Positive, solution led journalism. I love love love that concept. Thank you Debbie for being one of the supporters and leaders in that endeavour. Thanks for sharing such great resources and stories.

Originally posted on It's All Good Radio Show:

Dont Stop The Music James and kidsI can’t wait to watch the second part of the series Don’t Stop The Musicon Channel 4 tonight, the excellent programme presented by passionate international pianist James Rhodes who is doing all he can to bring more music into schools and to give each child the opportunity to experience playing an instrument for themselves.

At the same time as the series airs, a website and a partnership with Oxfam and Yodel will make it possible for the public to donate their unwanted instruments and get them to the schools in need.

To me this is a fantastic example of the power of television of making us aware of an issue and then providing a clear and simple way that us viewers can all individually play our part in creating the solution.

So why can’t we see more of this type of programming for what has been termed as the “biggest challenge of our times” – that of finding and supporting…

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"flat bread" credit: JFries

“flat bread”
credit: JFries

I tend to be one of those people who harp about “staying present in the moment”.  I learned a valuable lesson the other day; that getting too caught up in the moment isn’t quite the same as staying present.  As a matter of fact, it can prevent you from seeing the forest for the trees. At least that’s what happened to me.

Yesterday my daughter and I were heading home during rush hour. Considering we had road construction to deal with things were going very smoothly.  We had just finished going through that section, returning to speed. We were following a slow moving gravel truck which moved over to the right lane allowing us to pass. We were going by the next on ramp, just beginning to pull past the truck’s rear bumper, when a car entered the highway behind the truck and immediately proceeded to pass, moving into the passing lane. Except that’s exactly where I was, in plain sight still.

I evaded by swerving left. Time didn’t stand still, my life didn’t flash before my eyes. Everything became crystal clear and only 2 thoughts really crossed mind as I strove not to lose control on the soft shoulder. “Don’t roll”, and “Not my kid you a–hole”. Luckily the truck driver also saw what was happening. He veered right allowing the car to actually pass between us, at which point the car sped off at incredible speed. I thanked my lucky stars and we continued on our way home, thankful that we were safe and in one piece.Yet, I admit that I was quite focused on my anger at the “other” driver. I self righteously expounded the importance of defensive driving skills, pointed out the dangers of distractions and assumptions.

Later, I asked my husband to unload the dog food we’d bought since the dogs were giving me that “it’s chow time” look. Upon bringing in the dog food he also presented me with the three loaves of bread I’d purchased. Our near miss had resulted in casualties after all. The bag of dog food had slid off the backseat and onto the box of bread, crushing it. Suddenly my anger at the other driver spilled over again. Not only had he almost caused an accident, potentially killing us, he had ruined my bread! I was just about to go on about his irresponsibility when I suddenly got it. I saw the forest and the trees.

The bread took on new meaning. I looked at it and realized that could’ve been us. We could’ve been the ones laying on the ground flattened. It was only bread, we came home. I could buy or bake more bread. I had become so caught up in the emotion of the moment. I had thought I was staying present, but really I was only present in my anger and only aware of a minute fraction of my situation.

In that instant I was able to see beautiful and feel extreme gratitude. I was thankful we’d already dropped off my parents.  I don’t know if I’d been able to see or react as quickly if I’d had a car full of people. I no longer held ill will towards the other driver I was only grateful that everyone had arrived home unscathed. Instead of blaming and judging, I allowed myself to feel real compassion, for everyone involved including myself. Lapses happen, to others and even to me. It could have been so much worse but it wasn’t. Instead I had an opportunity to learn and to grow; an opportunity to see beautiful. Those are rise like air moments.

In truth, the bread isn’t even ruined, just flat. It’s perfectly good for bread crumbs, just not sandwiches. That’s ok. After all, Thanksgiving and Christmas are just around the corner and I guess I’ll be making the stuffing.

©2014 Rise Like Air  J. Fries

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image from sodahead.com

image from sodahead.com

Overheard in a restaurant:

Little Girl:  “I hate boys.”

Mother: “Well, boys can be fun to play with sometimes.”

Little Girl:  “No!  Well, I don’t like Jacob*.  He’s mean.”

Mother:  “He’s not mean.”

Little Girl:  “Yes, he is mean.  He is mean to me.” 

Mother:  “Jacob is a nice boy, he’s not mean.”

Little Girl:  “He’s mean.  He throws stuff.  And I don’t like it.”

Mother:  “Oh, well make sure you don’t throw stuff back ok.  Because that isn’t nice.”

And the conversation moved to another subject.  Discussion finished.  But what underlying message did mom really leave with her daughter?   “Oh my”, I thought.

All right, first I do want to say that this was not a rotten mother, I hold no ill will and am not shaming her and truthfully the interactions I witnessed between mother and daughter were loving, touching and I think she’s probably a great mom. Being a mother myself and having struggled for a lot of years trying to craft my own thoughts and messages to my daughter, this conversation struck me as a perfect example of what is missing in how we talk to our children, especially our daughters.  I’ll get to that in a minute.

I’ve never bought into the belief that girls are wired to be catty and mean any more than I believe boys are wired not to cry, or to never hit the laundry basket.  I’ve begun to wonder if it may be in part because of the mixed message we have given girls for generations.

Back to my eavesdropping.  (I’m sorry, the restaurant was really quiet, the little girl was quite loud and our elbows were almost touching… and I had nothing to distract myself with.)   Let’s dissect the conversation

Little Girl:  “I hate boys.”

Typical of children especially, it’s that all or nothing attitude.  I hate all boys.

Mother: “Well, boys can be fun to play with sometimes.”

Well done!  A great attempt to help her daughter open her mind and engage in discussion.  I agree that boys, in general, can sometimes be fun to play with.  The message?  Consider the bigger picture, avoid the all or nothing assumptions.  Let’s talk about this.  Sometimes is a pretty good word.

Little Girl:  “No, well I don’t like Jacob*.  He’s mean.”

The message got through, the little girl decides it’s not “boys” but one “boy” in particular.

Mother:  “He’s not mean.”

Here’s where mom got my cringe response going.  There was no open dialogue, the message I heard clearly is “you are wrong”  An open ended question like “what happened” or engaging her with “tell me more about Jacob being mean” is more likely to uncover and hidden worries or feelings that are beneath a blanket statement.

Little Girl:  “Yes, he is mean.  He is mean to me.”  

Undeterred, she was determined to make her case, be heard and listened to.  This is obviously important to her.  Bravo!

Mother:  “Jacob is a nice boy, he’s not mean.”

Mom undermines her daughter’s opinion and by doing so gives the message, “your opinion and how you feel don’t matter”.  She might have helped the conversation by affirming her feelings, “You don’t sound happy about playing with Jacob.”

Little Girl:  “He’s mean.  He throws stuff.  And I don’t like it.”

Undaunted the little girl offers her proof of why Jacob is mean and she doesn’t like him.

Mother:  “Oh, well make sure you don’t throw stuff back ok.  Because that isn’t nice.”

Mom might have had more luck in getting to the real issue by reflecting what her daughter was trying to tell her.  “So, Jacob has been throwing things.  I can see why you were annoyed.  Was Jacob angry?”  Finally she could have summarized the situation to let her daughter know she understood.  “You aren’t happy playing with Jacob when he’s throwing things.  But if he stopped throwing things, it might be fun?”  This way a child knows she’s at least heard and understood even if there isn’t a simple solution available.

Not sure what to do, I think the mother tried to brush it off, the “mean” event maybe wasn’t such a big deal really.  But it was to her daughter.  The underlying message I heard was, “People are sometimes like that, it’s just the way it is, but be nice anyway; perceptions of others are more important than how you feel and you are powerless to change it.”  I’m pretty sure that wasn’t the message mom intended to give at all.

The important thing about underlying messages is that they are never spelled out.  Sometimes they even aren’t intended, but what we say and what is heard are often different, especially by children who don’t have the wisdom and experience of adults.  Children love to tell us about their lives, they also come to us for help in learning to navigate that life.  This is the time where the real life lessons occur, helping them navigate all the interactions they will have over their lifetime.

And here is the crux of the problem in my opinion.  We are still giving girls the incomplete message of “just be nice”.

I am all for being nice.  This whole Rise Like Air thing is about finding our greatness, being kind, overcoming adversity, helping ourselves and others. 

We need to teach our children to be nice, but so much more than that. The challenge we face as parents and educators is to help children be nice, but at the same time to utilize the skills they need to be function with others in the world.  Nice is only one facet and as parents with girls we focus on it almost solely.  Somewhere deep down I think we still believe a husband or father will always be there to take care of our little girl.  I’ll let you in on a little secret, even if you’re there, they still need to be able to take care of themselves; period.  It is our job, our duty to ensure they have the skills, and we are falling short; way short.

Our children need the skills to be able to be nice without fearing being walked on and stepped over.  Remember the saying, “Nice guys finish last?”  It doesn’t need to be that way, it shouldn’t be that way. 

We need to give our children the skills then need to socialize well and we do a very poor job of it because so often when our little children come to us with problems like this our first response is “just be nice” like that will just make it go away.  We need to teach our children how to be nice while at the same time standing up for themselves and their beliefs, we need to help them learn how to be nice while still dealing with the Jacobs.  

I think girls often end up meaner and cattier because they don’t know how to do the other things while being nice.  So they ensure the perfect facade is in place; look pretty, smile, be nice, always appear innocent and then do whatever you need to do to survive in the real world, but never get caught without your facade in place.  

And you know what?  Sometimes being nice means walking away from those who aren’t, it means being true to ourselves and letting those who don’t value us go.  

One thing I do know is that if you continually undermine a child’s opinion long enough, eventually they will either stop sharing it with you or they will begin to believe they are wrong, their feelings don’t count and that they are unable to change their circumstances.  We wonder why children stop talking to us.  To a degree it’s a natural step in the gaining independence process, but it can also be an indicator that communication has gone awry.

 I have found girls and women who have high self esteem tend to be nice, strong, confident and very successful at navigating life and relationships without meanness or cattiness.  The girls and women who tend to be catty and mean may appear to be the nicest of the nice on the surface and have the world by the tail, but behind the facade you will often find a woman who is terrified of making a wrong move and feels like a victim of her own life.

Ultimately I think a parent wants their children, regardless of gender, to grow up to possess many positive traits including but not limited to:

  • kindness
  • joyfulness in life
  • resilience
  • self-discipline
  • honesty
  • bravery
  • confidence

Developing those traits starts early and it starts with the messages we give both with what we say and what we don’t say.

Here’s some tips on actively listening to your children (and even adults!) from Alberta Health Services

  1. Ask open ended questions
  2. Use reflective listening
  3. Affirm your child’s feelings
  4. Summarize what you’ve heard

* Names have been changed to protect their identity. (Truth be told I missed the boy’s name so who knows if I’m right or wrong.)

Further reading:

Huffington Post: by Hilary Wilce  6 Qualities Kids Need To Succeed and One They Don’t

How To Listen Actively To Your Children from Alberta Heath Services

How To Talk So Your Kids Will Listen and Listen So Your Kids Will Talk

©2014 Rise Like Air  J. Fries

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This describes the cycle of procrastination and depression very well. One of the biggest challenges is to have the energy and motivation to actually do what you need to do when a person’s depressed. This gives realistic tips to break the cycle enabling one to come up for air once more.

Originally posted on Dr Nicholas Jenner PsyD MA:

Procrastination can be defined as that invisible wall in front of you, stopping you moving on and using effective methods for beating depressive thinking. Incredibly, in 2010, the APA, in its annual Stress in America report, failed to identify procrastination as a major factor in why people do not follow through on programs designed to beat stress and pressure. This is even more incredible when survey participants recognised a lack of willpower in healthy lifestyle changes. Most said that this willpower was diminished due to lack of energy and confidence and once one was increased, the other increased too. I think you can see the pattern. In this post, I would like to show that depression and procrastination go hand in hand and need to be tackled simultaneously.

What is procrastination ?

Business people define procrastination as the delaying of deadlines. However, a more serious form is the putting off of personally relevant activities for change…

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image from imglove.com

image from imglove.com

The Huffington Post shared a great article called 11 Signs Of A Genuine Friendship.  Our relationships are such a huge part of our lives. They can either support us or derail us, make us smile or make us want to run away.  Too many of us don’t give enough thought or action to our friendships considering the impact they can have on our lives.  If you think about it, doesn’t it make sense to ensure we surround ourselves with people that will enrich our lives?  Are you a person who truly enriches your friends’ lives?  

The 11 Signs according to author Lindsay Holmes

They encourage self acceptance

They let you know when you’ve screwed up

They’re actually there, and like put their phones away!

They listen to what you say

They’re there when times get tough

They help us stay balanced and calmer

They keep our ego in check

They can be counted on when you really need them the most

They put friendship on their priority list

They actually are forgiving

They make you want to step up your game, be a better person

So how did you and your friends do?  No one’s perfect, but the people I want in my life definitely need to be on this list.  I deserve that much.  You do too.

A single rose can be my garden, a single friend my world.   -Leo Buscaglia

©2014 Rise Like Air  J. Fries

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Well thought out and well said as always. Thanks.

Originally posted on Defend. Conserve. Protect:

On the 1st of September the Dolphin hunt season in Taiji, Japan begun again and will continue until March. During this time entire family units of dolphins and small whales will be wiped out.

Dolphin trainers and killers work side by side to select the prettiest dolphins (those without visible scars) to go into captivity. They are then sent to perform in marine parks and swim with dolphin programs across the globe. Simultaneously, the rest of the family are massacred, forced to swim in their families blood.

The dolphins are sold for their meat which is heavily laced with mercury and in fact toxic to humans. Many Japanese people are unaware that the meat they are consuming is dolphin meat due to mislabeling; and they are also unaware of the high toxicity.

The recommended amount of mercury in seafood is 0.4 PPM (Parts Per Million). Dolphin meat from Taiji, Japan…

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©JFries  Along Our Morning Walk

©JFries Along Our Morning Walk

My dog and I went for our usual morning walk like we do every morning when we’re at the lake.  Usually my husband accompanies us, but today he was busy constructing.  We left him to his task.

When we first started taking this morning walk a few years ago we would venture by our neighbour’s cottage.  It was always quiet, obviously no one stirring and my husband and I would smile at our days of sleeping in long gone by and silence our banter as we quietly made our way past.

As time went on and they realized that our morning sojourns were not likely to stop, curtains went up and like most places it became more homey.  Our paths would occasionally cross and we’d exchange neighbourly pleasantries.

More time passed and a stroller, a car seat and the predictably beautiful baby appeared.  Babies just somehow always turn out beautiful; one of those unexplainable cool aspects of nature.

Now once in awhile we would exchange pleasantries during our early morning walk because we all know that little ones and sleeping in don’t work every single weekend.  At least not in my corner of the world.

“Ride!  Ride!”  He cried as he pointed at me.

Last night we went for a bike ride and met them as they were walking home.  The little guy, no longer a baby, perched high upon his dad’s shoulders was taking in the entire world with wonder.  We nodded and said hi as I rode by and the little guy’s voice was lost in the whirr of my tires and the wind in my ears.  It was a short ride, and on our way back we passed their cottage.   There he was, in tears, trying as hard as he could to pull his tiny two wheeler complete with training wheels away from his mom.  “Ride!  Ride!”  He cried as he pointed at me.  I smiled guiltily and rode a little faster as I heard “Not tonight honey.  Tomorrow.”  His mom tried to console him while battling valiantly over the bike with that weariness every mother can relate to.

Suddenly I was transported back to when my own children were that age. All the wonder, curiosity, exuberance, striving for balance of independence and protection.  The joys, firsts, frustrations, fears and tears that are all wrapped up in being parents.  I felt like saying “One ride, just for a few minutes.  In a few years you won’t regret grabbing the moment.  Grab the moments when ever you can.”

This morning on my way back from my walk I saw “Grampa” walking over to his vehicle and heard the little guy’s voice, “Where you going Grampa?  Look Grampa!”  And then I smiled as I saw Grandpa’s step quicken and heard him respond, “Oh hold on now, just a second….”   “Why Grampa?  Look!”

I continued on my way,  my dog noticed only the chipmunks and fresh morning smells that needed required his attention.  His priorities were obvious.  I thought about the wonder of the years they are experiencing, how quickly they pass  something every parent learns themselves.

You prepare yourself for them growing up.  Some days you hate to admit that you can hardly wait for them to grow up while other days the thought is an icy hand gripping your heart and you’re willing to sell your soul to keep them little forever.

I feel fortunate that I have kids that for the most part willingly and lovingly spend time with me.   They give me many moments of beautiful memories and happy smiles that I cherish.  They fill my heart, take no space and require no dusting.

Even though I’ve prepared myself for them growing up and growing away, the reminders sometimes catch me by surprise.  I remember when I was sixteen, the first summer I didn’t want to go away on vacation with my parents.  I didn’t want to waste time visiting relatives.  I wanted to be with my friends.  I wanted to experience things my way on my terms when I wanted to.  Period.

My oldest turned sixteen this year.  It didn’t happen within a week of his birthday so maybe I sort of forgot about it.  Maybe I let myself believe that he’d always be happy and satisfied to be more of a home body, a family type of person.  Right.  First of all, it’s not something I really want…. a kid who would rather be at home than experiencing life?  Besides, that could result in me cooking and cleaning forever even though he’s very good at both.

I should have known.  What it took was summer.  Connecting with all the friends from activities.   And Wham!  We dropped from first place.  And that’s okay.  That’s the way it is supposed to be.  We’ve had plenty of moments.  I’m pretty sure we’ll have many more too.  I realize though, that there may be some longer spaces in between them, at least for awhile.  That’s the way it’s supposed to be too.

Momentarily I felt the emptiness of regret, a longing for the moments I might have missed, the moments I could have made but didn’t.  I mourned the time wasted, opportunities lost.  At the same time I realized the truth that you can’t make moments any more than you can make a flower.  You can prepare the bed, plant, tend and nurture, but the moment, like the flower will grow into being on it’s own.  You just have to be open to recognizing it and enjoying it’s beauty and wonder when it finally blooms.

Who says walks are just for exercise.  Sometimes, they are opportunities to learn beautiful lessons about life.

Let your children guide you as you guide them.
Don’t sweat the small stuff.
Live, Love, Laugh – a lot
Be open to the moments, gently grab hold and let them fill your heart.

I guarantee you’ll be glad you did.

©2014 Rise Like Air  J. Fries

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Preface: I wrote this blog about a week ago but wasn’t able to post it until now.

Today is a beautiful day. The sun is shining. The temperature will be close to 30 Celsius and there is just a light breeze coming off the water to make it delicious.

It’s the last morning of the long weekend and there are fishing boats slowly drifting by mixed with the monotonous drone of pleasure craft racing past as they get ready for one more fabulous party day at the lake. The tap tap of a hammer a few doors down, the revving motor of a mini bike on the road behind us. Over the weekend the dock has been scrubbed, a Pike has been reeled in and filleted, crayfish have been caught and released. Games have been played, new friends made and old friends visited. Mosquitoes have feasted and so have we. The swallows tend their nest under our trailer that our daughter peacefully slumbers within.

“Get up sleepy head! You are missing a beautiful morning!” I think to myself.

Be kind for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” Plato

This beautiful morning began by being jolted out of bed by the phone. I scrambled for it as I came wide awake at the same time chiding myself for not having insured it was beside me, just in case.

It was a call saying my somewhat frail father in law would be going into emergency surgery this morning. Then another call and we’re in a holding pattern. It’s wait and see. He’s stable, maybe something other than surgery will turn out to be a better option. Wait. See.

So when she falls back asleep this morning I let her. Today is that kind of day.

I walked out into the beautiful morning and saw the swallow swooping in under the trailer again. A second pair built a nest just after the first gained their independence. I realized it would be impossible for this family to raise their young to independence before we are due to hook up the trailer and head off on vacation. Blissfully unaware of what the future may hold they continue fretting over the preparations with four eggs already in the new nest.

It’s easy to sit and worry; to bemoan that I am angry and frustrated, fearful and have little control over the swallows’ plight and no control over the situation with my father in law’s health. I’m also quite experienced at following the path marked “Worry Yourself Sick”. Through reflection I have come to understand that regardless of whether the worry is founded, that route insures I am weakened and less effective if I am actually required to respond to something.

So I’ve chosen to attempt to accept that this too has a reason and my lack of worrying will not negatively affect the outcome in the least. What will be, will be.

This is my opportunity to choose my reaction to the situation. I will do what needs to be done as the need arises. I will trust that I can do that.

“You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf.”

Today I’m appreciating every single piece of beauty in all forms and formlessness. I will gratefully share it too.

I’m starting a practise Pema Chodron refers to in her book “When Things Fall Apart” (Shambhala Publications ). It’s called Tong Lin. Using poison as medicine. Somehow it seemed appropriate.





Paraphrasing from her audio book, When suffering is detected the instruction is to let the story line go and breathe in the anger, resentment, loneliness or whatever we might be feeling. Then also breathe in the identical pain of others who are also feeling bitterness pain or isolation, the same feelings that you are (or the person you are directing the practise towards). We breathe in the poison for everybody, we are practising in essence, standing in someone else’s shoes. Instead of running from the feelings and experience we connect with it, breathe it in and we do this with the wish everyone could be free from suffering. We breathe out sending out a feeling of big space a sense of ventilation or freshness. We do this with the wish that everyone could relax and experience their inner most essence. We breathe out what they need to help the suffering. The purpose of the practise is to dissolve the dualistic struggle we have been taught – good and bad, right and wrong, pretty and ugly. Therefore we move toward difficulty instead of backing away.

After I’d listened to her instruction, I couldn’t help but think what a wonderful thing it would be if everyone actually did that, actually felt that way for everyone else.  If we would only remember what we already know, that standing in someone else’s shoes changes us.  It encourages compassion, empathy, kindness, understanding and patience.

I know the breath is calming and I’m breathing anyway so this is for you dad, for all of us who care about you, for everyone else facing the same kind of things.

I’m breathing for you.

Breathing in fear. Breathing out peace.
Breathing in frustration. Breathing out love.
Breathing in pain. Breathing out healing.
Breathing in, breathing out.

Love you dad.

Namaste child

Follow up note: At least for the time being surgery has been averted. Breathe in. Breathe out.

©2014 Rise Like Air J. Fries

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Well, we’ve finally updated our Books and Authors page

Stop by and have a look!

Added items are:


The Unlikely Hero of Room 13B

Mothering and Daughtering

Check out our page for details and links.

©2014 Rise Like Air/J Fries


Understanding this concept is paramount to implementing it with success. Far too many people equate it with a complete lack of structure or discipline or boundaries. Not the case at all, it’s simply one more way to help your child find success in growing up. I love the ending line. “Above all…focus on connection, love and relationship.” Good advice for all of us in dealing with anyone.

Originally posted on Dr Nicholas Jenner PsyD MA:

As children grow older, they like to explore and push boundaries. What they are looking for is a sense of autonomy and self-confidence, an important cog in the wheel of development. The way parents handle this is crucial for the child’s development. When children are not allowed to explore in a child proof home or are punished and smacked by parents for what is in reality,  age appropriate behavior, they develop a sense of shame and doubt.

It is important to note that we are talking here about giving our children a “sense” of autonomy, not autonomy itself. Erik Erikson, a well-known psychologist,  believed that is essential that parents give their children a chance to seek for this “sense” and make it stronger than the feelings of shame and doubt. Then and only then, will children have the confidence to later pursue and shape their own ideas and plans. Erikson advised building…

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