Holidays Can Be Terrible or They Can Be Wonderful

Reader submitted diary entry.

Dear Diary,

Thanksgiving is next week and I can hardly wait! I love this time of year and all of the family activities. Every year all my family comes to our house and brings something to eat. My Mom calls this a ‘pot luck’ but I have no idea how a pot can have luck so I’ll stick with calling it a family dinner.

It is …
always fun seeing all my aunts, uncles and cousins. Even my Grandma comes and she is so much fun! Sometimes it is stressful though. Sometimes my cousins fight, those dumb boys won’t ever learn to get along I think but it’s funny to hear them fighting like little kids and they are older than I am!

Sometimes my parents fight before everyone gets here and then they try to act like nothing happened but I can see on my Moms face that she is still sad. I’m sad too when they fight. I don’t understand it. Normally the fights are about stupid stuff like if the turkey is big enough or if we have enough plates and some how it just turns into a fight. Maybe it’s the stress of it all? Mom is under a lot of stress for 2 weeks while she plans for Thanksgiving dinner and tries to make sure that everyone doesn’t bring pumpkin pie and nothing else. That would be funny though!

I hope this year there won’t be any fighting and that we can all enjoy the family time because it is so rare that we can get together.


The Truth for Girls

Dear Reader, I also hope you have a wonderful day. Here are a few suggestions and tricks that might help: Doing a special treat for your mom may really help her mood. Maybe you can clean your room and surprise her or set the table before she asks or something else that will make her surprised and pleased. Also look for moments during the day where you can make a real difference. Perhaps you can take the other younger cousins into another room and lead them in some fun games. Or maybe you can graciously offer to slowly walk with grandma in the neighborhood. Anything you can do to make people feel special or to make sure everyone has fun will make a difference. The last thing for the moment, is since your mom worries about the desserts can you make or buy one that will make sure there is a good variety? Chocolate chip cookies never go out of style on any holiday!

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When Linh and her mother took my first donation to the Orphanage last year they had thought of buying items with my money. But then they decided to let the women who run the facility decide what the children really needed. I think that was a wise decision. However, they did bring the children five big boxes of noodles. Linh said to me at that time in one of her letters, ” If you go to Haiphong, my mother and I will take you to the village to see and explore. The Director said that they wanted to receive more help from you and other philanthropists to improve the village, so they would be very grateful if you gave more gifts. In this mail, I also send you some photos I took in the village this afternoon.”

“Now, I will tell you about the pictures.
There is a photo my mother took in the Vice – director’s room. The woman who was sitting is she. And the woman who was standing next to the table is the secretary.  I was standing between them.


Then there is a photo my mother took of the Vanh Khuyen family, when I was giving the certificate to the mother of that family ( the family that brings up handicapped children ).

Then there is the scene in front of the handicapped family.

Then there is one I took with the Vice – director in the large yard.

Oh, I forgot the other picture is of the rest of the village’s extensive yard.

It was very moving for me to get these pictures. I’m very excited that I will be fundraising for the Hai Phong Orphanage.

The Truth (I’m a girl, I’m smart and I know everything)

I hope so much that when a girl or her mom or her grandmom or her teacher finishes reading The Truth (I’m a girl, I’m smart and I know everything) what will happen next is an open dialogue.  That’s why I put in the back of the book questions that naturally lead to deep conversation.  Some people think The Truth is an easy read.  It may be, but it is a deep read.  Just as an Emily Dickenson poem can be very deep in only four lines, so can the thoughts and feelings of this nameless girl who touches our hearts.  She is unique, but also one of us.  Any girl or woman will identify somewhere in the pages with her.  For some it is her energy.  For others her ability to solve problems.  For others it is her realization that she knows so deeply so many truths.  And once we identify then it becomes easy to want to chat and share.  I hope you will do so after you read the book.  The genuine connection that you will feel with your daughter, yourself and the girl in the book will warm your heart.  Please let me know what questions you enjoyed most in the back.  You can write to me at

Yes, One Little Girl Can Make a Difference in The Quality of Life for Many!

Several years ago I received an e-mail from a young girl in Vietnam who had read The Truth (I’m a girl, I’m smart and I know everything), in Vietnamese. She loved the book and decided to write to me. It is a long story, but Linh and I have been penpals for almost two years now. And not only have we written about our lives and our families, we have talked about many subjects, including how important charity is and how important it is to try your best to make the world a better place. Linh shared with my the problems on an orphanage in Vietnam that she is very concerned about. They don’t have enough money and certainly inadequate equipment to try to rehabilitate children with physical and mental disabilities. The women who work at the orphanage try their best, but still the children are not getting the chance they deserve.

I felt for these children and sent money to Linh, mom, Le Thi Hoai Thanh, who took the money for me to the orphanage. Of course Linh went with her. They have actually gone twice and I have been awarded two certificates! Here are a few of the pictures.

Linh and I are determined to raise money for these children and hopefully find some ways to get them the resources to develop their minds and bodies that they need. I never thought I would be working on a cause with a girl I have yet to meet in person, who lives 8000 miles away from me. But Linh has an unbelievable heart and the ability to convince a grown-up like me that we must try to save a small part of the world! These are babies and children and they need our help and resources. Here are some reactions to Linh’s second visit to Hoa Phuong Village:

Well, Hoa Phuong Village is here again, I thought.
I was standing with my mother in the boundless garden of the village. Truthfully, I wanted to visit families there very much ; but first of all, we had to meet the village Vice-director. She was still friendly ; I felt so because she gave me a lot of guavas. They were very sweet and tasty….My mother took a number of photos. After that, a woman took us to a family in which babies and homeless children were brought up. The family had many lovely kids. They were so cute that I just wanted to kiss them, especially an innocent baby. Unfortunately, I don’t know his name. We talked to the two mothers in that family. They were both middle-aged women and they told us a lot about the children. Finally, we said goodbye to the mothers and the kids, and we left with packets of guavas.

I had nice memories after going to Hoa Phuong Village. Therefore, I think all of us-everyone all over the world-should help poor people and children with all our best. To be more exactly, please don’t make them feel lonely and disappointed….” Linh Hoai

The Girl Inside

For those grown-ups reading this blog: Do you realize that it is the ‘girl’ inside of you as an adult woman, who is your clue, not only to the real you, but to your energy bank of all the positive deposits that can still be withdrawn in your life now. These deposits have within them the sparks of emotional, physical and spiritual energy that you need to move forward to enjoy a meaningful fun life …

Now, do you want to know more about the ‘girl’ inside of you and how to access her?

Also, do you want to know more about how to help your daughters to keep their positive energy alive as they grow up, so their self-esteem will stay strong and their zest for life will be terrific?

That’s what my life work is all about. Give me the an age of a girl or a woman and I can teach the same steps to help her either keep or get back the zest for life and the love of herself that she deserves!

Here are some simple steps to get you or your daughter started:

Take paper and pen and list:

1. What you perceive to be your talents. Not what others tell you. For example, you may know you have a talent to get people in a better mood.

2. List your strengths. Again, not necessarily what others say. For instance, you know that you can think of new solutions to a problem even when others are ready to give up.

3. List your untapped potential. Go for this one. Dream on. Think about early hopes and longings and things you wanted to do. Don’t worry if it doesn’t seem to make sense now. A dream to be a ballet dancer can get reinvented as a person who enjoys square dancing or walking in the sand.

Now circle one item that seems to me the most to you from each list.

Play with how you could use all three items (one from each list) or just one or two to further your happiness over the next year.

Remember PLAY right now in your mind. This is not an exam or scary. Let the creative spark come alive and watch it dance.

You will be amazed. I’ll be back with more!

Advice from a Friend

Dear Friend,

I’ve read about your struggles and troubles throughout your diary, and I can tell it hasn’t been easy.Having a mother, for instance, that won’t explain to you the answers of your questions, or your confusion. It was vital to me when I was at your stage of maturing and puberty .It’s never easy, but I know I was glad when I had private talks with my mother about things I didn’t understand, and I too was worried when I’d have my first period, when I’d need a bra, and things like that. My mother did not avoid these questions and I’m glad for that. I’m only a bit older than you are and I would be more than happy to supply you with any help or advice I can, but I still think your parents, especially your mother, should do a better job.Also, about Paul… It’s nice to have a childhood crush, and to want children, I had thoughts about such too. But I need to tell you – you may want to marry your crush, but it’s not a good idea to do it when you’re a teenager, regardless of whether or not your grandmother or other relatives had done it in the past. Let’s just say it’s harmful to have children before you are fully mature, because as a teenager your body wouldn’t handle it as well, and it could hurt you. Whether you had this in mind or not – I warn you….

This young lady has more advice and it will be shared in another blog update. Meanwhile, please get your advice to the ‘girl’ as quickly as possible!

Sunny The Cat

I thought it would be such fun to put my cat on my lap and talk to him about the truth. After all, cats, like most or all animals, have an uncanny sense of the truth. They know if you don’t like them. They also often sense what is about to happen before it does, like when a storm is coming. And they look past all the superficial stuff like our make-up and what we are wearing to the true essence of what is at hand. Feed me. Love me. Play. It is all simple and direct.

Of course children are more complicated, but in many ways children know the truth better than we do. They can pick up on our moods and intentions instantly. Kids know if we are placating or overdoing compliments.

Soooo, once Sunny was on my lap, and he of course, sat right in the sun, I just began to talk to him about the truth. The words fell out of my mouth, as he patiently let me pet him. However, when I tried to get him to look at my book, The Truth (I’m a girl, I’m smart and I know everything) he clearly turned away. He wasn’t going to let me trick him into reading a book for kids! After all, he’s a cat. He’s proud of it, and that’s The Truth.

I hope you enjoy our discussion.   —-  Sunny the Cat

Valentine’s Day Can be Awful or Wonderful!

Sometimes as parents or teachers or grand moms we forget the pain and suffering that go with certain milestones in growing up.  One of those milestones is Valentine’s Day.  In America we celebrate the day with fervor and make a lot out of it.  I remember in elementary school it was very important to me that my mother let me buy packages of Valentine’s for the whole class.  Some years they were finished Valentine’s and some years I had to punch them out of the paper that held them.  And some were more personal than others with cute sayings.  I would have a method to my madness and of course my closest friends got the most pretty and personal cards.  I supposed most of the kids had the same method.  And there in lay the first potential trauma of that day.  Would my best friend Lynne, send me one of her best?  I would only know once the Valentine Box had been opened and some lucky child was picked to be the first person to hand out Valentine’s.  That was a treat also.  Sometimes I was chosen, but often not.  It only took 4 or 5 children to get them all passed out.  I was only at peace that day when I opened my Valentine’s and felt remembered.
My video is here to remind all of us grown-ups that children have very deep and powerful feelings.  The Girl had a crush which even made her feelings more dramatic on Valentine’s Day.  Not all girls and tweens have crushes.  But still be sensitive to the fact that the girls in your life may take Valentine’s Day very seriously.  Here are a couple of suggestions to whether the day:
1.  Make sure you have remember her in a way that she will feel very special. 
2.  Be sensitive to her feelings as the day approaches.  Maybe share your own memories about the Holiday.
3.  Ask her if you can help her in any way.  Maybe she would love to make cookies or fudge for her special friends and you can have some fun in the kitchen together!
Most of all, make sure she knows that she is Your Valentine! 
Dr. Barbara Becker Holstein

HOLIDAY STRESS-Yes, Girls, Tweens and Teens Feel It Too!

The Holiday Season is beautiful and we all hold on to some precious memories that go with the season.  But the Holiday Season is also stressful.  As adults, we often live an exhausted life of lists and obligations that go with the season.  For some women, particularly moms with children living at home, an exhausting month is finally finished off by little sleep and the patter of little feet very early on Christmas morning.  Even for those of us that celebrate simply or observe other traditions, such as Chanakah, the frenzy builds.  Nobody wants to forget someone they should have remembered with a card, a present or a phone call.  And most of us have certain favorite foods that go with the season.  That means extra calories, an outfit that suddenly doesn’t fit right, or the tug of war with the latest batch of Christmas cookies sitting in the kitchen.  And we know who usually wins!  (The Cookies)
What some of us forget is that the kids have stress also.  Particularly in harder times, like now, kids worry about how the season will go down for them and often for their families.  Kids hear, know and feel a lot more than we give them credit for.  If your family is having money problems, whether you tell them or not, they are most likely aware of the problems.  If you and your husband are in disagreement over how to do the holidays, even if you argue behind closed doors, your daughter will be aware of the tension.  Some here are a couple of suggestions to lower the stress for your kids:
1.  Have a honest, but not overly dramatic or discouraging talk about this year’s decisions around present giving. If everyone will be receiving, say half of what they got two years ago, be honest about it.  Discuss this openly and maybe agree on what gifts are the most important for an older child or a teen.  If say your daughter really wants an item that is twice what you can afford, see if there is a way to figure out the purchase.  Perhaps it can be for both Christmas and her birthday, plus she can take on a chore in the family for a few months that may help you out or even cut some expenses for you. 
2.  Also, have an honest chat about what you will do and not do for the Holidays.  If you are not buying a big tree this year, let them know early so they won’t be disappointed.  Perhaps it is the year for a family evening of making home made decorations and stringing popcorn trim?  That can be a lot of fun.  Also, kids are very creative and if they know that a food budget for a big Christmas gathering must be slimmed down, they will come up with ideas to help do that.  For example, they may be willing to bake or help you cook more from scratch, as that usually costs less than packaged foods. 
In summary, the important thing kids need is to feel in the loop of making decisions about the Holidays and presents and that they have something of value to offer the family either in terms of ideas or actions.
If you can help them feel valuable and in the loop and make clear that you want a great Holiday also, you will find yourself under less stress and for sure you daughter will feel even better about herself than she expected!
Happy Holidays!

Things for Grown-ups to Remember

Children, tweens and teens have capacities to see the ridiculous and the cruel that we have lost as grown-ups.  It is sad, as the world would certainly be a better place if we could stay in touch with sympathetic and empathetic feelings as easily as kids do.  They simply can’t help it.  It is part of them to ‘smell a rat’ and to see the truth in any situation.  They usually know if someone is lying.  They sense when someone is being put down unfairly.  That’s often why they can get so hurt or upset if a teacher yells at someone. They know that teasing is not funny or fun.  They sense when someone is hurting.  They know who really loves them.

I could go on and on as a psychologist and an educator about this subject.  However, the most important thing I can teach you as a parent or a teacher or a relative or friend of a child, is to be aware that their sensory apparatus is often much more accurate than yours.  You may be sick of that whiny puppy.  Your niece knows that her older brother has been teasing the puppy and the puppy doesn’t like it.  You may think that your niece’s parents squabble too much.  Your niece may be sick at heart that Daddy puts down Mommy when it isn’t always fair.  You may dismiss your son’s concerns about his teacher who he claims yells too much, as just his way of trying to not stay on top of his homework.  He may realize that she tends to yell at 3 particular children too much and too publicly and that those kids are identified because of her focus on them as the ‘bad’ kids in class.  You may think that your four year old is driving you mad with questions and you can’t wait until she is older and asks less.  You may not understand how pressing it is for her to get answers and better understand this mad, confusing universe that she has just been put into four years ago!

And so the list could go on and on.

My hope is that you will take a moment to think about the beauty of what I am sharing.  Our little ones have wisdom and a capacity for knowing what is right that we have often let go of, or covered over with the stress and strain of being a Grown-up.  Let them help you relax and see the world again from their perspective!  You will laugh and you may cry at times.  But you will become a kinder person and you will more often be helpful, and on target with a situation, as you see The Truth!