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Marjorie JamesMuch of the “science” of chromotherapy is anecdotal, as I discussed in my last blog. Consequently, many professionals do not buy into the concept. However, what research there is has found that color can impact people in a variety of surprising ways.

  • One study found that warm-colored (red-toned) placebo pills were reported as more effective than cool-colored (blue-toned) placebo pills.
  • Anecdotal evidence has suggested that installing blue-colored streetlights can lead to a reduction of crime in some areas.
  • The temperature of the environment might play a role in color preference. People who are toasty and warm tend to list cool colors as their favorites, while people who are cold prefer warmer colors. Just look at the difference in fall and spring clothing colors, and you will see how this shows up.
  • Studies have also shown that certain colors can have an impact on performance. Exposing students to the color red prior to an exam has been shown to have a negative impact on test performance.
  • More recently, researchers discovered that the color red causes people to react with greater speed and force, something that might prove useful during athletic activities (and might make us drive faster in our red convertibles!)
  • One study that looked at historical data found that sports teams dressed in mostly black uniforms are more likely to receive penalties. This makes me think that the Huskies (and other teams) may want to reconsider their new black uniforms!

One year, our school provided us with “bright raspberry” construction paper for the first time. I loved it, so I used it on bulletin boards and covers for the introductory brochures I made for the students. I found hot pink letters and edging at the “teacher store” and put them on bulletin boards I had covered in bright blue. I thought it looked marvelous.

After a while, I realized that the students were more “antsy” than previous students. At first, I chalked it up to the personalities and possible learning challenges of the students I had that year. After Christmas break, when I walked into my room, I got an eyeful. I changed the colors to more muted ones, and believe it or not, the students calmed down!

What is your favorite color? For clothing, mine is blue, although purple is a close second. However, I have nothing blue decorating our home, however. Wonder what that says?

Whatever our favorite, we can enjoy all colors, especially during this season. Revel in the myriad colors and textures around you!

Copyright 2014. Marjorie E. James. All rights reserved.

 

 

Marjorie JamesI recently bought some daffodils and put them on the coffee table in our living room. They were stuck in a large plastic Starbucks cup, but nobody seemed to notice. Maybe I could call it “cheap Seattle chic”! Everyone who saw the daffodils, especially after they opened up, smiled or made some “must be spring” comment. Part of the joy of spring is the colors that pop up all over.

My niece is getting married in October, and she is obsessing over colors in the wedding. Should her gown be white, alabaster, or cream? She is trying to figure out what color the bridesmaids’ dresses will be, what colors the flowers will be, and the colors on the wedding cake – well, you get the picture! When people are remodeling or building a new home, a contractor friend of mine told me, “What color?” takes longer and is subject to change more often than anything else.

All this got me thinking about color and the effect it can have on us. I have heard that many restaurants use red and/or orange in their color scheme because people eat more. Hospitals have pale green or blue walls to help calm the patients, they say. Out of curiosity, I Googled “the effect of color on mood” and found some interesting information.

The article, “Color Psychology: How Colors Impact Moods, Feelings, and Behaviors” by Kendra Cherry (a color!), was on About.com and offered some intriguing ideas. The culture we live in has much impact on our view of color. For example, she says, white in Western cultures is considered a sign of purity. However, in many Eastern countries, it is a symbol of mourning.

Additionally, our feelings about color are often deeply personal and rooted in our own family history, experiences, and culture. One person can be thrown into a frenzy by a color because of some negative experience associated with that color. Another person can love the same color because of positive experiences. That seems to be the conundrum associated with the study of color; so much of our response is unpredictable. That makes quantifying the effect of color into some sort of scientific data very difficult.

As happens at times, I have too much to share in just one blog. Come back next time, and we will explore more. In the meantime, find some colorful flowers and enjoy them!

Copyright 2014. Marjorie E. James. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

Marjorie JamesOne of the greatest difficulties in the midst of change is accepting what has occurred and moving forward. Many people call this process “letting go.” Even when the decision is one that we have made, the transition is difficult.

Two years ago, I knew it was time to give up my podium and retire from teaching. Because I had signed a contract for the coming school year, I had a year of teaching after my husband and I made the decision. I, honestly, kept hoping that maybe, just maybe, I would receive a revelation that it was too soon. Teaching had been my life, and even though I knew it was time to go, part of me hoped that staying would be an option.

I retired at the end of the year and became one of those “former teachers.” I had many moments of sadness and questions, even tears a few times. It was the correct decision to retire, but it was still hard. When I thought about it with a clear mind, I knew that I was where I needed to be. However, there were times when I wanted to hang on to my past, a totally emotional response.

Now, after two years, if someone called me offering a teaching position, I would say, “No.” I have built a new life apart from teaching and am pursuing new adventures, including writing these CPW blogs. What is the difference between 2012 and 2014? TIME!

Taking time to adjust to a new situation is vital to our eventual health and overall wellness. Time gives us the ability to see any situation from a long-term perspective. An emotional response is still there, but it is tempered by logic and experience. Letting go of “what might have been” and accepting “what is” leads us to peace. Time is essential for that transition.

Letting go is especially difficult for those whose lives have been impacted by divorce. No matter how good it sounds “on paper” to radically change life in this way, a time of adjustment to the “new norm” of a single life is essential. The strength of Collaborative divorce is the knowledge and hearts of the team members as they guide people through this incredibly difficult transition, including time to heal and adjust. It seems like the only way to go.

Copyright 2014. Marjorie E. James. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

 

 

Marjorie JamesFacebook is full of sayings, some wonderful and some not so wonderful. Some leave me with my mouth open because of how trite they are. However, once in a while one comes through that makes me nod my head in agreement. Last week, I read one of those.

“What screws us up most in life is the picture in our heads of how it is supposed to be.”

We all live with expectations, “how it is supposed to be.” Our expectations are many times unrealistic, and when they don’t come true, we can get ourselves into what I call a “blue funk.” When that happens, we sometimes make decisions that are harmful to our lives.

The first day of Kindergarten, there can be the expectation that, “I’ll be able to read after today.”

When we graduate, we have expectations that the perfect job will be waiting for us, with incredible pay and benefits.

When we get married, most of us envision “happily ever after.” The dream wedding will be the ticket to a happy life.

However, Kindergarten comes with the realization that learning is exciting, but it is also a long process.

It takes awhile to understand that most jobs don’t come to us; we have to find them and work hard when we do, sometimes starting at a level below what we know we can do.

We figure out that the perfect wedding doesn’t automatically translate into a happy marriage.

What should we do with our expectations? First and foremost, I believe we need to realize that they can be a bit “pie in the sky.” Unrealistic expectations can leave us disappointed and unable to appreciate the wonderful reality of life. Expectations need to be replaced with a realistic, but optimistic, view of the future.

Delilah, a radio personality, said it well: “I spent half of my life upset that things were not the way I thought they should be! Then I learned to let things be as they are, and try to accept and let go of the need to control. (Notice I said, ‘TRY.’)”

Copyright 2014. Marjorie E. James. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

 

Marjorie JamesOn March 20, spring officially began. It didn’t matter that it had been cold and rainy the day before – it was now spring! To make it even better, the 20th was a mostly sunny day here in the Seattle area.

A week before, I had driven with the top down on my convertible. When I came into the house, I boldly announced that, “Spring is in the air!” I can’t explain exactly the difference that day, but there was a certain feeling that winter was behind us.

I personally think that the first day of spring, whenever it arrives, is more eagerly anticipated than New Year’s. Daffodils, crocuses, and tulips are up. Grass is being mowed, and it smells so good! Leaves are appearing on the trees; some cherry trees are already in bloom. The birds are singing their hearts out. We have a new one in our backyard that has a “trill” in his song. We don’t know what kind of bird it is, but the sound is distinct and uplifting. Baseball season is upon us, and hope springs eternal that the Mariners will “get it right” this year.

True, there will be more rain in the Pacific Northwest, and there is still snow on the ground “over the mountains”, but it is spring, so everything is wonderful. All right, not everything, but somehow there is a feeling that “happy days are here again” or at least on their way.

If this has been a year that included loss of any kind, death, divorce, or a child going off to college for the first time, spring may be just what you need to put the experience in a bit of perspective. It is still devastating, and will be for a long time, but somehow trouble seems approachable, and the process of overcoming loss can seem just a bit more doable, on a warm, sunny day.

Take a walk and enjoy the changes around you that spring brings. Even if it is raining, somehow life doesn’t seem quite as daunting after the Equinox. If spring brings an allergy attack for you like it does for me, take an allergy pill and immerse yourself in the sights and smells! Look for plants rearing their heads, rhododendron buds appearing on the bushes, and the leaves on those “dead” trees in your yard or along the street. Listen to the birds celebrating and celebrate with them.

We lost an hour of sleep, but we have gained spring. Life is good!

Copyright 2014. Marjorie E. James. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

 

Marjorie JamesOne of the hardest parts of divorce, I have heard, is the empty side of the bed or only one placemat at the table. One song put it this way: “One less bell to answer; One less egg to fry. I should be happy, but all I do is cry.” Starting over is tough, no matter who “good” the divorce seems to be.

A new perspective is probably needed. A divorce is not the end of a person’s story. When someone walks away, it is just the end of that person’s part of the story. This is hard to adjust to – most marriage partners become the center of each others’ lives, and when one is gone, the whole life they built is over. We somehow need to understand that life has changed, not ended.

I “did some research”, very casual and non-scientific research, with some of my friends who have been divorced a number of years to get their perspective on their new lives.

One person put it really well: “I walked away from all the drama in my marriage and the person who created it. I needed people around me who made me laugh, gave me a chance to focus on what was good about me, and forget the tension and negativity that had become my life.”

Someone else said that she learned to “love the people who treated me well and pray for the one who didn’t.”

Part of the issue, according to many of them, was the sense of failure divorce can bring. “How could I turn my back on the most important commitment I had ever made?” Well-meaning friends didn’t help, one person reported. Many of her friends gave advice on how she could change to “make it better.” It took her and her friends a while to realize she wasn’t the one who needed to change, and her husband was unlikely to ever realize that his priorities and attitudes were toxic to their marriage and her life.

“Life is too short to be anything but happy,” one said. Then she amended her statement. “There were happy times, but there were not joyful times, the deep down sense that all was as it should be.” When she grasped that truth, she said, was when she realized that joy was something she needed and, indeed, deserved in her relationship.

Falling down is part of life; divorce is the most poignant form of “falling down.” One person stated, “Getting back up is living.” The process of getting back up can be the most important journey in life, and these friends who have done that are a great testimony to the possibility of positive living after divorce.

Copyright 2014. Marjorie E. James. All rights reserved.

 

 

Marjorie JamesA couple of weeks ago, before St. Patrick intervened, I talked about parents of special needs children who are going through the divorce process. I cited two articles that spoke about the procedures these parents should adhere to in order for the process to have as little negative impact as possible.

As I was reading my blog over again, it dawned on me that these guidelines are very applicable to “typical” children in the same situation. Let me go over the guidelines, and I think you will see it too.

First, the writers emphasized the need for the parents to not blame the children for the divorce. Most of the time, this is probably not an issue with “typical” parents, but the children may feel that if they had “been better” Dad wouldn’t be leaving and Mom wouldn’t be so angry or sad. The adults in the room need to make sure that the children know that they are not the reason for the break-up.

Second, all children are sensitive to the great changes during a divorce. Both parents need to make sure that the children are informed all along the way. Children, especially young ones, just don’t understand all that is happening or why, unless the parents communicate. Obviously, not all information needs to be shared, but parents need to be prepared to communicate at the child’s level of understanding and stand ready to answer any questions honestly.

I once had one of my middle school students start crying. (Obviously, his mind wasn’t on what we were doing in class!) He was a “cool, macho” kind of guy, and it threw those around him into a bit of a tizzy. I quickly took him out into the hall so he could settle down and talk it out a bit. His comment was that he had just found out that his parents were separating, and “I’m not sure I can handle it.”

His parents had been planning the separation for about a month but hadn’t told him anything. He found out by coming home to the sight of his dad loading clothes into his car. Not cool! The third point Ms. Hartwell-Walker made was that transitions should be as gradual as possible. Obviously, these parents didn’t think too much about their child’s need for information and the time to absorb it all. To give them some credit, maybe they were just trying to “protect” him, but it backfired.

Dating will probably come into the picture at some point. I have a single neighbor who told me that she had made the decision not to date until her son was “on his way”, probably late high school age. When he was a junior, she met a “wonderful man” and started dating him. Once in awhile, her son went on the dates with them. At the wedding, her son was a vital part of the ceremony. He was thrilled because he had grown to love this man as a father. It was truly a “we” project.

As I said last week, I believe Collaborative teams should be a vital part of the divorce process when children are involved. (Actually, even if there are no children.) The team members are attuned to the needs of all participants and can provide support and wise counsel all along the way.

Copyright 2014. Marjorie E. James. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

Marjorie JamesSt. Patrick’s Day is just around the corner, and we all somehow become a bit Irish. Those of us who can legitimately claim Irish roots eagerly envelope all of the rest of you in the fun and frivolity. At the December holidays, Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa, I did some “quizzing”, so I decided to do that again for St. Patrick’s Day. Hopefully you will be more knowledgeable when this is over.

This is a “mixed mode” quiz, with different types of questions to answer. When we teachers are writing tests, we try to use different types of questions, if possible, to reach all learning styles. Let’s see how you do! (The answers are after the quiz.)

True or False: St. Patrick was Irish.

Multiple Choice: St. Patrick was born in one of these eras – the Third or Fourth Centuries, the Fifth or Sixth Centuries, the Seventh or Eighth Centuries, the Ninth or Tenth Centuries.

As a Christian missionary in Ireland, St. Patrick used a shamrock to illustrate what?

Ireland has no snakes on its land. What does this have to do with St. Patrick?

We celebrate St. Patrick’s Day on March 7 because _______________________.

*******************

False. St. Patrick was born in Britain, but Irish pirates captured him when he was 16 and took him to Ireland. He was enslaved for six years, during which time he converted to Christianity. He escaped after six years and went back to Britain. When he was in his thirties, he returned to Ireland as a missionary.

St. Patrick’s birthdate is unknown, but it was sometime in the Fifth or Sixth Centuries.

St. Patrick used a shamrock to illustrate the Trinity: the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Legend says that the absence of snakes in Ireland is because St. Patrick chased them into the sea after they attacked him while he was fasting for 40 days. However, all evidence suggests that Ireland never has had any snakes.

It is believed that St. Patrick died on March 17.

I hope you enjoyed this quiz. Have fun on St. Patrick’s Day, even if all it involves is wearing a green shamrock pin. Green beer is optional!

Copyright 2014. Marjorie E. James. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Marjorie JamesI recently read two excellent articles about divorce in families with special needs children. Both point to the care needed to make sure the child’s life is disrupted as little as possible. Special needs children need routine and predictability even more than “typical” children.

Marie Hartwell-Walker, a licensed psychologist and marriage and family therapist, gave five points for consideration that divorcing couples with special needs children need to be aware of. Her article, “Divorce and the Child with Special Needs” was on the Huff Post Divorce site on February 23, 2014. Kales & Kales, PLC, a Collaborative attorney group in northern Virginia, didn’t make a list, but their information in “Divorce and Special Needs Children” on their website, kaleslaw.com, dove-tailed well with what Ms. Hartwell-Walker had to say.

Both of them emphasized the need to identify the real reason for the divorce; it is not, they say, usually because of the stress of having a special needs child. Rather, it is because there isn’t the communication and support level necessary in the marriage to handle the stress. “We are highly aware of the need for effective co-parenting of special needs children…” (Kale & Kale). Divorce happens many times, they say, because the couple doesn’t have a good handle on the division of care. Too many times one person, usually the mother, does all the care, and the other partner doesn’t “take up the slack” and support when necessary.

Special needs children are hypersensitive to changes in routine and mood. Their parents need to make sure they don’t “broadcast their anger, hurt, grief, or even relief”, according to Ms. Hartwell-Walker. This could lead to anxiety, withdrawal, or acting up on the part of the child. Both writers emphasized the need for as much stability as possible in the home during this unstable time in the family’s life. The child’s needs should be paramount; wise parents plan for that.

Children with special needs have problems with transitions. Because of their need for routine, the lives of these children should be changed as gradually as possible. Parents need to be very careful to provide stability. Even while financial changes are occurring, parents need to make sure that their children do not experience a quick, radical change in their lives.

At some point, former partners may find themselves in a dating situation. For special needs children, again because of their need for consistency and slow transition, introducing a new relationship should not be done, Ms. Hartwell-Walker says, “until you are very sure he or she will be a keeper.”

Both writers emphasized the need for cooperation, working together for the good of the children. Children, especially those with special needs, don’t totally understand the process of divorce and are many times blindsided. That is why working with Collaborative teams is so important.

Copyright 2014. Marjorie E. James. All rights reserved.

Marjorie JamesMy mother always packed more than we needed and always had “back-ups” in her purse and suitcase “just in case.” Her philosophy was that prepared for everything was always better than not prepared. I suspect most, if not all, moms are that way. My mother, however, took the whole concept to new heights (or depths) when she packed a nice dress and her fur stole in the camper “just in case your dad and I decide to go out to a nice dinner.” They were camping! Needless to say, she didn’t use them, and we persuaded her that it was OK to go camping without dressy clothes again.

I was hit with a particularly violent form of stomach flu last week, and I was totally incapable of doing anything for myself. Fortunately, my husband and daughter were able to take care of my needs until two days later, when both of them came down with lighter versions of it.

That got me to thinking. What if John had been out of town or not part of my daily life? What if there had been children in our home who would need care? That drew me to the situation that many single moms (and dads) must deal with on a regular basis. My question is this: Do you have someone who could come in and basically take over your life until you were able to function again? Do you have all the necessary information easily available for that person to use?

Would this person know the phone number of the schools or the names of your children’s teachers? Would he or she know about the food allergies and medications your children need? Do you pack a lunch, or do your children buy lunch at school? What about transportation? If needed, is there a list of people you or someone else could call to come by and take your children to school?

If no children at in your home, what information would be needed for you? Is the name and phone number of your primary care physician posted? What about your prescription list and any medication allergies you might have? Is your health care card in your wallet? What pharmacy do you use? This is all information someone would need to have easy access to if you needed medical help.

If you have pets, what is their feeding schedule? Is there a place they need to be put if you leave the house for any length of time? Will they bite if approached by a stranger? Maybe the person most likely to come in and help should spend some time with your pets ahead of time. Who and where is the vet, and what is the phone number?

I am still recuperating, so I am sure there are many other questions that a person coming in to help would need. The key here is to take time, when we are healthy, to put this information into a readily available form so someone can “take over” without having to hunt for answers or keep us from our much-needed rest.

Copyright 2014. Marjorie E. James. All rights reserved.