or could it be more serious?

With Thanksgiving right around the corner, and winter break shortly thereafter, NOW is an excellent time for parents of college students to check-in and see how your student is coping emotionally. 

If your college student's campus is anything like my daughter's, there has likely been tons of illness and germs going around-- kind of like the preschool petri dish all over again! Talking about staying well on campus could lead easily into asking if your student knows what the campus offers for mental health wellness, and how your student has been feeling about his or her mental health. 

If you're still having trouble broaching mental health with your teen, remember there are great online tools that can spark conversation.

I shared a quick mental health assessment tool with Margaret and her friends before school started, shared it on this blog earlier, and even took it myself several weeks ago when I wanted to know if the MAJOR FUNK I found myself in as I stared down a milestone birthday close on the heels of the most eternally long, infernally hot summer on record was something to worry about. It's great to share with your student as a way to check-in. 

Other online tools such as this excellent College Guide put out by the National Alliance of Mental Illness can spark dialogue between you and your teen. 

The holidays also provide an excellent time to discuss what an "every day problem" is versus a mental health issue. Just the nature of starting something new means there are many problems to navigate! In discussing the problems they've faced first semester, you can help your student label something an everyday problem (such as a roommate struggle) versus a mental health issue. This is not to diminish the problems these kids face, but rather to help give them tools to evaluate them so they will know if they are in a crisis

Statistics tell us that depression and anxiety are rampant on college campuses, and that suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death for this age group. It's disheartening and can be scary. For them. For us. 

The promising news is that I've heard from several friends whose children, in the first month of college, sought guidance and help from their respective college counseling centers! That is a huge WIN because that means that kids really are getting the message that mental health is as important as physical health. They know where the student health centers are, so why not the counseling centers? Many of our kids already see the value of getting a "check-up from the neck up!" Let's not shy away from bringing up the topic of mental health with all college kids this Thanksgiving and winter break. 


Information is power. We know that talking about depression and suicide does not cause depression and suicide. 


Let's not lose heart. Let's stay tuned in. Let's keep learning. Let's keep talking. 


Important:Med-IQ is conducting an anonymous survey and would appreciate your input. The survey, which includes additional education on this topic, will take less than 15 minutes (more like 5!) to complete. Survey responses are shared only in aggregate. Your responses to these survey questions will provide Med-IQ with important information about your experiences with depression and mental health in your college-age child which will help us develop future educational initiatives. Please take the SURVEY HERE.

Once you’ve completed the survey you will have the option of providing your email address to be entered into a drawing administered by SOMA Strategies to win 1 of 10 $100 Visa cards. If you choose to enter, your email address will not be sold, kept, or stored; email addresses are used only to randomly draw the winners and notify them of their prize. 

I was compensated by Med-IQ through an educational grant from Otsuka America Pharmaceutical, Inc and Lundbeck to write about depression in college-aged students. All opinions are my own.

Links to external sites are provided as a convenience and for informational purposes only. They are not intended and should not be construed as legal or medical advice, nor are they endorsements of any organization. Med-IQ bears no responsibility for the accuracy, legality, or content of any external site. Contact the external site for answers to questions regarding its content. 


Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Bits and Bobs

I'm heading off to Nashville for a conference tomorrow! I hear it is FREEZING down there, so I definitely won't be showing off any cute dresses or cowboy boots.

Please pray this it is a good time for me to catch up on sleep, and that going will help give me direction for my next steps, while not making me feel inadequate/guilty for where I am right now.

I hope this little nugget has fun with his daddy while I'm away. Every night he says to me, "I love you so much and I want to keep you forever!"

The feeling is mutual!

Preschool pics with a raging undiagnosed ear infection:



If you are in the DC/VA/MD area, there is a wonderful event for grieving families I want to tell you about! It is the Hope Family Fun Festival on Nov 24 put on by the non-profit Hope for Grieving Families and will have tons of activities for families to enjoy together such as face painting, moon bounce, scavenger hunt, Build-A-Bear, Pets on Wheels, etc! I'll be there too!

There are volunteer needs as well if you or your teen would like to help out!

Stay warm. Thanksgiving is right around the corner and I am GRATEFUL for YOU!


P.S. 800 new copies of A Hug from Heaven just landed in my home office, so let me know if you need one for the grieving child or adult in your life.

Monday, November 4, 2019

My Top Tips to Surviving the Dinner Grind, Plus Home Chef Delivery 4 Meals for $14.80!

The is the slightly-crazed smile of a woman who has HAD IT with the Dinner Grind. If you have followed me for a while, you know I've done it all: bulk freezer cooking, meal prep services at a central kitchen, weekly Asian food delivery, threatening to strike. 

This post contains affiliate links.





Today I'm sharing my top 4 tips for Dinnertime:


1) Meal Delivery Kit 2-3 nights a week. Tim and I have tried many different services and find you can't beat the selection, flexibility, portion size, or price of Home Chef! We are able to get 2-person or family-sized meals, tailor our meals to specific dietary needs, and whip up healthy, delicious dinners several times a week without the hassle of buying a bunch of special ingredients and spices we might use only once or twice. Home Chef gets us out of our eating rut, feels special, and is less expensive than going out to eat.






We saved $35 on our first order with this limited time offer, and so can YOU using this unique affiliate code.

If you want to try it, the absolutely cheapest way (which we did) is to:

Follow my affiliate link
Give any dietary specifications/dislikes
Choose the plan 2 Meals a Week for 2 people,
Head to check out.
Home Chef then takes $35 off and your 4 meals are a total of $14.80!
(Of course, the $35 discount for other size orders if you choose)

For this price, it's a WONDERFUL way to try out a meal prep service, whether for the short-term or as a long-term dinner solution!

2) One Tried and True Crowd Pleaser With Jack and Margaret it was Taco Tuesday. With Andrew it is Spaghetti and Meatballs Tuesdays :) We keep all ingredients on hand in the pantry and freezer so we have one cheap, no-brainer meal every week. I don't eat much pasta, so I eat mine over frozen spriralized squash.

3) Costco Prepared Meals I go every few months, buy a bunch of these meals and freeze them. They bake in the oven for a hands-off meal. Our favorites are Salmon with Herb Butter and Meatloaf with Mashed Potatoes.

4) Crock pot or Instant Pot one night per week. I prefer the crock pot, particularly in soup season. Here's my favorite white chicken chili recipe. Lentil soup is also great in the crock-pot-- with no soaking needed. There's nothing like having dinner cooking when you leave the house in the morning.

These tips should get you 5 or 6 dinners a week, leaving room for pizza or Taco Bell one night, of course!

What are your top dinner tips?


Friday, November 1, 2019

Come see me in Warrenton, VA Tomorrow!

Hi Dears!

Halloween is behind us. Andrew had a WONDERFUL time trick or treating with his pirate-clad grandma, grandpa and dad. I doled out candy and cleaned the pantry.




For those of you for whom Halloween is very difficult, either because of the endless gore or because you are missing someone special, I hope today provides needed relief.

I'm sorry for the late notice, but I want to make sure you know that I'll be speaking in Warrenton, VA tomorrow at Cornerstone Baptist Church and I'd LOVE to see you there! I've been posting about it on Facebook, but I realize not all of you connect with me that way.

 
Be forewarned-- the photo on this flyer is  a few years old, so adjust your expectations about what I look like accordingly! :)






Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Fab Fit Fun Box is Coming My Way! Want to try it too for 50% OFF?

As many of you saw on my Facebook Live Video this morning, I am super excited that I finally took the plunge to order a Fab Fit Fun box! I've been wanting to do it for months, but when I saw this month's 50% off deal, with between 250-350 worth of luxury goodies for only $25, I couldn't resist any longer. My BFF just got her box and loves it! If you want to check it out and see all that Fab Fit Fun offers, please use my affiliate link here! The discount code is: OMG50

I'll share pictures when my box arrives!

XO, Anna

Monday, October 14, 2019

Ripples



Don't for a second think you don't make a difference in the lives of others. 

I just got back from the park with Andrew, where I saw a woman I recognized from my early childhood playing with her grandkids. I introduced myself, and after she got over the shock of seeing me with a 3 year old, she said:

"Your mom saved me."

When she and her husband moved to our town from out of state, she was isolated and alone with a newborn. My mother met her and said, "Come to my house on Tuesday." The woman told of babies lined up in cribs in the dining room, tuna fish sandwiches for mothers and kids, cups of coffee, and surreptitious drags on cigarettes. One Tuesday led to another and another. Later, Mom invited her to a Bible study and eventually, our church. 

I can picture our big old house with toys strewn across the floor, and pots full of inexpensive coffee. The drafty house where something always needed fixing. With 3 kids under 4 years old, Mom offered nothing fancy, just a welcoming spirit, irreverent sense of humor, and radical hospitality. With a husband who worked long hours, and all family support out of state, she may have felt frustrated and house-bound, so she invited people to come to her. 

I doubt my mother knew that what she offered this other woman would have ripples all the way to this park 50 years later. Not to be too dramatic, but I am guessing the love and encouragement that made a young mom feel less isolated and helped plug her into a faith community rippled outward for three generations, all the way to the grandkids I saw today at the park. 

My mom, who never left the country, held a fancy job or went on a real vacation, made a difference in people's lives because she made them feel special and worth it. And you know what? Everyone is worth it. If you help other people know they are worth your time, your friendship, your notice, then you too make a difference. 

This message hit home for me today because I am a frustrated achiever. I couldn't just punch a clock at Blockbuster in grad school for my $3.10 an hour; I had to be employee of the month. I couldn't just teach English; I wanted to be the best. I willingly put achievement on the back burner as a stay-at-home mom, because holy hell if you don't yet know that trying to "achieve" as a parent is an exercise in hubris and futility, you will figure it out at some point. Big-time.

I just held on for the ride and thought my 40's and 50's would be the chance to prove myself as a productive member of society who made a difference. Once I found my passion for writing and speaking, I imagined myself speaking from large stages (you win a car! and you win a car!), writing more books, and contributing to my family financially in significant ways. Instead, I found myself in the park on a gorgeous October day pushing Andrew "higher! higher!" And despite knowing how fleeting his childhood will be, I also know I'm not guaranteed a season of productivity after he's grown. We are not promised tomorrow, only today. 

Nothing I did today felt very epic. I didn't figure out how to promote my books. I failed to make childcare arrangements so I could go to a conference and learn, once again, how much I don't know about social media. I didn't even buy baby carrots.

But I did play in the park with Andrew. I did enjoy a beautiful walk with a newly-bereaved friend. This afternoon I can encourage my friend across the street that she's doing a great job with baby #2 while wrangling baby #1 (BTW, Kelly, you are!). Tonight I can return an email from a precious mama whose teen daughter died unexpectedly in September. I can try not to take out my exhaustion and peri-menopausal period on my husband when he's trying to watch the "baseball playoffs", whatever that means. 

It may not be much.

It doesn't feel like much. 

But you know what? Ripples rarely do. 

We all make ripples, whether positively or negatively. Maybe I'll never make a big splash in this lifetime, but I can try to make my ripples more helpful than hurtful. More generous than stingy. More loving than lacking. 

And even if I think tuna fish is gross, I can open my home and heart just a little bit more. 

Here, have a cheese stick.