Archives for posts with tag: understanding

As 2016 winds down I thought I’d share a story that warmed my heart as a mother and as a human being. Sometimes our kids just do that.

My son works at a hardware store and one of the things he does is cut keys and rekey locks.  The old keys get thrown in a discard bin. So one day when a woman came in requesting to buy new keys for a craft project my son offered to give her an ample supply of discarded keys free of charge.

…And being the typical 19 year old he thought absolutely no more of it.

The next day the same woman arrived back at the store seeking him out. She had a thank you gift for him, a necklace. The key was now stamped with the word HOPE  and an accompanying tag stamped YOU MATTER.

She was on a mission to spread an important message – there is hope and we all matter – every one of us. No matter our past, our present or our future – we all matter. And there is always hope.

My son was fairly blasé about the whole affair.  He came home and shared the story with a somewhat puzzled look on his face. He said he really didn’t understand why she felt the need to thank him (sigh) and while the idea was sorta neat, he didn’t really  think he’d ever wear it. And then this look dawned upon his face and he turned to me. “Mom, this is more like something you’d like…” I graciously accepted the pay it forward gift with a very big smile.

I’m far from perfect, I have to embrace my “flawsome” every single day. Somedays there seems to be more flaw than awesome, but I embrace my humanness as best I can always. Because, after all, that is what I am, human – designed, created or a fluke of nature – unique and human is all I can guarantee. And I always keep a smidgeon of hope tucked away for those days where I’ve misplaced all the rest.


Today, I pulled the necklace out again, knowing that I would finally take a few minutes to sit down to tell the story.  My daughter noted it with an air of admiration and interest.  She knows sometimes we need to be reminded we matter and there is hope. Some of the best reminders are a little rough around the edges.

With the Pentatonix “Hallelujah” playing in the background my eyes are searching for a place where this necklace can be constant reminder of this oh so important message that strangely, so many forget at this time of year of celebration. I realized today that this necklace isn’t really mine, it’s meant for anyone who needs a little extra reminder that YOU MATTER and that there is most certainly HOPE. So like the other sets of keys in this house, it will hang accessible to anyone who may need use of it at any given moment.

Don’t ever forget….


and there is


I promise

Don’t ever forget….


©2016 JFries/Rise Like Air

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I went to the lake for three days. On my own. Because I said I wanted to. Apparently, this raised some eyebrows, caused some speculation.

Though I owe no one an explanation I’ll tell you. I only hope you can handle the truth and it is all you thought it would be.

I had a most delicious rendezvous with an old love. And oh my, shhhhh, but it really was delicious. Time stood still and disappeared all at once.

Now I admit that at first I felt more than a little trepidation, but it disappeared when I caught my first glimpse of them. It was like no time had passed at all.

It was cold so we curled up in blankets, sipped whiskey and water while we read books together, taking turns flipping the pages. We laughed and reminisced, finishing each other’s sentences. We went for walks hand in hand, telling each other stories. And when we got back we shared our thoughts and feelings, our dreams and relationships and our regrets because we genuinely wanted to. We played our favourite music and danced with abandon, laughing until our sides ached and tears ran down our cheeks. And when we couldn’t laugh anymore, we drank in each other’s spirit, curling up to sleep peacefully each night. We cherished each other unabashedly and it was divine and peacefully beautiful.

As the end drew near we looked into each other’s sparkling eyes and promised we would never let time or distraction separate us again. We hugged until we melted into each other and then it was time to leave. We never said good bye, because it wasn’t. It was hello.

When I arrived home I felt no guilt or shame as I walked by the mirror. Pausing, I recognized the smile. I winked, and my re-found love winked back at me. “Hello,” I grinned. Delicious.

©2016 JFries/Rise Like Air

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I have a friend, nice guy, an example of kindness all around. He has one of those challenging jobs where you get to help people who don’t always want to be helped. One of my favourite qualities about him is that if you piss him off, in the end he’ll likely offer to buy you a beer. Kindness always seems to prevail.

He happened to mention that he’d run into a couple of homeless guys, down on their luck he could tell. He passed by them on his way to pick up some things. He didn’t buy them a beer. He bought them lunch and delivered it to them, taking the time to talk for a few minutes before carrying on with his original errand. When he came back he gave them some cash and wished them well. I told you he was kind.

It was the next part of the story that was the surprise. He confided he could relate to them because only a few years ago he was homeless, down on his luck and a couple of kind and helpful people helped him back up. He’s been quietly paying forward ever since.


It made me think about what got him back on his feet. It wasn’t policies stopping people from feeding the homeless. It wasn’t making life harder for the homeless or shaming them or blaming them. It was a couple of kind people that helped him out when he needed it and was ready for it. It was kindness and a little compassion and probably even a little love. Somebody believed in him. It made a difference, it created a ripple and look how far that ripple is going.

That got me to thinking about an article on UpWorthy. I read about a little research study that Columbia professor Carl Hart did in his lab. There is a huge belief drugs themselves cause addiction that can be almost impossible for a user to break. There was a famous experiment done where rats would give themselves drugs until they killed themselves thus “proving” this point. However Professor Hart discovered that if you gave the rats a satisfying alternative, like sweets, they’d usually go for the alternative over the drug. Hmmmm.  Fast forward to human testing.

Then Hart did something unusual. He invited human drug users into his lab. He set up an experiment where he offered regular meth users a choice between drugs or money.

When presented with an attractive alternative ($20), even people who regularly use a drug like meth still chose the alternative.

Drugs are a symptom of a society where people don’t feel they have good options, Hart theorizes. They aren’t the cause.

Ok, so maybe they took the money and then went and bought better drugs.  But.  Just maybe, at least in part, drug addiction and homelessness have this in common. People have to actually see that they have good options that are attainable. If they no longer believe enough in themselves or don’t have the ability to be taken as something or someone other than a homeless person, or an addict, that’s exactly how they see themselves and where they remain.


Maybe it’s time to spend a little less time judging and a lot more time being kind and helping out. Just maybe you’ll start the most amazing ripple that will just keep growing and growing.

My religion is very simple. My religion is kindness. ~ Dali Lama

©2015 JFries/Rise Like Air

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Image from PopSugar

Image from PopSugar


Sharon Silver wrote a great article on PopSugar in March. The subject certainly isn’t new. We as humans, have a penchant to label. It makes us feel  knowledgeable, organized, and mainly, in control. We go happily along each day judging things, places and especially people, including ourselves. Let’s be clear, you can’t label anything unless you first judge it, form an opinion and then voila!  Affix a label and life is suddenly ordered, we can breath a sigh of relief. But that label, often tells a very incomplete story. By affixing that label, we may have unwittingly changed the story, and not necessarily in a positive way.

Words are so powerful, and we wield their sharp edges without a second thought for where the blade may land or the damage it may inflict.

Silver shares a story about an encounter she witnessed while shopping.  Unfortunately it isn’t a unique case and what’s even more unfortunate, is that all too often, the person honestly thinks they’re doing the right thing, the best for their child.

I was in line at the grocery store when I heard a mom very calmly and very firmly whisper to her son, “Are you an awful boy?” The little one tried to pull his body away from his mom, as if to escape the sting of his beloved mother’s words, but he couldn’t. He very sadly dropped his head and said, “Yes.”

This little one’s face told the whole story. It was obvious this was not the first time mom had said those words to him. You could literally see the effects of his mom’s words being accepted by his emotional self. You could see the words becoming part of how he will define himself, now, and in the future — I am an awful person.

via How to Talk to Kids When They Misbehave | POPSUGAR Moms.

I don’t know why this is such a hard lesson for so many of us to learn.  Words that motivate, encourage when used with guidance and caring consistently provide better results in improving behaviours and overall success.

Too many people equate this approach with being “soft” or “settling for less”.  That is definitely not the case.  Discipline, expectations and assistance are all still part of the picture.

Most of us have experienced people who have been cruel to us with their words at some point in our lives. We know how it makes us feel. Most of us have managed to “put it behind us” and have moved on. Yet, as adults we tend to fall back on methods that we’ve experienced, even when, if we’re honest with ourselves, we know didn’t work well for us.  But somehow, we suddenly think, “but that must be the way it’s done”.

It’s not easy to change our habits, it’s even harder when we feel pressured, under stress, short tempered, lacking sleep or simply busy. But when we see the changes that our efforts result in, it doesn’t take long to realize that the effort is more than worth it.

I like Sharon Silver’s suggestions for dealing with misbehaviour, 3 good questions.

  • Was what you did safe?
  • Was it respectful?
  • Was it kind?

That’s a pretty impressive starting point. You see, we usually don’t have to use hurtful words to get the message across.  As a matter of fact, using words that hurt simply put the other person on the defensive and removes the focus from the issue and the solution. These questions let the other person gain understanding themselves. For most people, that’s enough to start a change in behaviour.

Labelling people, even with “positive” labels stunts growth as surely as a plant is if you put a pot over it and keep it in the dark. Instead be the sunshine and rain that let’s that flower grow and bloom brilliantly.

The change starts with us. It starts now. Listen to yourself, listen to your family, listen to your children’s teachers.  Start using language that actually has a positive impact and you will be astounded at the changes you begin to see.  The sparkle in your child’s eye and their desire to please and do well will likely grow visibly, right before your very eyes.


©2015 JFries/Rise Like Air

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I emerged from the hospital weakened, with thin limbs and thinned hair. Now unable to work, I was left at home to convalesce. Getting up from a chair or lifting a glass of water took concentration and effort. If time dilates when one moves at high speeds, does it contract when one moves barely at all? It must: The day shortened considerably. A full day’s activity might be a medical appointment, or a visit from a friend. The rest of the time was rest.

via Before I Go, by By Paul Kalanithi – Photography by Gregg Segal.

We all know our time on this earth is limited.  Most of us are able to ignore it at least for a time and we live like we have forever.  But we don’t.

When you realize that your time is close to being over, time takes on a new meaning.   The above essay is one of the most articulate, profound and poignant pieces I’ve ever read.

Dr. Paul Kalanithi was a neurosurgeon who recently passed away from metastic lung cancer.  In this, one of his last pieces of writing shortly before his death, he shared how the concept of time changed for him during his illness, recovery and then recurrence of cancer.

We each deal with tragedy, pain and challenges differently.  But during those trials and tribulations, the pain and the fear, it is the smallest and simplest things that bring us joy.

Never discount the small joys we are each capable of sharing with others, no matter the day or the need.

© 2015 JFries / Rise Like Air

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image from human

image from human


“We wanted to particularly tell stories that are less often told,” said Tracey Mitchell, co-ordinator of Next Up Saskatchewan.

via Human Library tells stories of social change in Saskatchewan – Saskatoon – CBC News.

I’ve read about the concept of human libraries before, but I just found out that there was one held much closer to “home” in Saskatoon SK. I would love to have the opportunity to attend a human library both as a reader and as a book.  The possibilities of the experience I think would present many opportunities to learn and grow.

Not familiar with a human library?

The Human Library is an innovative method designed to promote dialogue, reduce prejudices and encourage understanding.The main characteristics of the project are to be found in its simplicity and positive approach.”

I fear that story telling is becoming a lost art form.  We’ve become a society that has grown to expect flash, sound, special effects, grandeur and speed; cut to the chase type of thinking.  We want to be entertained.

When we want a break, we grab a mental hiatus by watching cute babies, cute kittens, cute animals, funny pranks, stupid stunts, anything to “take a break” from life.

What we’re really doing more often than not is just distracting our brains from living.  That’s right, we take a break from living life, which really, is what we’re supposed to do.  Now don’t get me wrong, taking a break is a good thing to do.  It’s imperative to maintaining good overall health. But in my humble opinion, a lot of us don’t take healthy breaks, we take mind numbing breaks, which I don’t consider to be of equal value.

I’ve always loved stories wether read, told or acted out with dramatic flare.  I’ve always enjoyed seeing how other people’s experiences, ideas and imagination fit together.  I like to learn from them, get new ideas, rework old ideas.

When I read, I love the smell of the paper, the feel of the pages, the weight of a book in my hands.  I can’t ask a book a question though.   I can only hope the answer to my question will be contained somewhere within the pages.

But a human book, just think! There is the inflection of the voice, emotion in the eyes, the pause in the story, the quiver of a lip, the quiet sigh, a brilliant smile, animated gestures.  And there’s the ability to truly interact, for the story, to come Alive!

I remember when I was a student, many, many years ago.  Long before things like Skype and Youtube could so easily bring the rest of the world and its people right into the classroom, we were thrilled when we had a “guest”.  Sure, it was a treat because it was something different but it was also amazing because those people brought the world to us.  Maybe it was someone’s grandfather who had fought in the war and he wore his medals.  Maybe it was a missionary who spoke about how children in other countries couldn’t go to school, or had to sit on dirt floors.  Or maybe it was a mother who had lost her child in an accident because of a drunk driver.

At least for me, those people made a far greater and longer lasting impression than any facts I read that were written in black and white.

“This program is about inspiring young people to act,” Mitchell explained. “And we think that we can really build on the history of social change work in this province. We have a rich history — medicare, and co-ops and lots of different things that really started here.”   Tracey Mitchell, Next Up Saskatchewan Co-ordinator.

I really think this is such a fantastic opportunity for everyone of every age.  We all have stories, stories that can inspire, motivate, change and even save others.  It’s funny how we often don’t think we have anything to offer, when in reality we have so much to offer, we just take it for granted.

Imagine as a student, if your teacher one day said let’s go to the library and you walked in and instead of selecting paper books or e-books, you could sit down with someone and have the story actually come to life.

If you’re interested in more information about human libraries and their history you can check out their website.  As with many neat ideas it started from a not so wonderful experience for some young men in Denmark.  But out of that experience, something wonderful has come about.

Once upon a time in Copenhagen, Denmark. There was a young and idealistic youth organisation called “Stop The Violence”. This non-governmental youth movement was self initiatied by the five youngsters Dany Abergel, Asma Mouna, Christoffer Erichsen, Thomas Bertelsen and Ronni Abergel from Copenhagen after a mutual friend was stabbed in the nightlife (1993). The brutal attack on their friend, who luckily survived, made the five youngsters decide to try and do something about the problem. To raise awareness and use peer group education to mobilise danish youngsters against violence. In a few years the organisation had 30.000 members all over the country.

In 2000 Stop The Violence was encouraged by then festival director, Mr. Leif Skov, to organise acitivites for Roskilde Festival. Events that would put focus on anti-violence, encourage dialogue and build relations among the festival visitors. And the Human Library was born, as a challenge to the crowds of Northern Europes biggest summer festival.

Marvin J. Ashton once said,

“If we could look into each other’s hearts and understand the unique challenges each of us faces, I think we would treat each other much more gently, with more love, patience, tolerance, and care.”

And somewhere in all of that, just maybe we could learn to accept others too.  Now that idea makes us Rise Like Air.


©2015 Rise Like Air  J. Fries

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Ruby in her PAT gear credit Megan Taylor

** This post has been updated 1/27/2015

You may remember one of our favourite people Megan Taylor from the UK.  She faces challenges every day that most of us don’t.  She also has a heart of gold and makes it her ongoing mission in life to make other people’s lives just a bit better.  Well, everyone’s life better, including animals, people, pretty much the world.  And, she likes to have fun while doing it.  One of my favourite traits that Megan inspires me with is how she doesn’t judge, she just helps.  Because that’s what she does. A little while ago, Megan shared this story with some of her friends and she has kindly allowed me to repeat it here.

Last week when I was walking my dog I came across a man who kept beating his dog every time she pulled on the leash, making her pull even more to try and get away. He noticed the horrified expression on my face and asked how I get my dog to walk beside me instead of pulling. I told him that I am an animal behaviourist and that if he is prepared to listen I am prepared to teach him.

There is no need to beat or shout at your dog or use choke chains and shock collars, the key is love and a whole lot of patience. I told him about a few different methods he could try and he thanked me. All week I have been catching glimpses of him out my window using the methods I taught and today when I saw him, the dog was walking perfectly!

You CAN teach an old dog new tricks. Three years of attempting to train using violence failed, but one week of love succeeded. My first impression of him was that he was a horrible animal beater but it turns out it was down to simply not knowing any better. When I finish university I would love to set up a charity offering free training classes to those who cannot afford them.

Megan is also taking on yet another challenge with her best four legged friend Ruby who is a Pets As Therapy dog.  Megan trained Ruby herself and after Ruby’s certification they have been a kindness, happiness spreading duo.  As usual, Megan isn’t stopping there.  Ruby and Megan are climbing a mountain to raise funds for the PAT organization so they can make a positive difference in even more lives.  If you would like to support Megan, just click right here!

You can find out more about Megan and Ruby, what they are doing and why they are climbing by following the same link (or reading the updated information at the bottom of this blog).

So you see?  You can teach old dogs new tricks, humans too for the right matter.  Pretty sure that the owner and the dog are both happy they ran into Ruby and Megan that day.  I know Megan and Ruby are.  Me too, because it gave us another reason to feel like we’re rising like air.  And that’s pretty fantastic on a Monday morning.

** here is some more information about Megan and Ruby that you might find interesting. updated 1/27/2015

My name is Megan and I am 18. Most of you will know me by now and have been so supportive, I cannot thank you enough for your kindness! For those of you who don’t, I would like to share my story in the hope that you will find the courage to face your own demons, and to share with you all my latest challenge!

I have a medical condition that causes me to faint/fit/collapse/black out a lot (EVERY DAY). Because of this I fractured my skull and damaged my hearing, I suffer with balance problems and dizziness too. This all started when I was 15 and people instantly started treating me differently, doubting my abilities and feeling sorry for me. But in my opinion, a problem is only as big as you allow it to be!

I wanted to prove to myself and the world that disability is never a reason to give up. Sure, it makes things a lot harder, but that just means I have to fight harder too. Since fracturing my skull I have completed a half marathon, swam 8 kilometers, and climbed the three highest mountains in Scotland, England and Wales in just 24 hours. By doing this I have raised just over £3,000 for various charities.

I am currently completing my degree in Animal Behavior & Welfare, studying full time as well as holding down a part time job, running my own small business, and volunteering as a Cub Scout Leader and Pets As Therapy (PAT) visiting volunteer. Helping others allows me to overcome my condition, it reminds me to be grateful for everything I have and make the most of opportunities.

Every week I visit two nursing homes with my PAT dog, Ruby. She is loved by all who meet her and makes a big difference to their lives. People tell me that she is their best friend, their reason to smile. For many, we are the only ones who visit, and it means the world to them. PAT Dogs and cats visit people in nursing homes, hospitals, hospices, special needs schools and many other establishments.

Ruby helps me train for my fundraising challenges by keeping me fit and guiding me when I am too dizzy to see. This time she gets to come along for the whole ride and not just the training. In April we will be climbing Mount Snowdon together, this will be her first ever mountain climb! Please dig deep and support my lovely PAT dog who gives so much to so many and has helped me through the darkest of days. Remember, life is what you make of it! Thank you.

©2015 Rise Like Air  J. Fries

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Change Changes Changing

6 Thurs change



I can’t fix it!

Why won’t they listen?

Why won’t they change?

I am no one.

I can’t do it alone.

It’s too hard.

I’ve failed.

I pause.

I look again.

I see.




The world changes

I change

You change

We change

©2015 Rise Like Air  J. Fries

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If you read my blogs or FB posts you probably already know that I am very big on using words wisely, because to me, words and subsequently communication is important.  This Huffington Post article by Rebecca Fuoco is straight talk about communication, in this case when we flippantly use mental illnesses as figures of speech.  I have also noticed this prevalence develop and every time I hear a someone say “That’s so OCD” or “Don’t be so schizo” I get a bit of a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach.  I want to shout, “If you think that’s so OCD then you know NOTHING about OCD!”

Using names or acronyms of mental illnesses to hyperbolize innocuous idiosyncrasies and experiences has become pervasive in our cultural dialogue (and Twitter feeds). It is important we end this trend, not because it is my pet peeve (which it is) and not because I am the PC Police (which I am not). It is important because making these flippant references (1) trivializes how devastating the illnesses can be and (2) perpetuates myths and misunderstandings.

Ms Fuoco does an excellent job of articulating her points.  While we might think we’re just being “funny” and don’t mean any harm, our intent and the actual long term results of contributing to the trivialization of mental illnesses ends up hurting us all.  And that is not funny at all.

Now that we know better, let’s all try to do a little better too.


via Let’s Stop Using Mental Illnesses as Figures of Speech | Rebecca Fuoco.

©2014 Rise Like Air  J. Fries

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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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