30 December 2015

Top Family-Fun Xbox One Games

Now time for a top Family-Fun list with a modern generation console, the weirdly named: Xbox One. If you just got this console, these are some games to check out. But please don't go out and buy this console for these games, as they may be available on other systems (Wii, WiiU, PS3, PS4, or Xbox 360)

Honorable Mention. Star Wars Battlefront
If your a Star Wars house like mine is, any Star Wars game is a favourite. But there is something about the detail and the maps in this game that "feels" real. There is a split screen option where you can battle against each other or you can fight the Empire together in a survival mode.

5. Minecraft
Minecraft is a bottomless pit, even in the split screen option. There are new skins and mods being released all the time. This allows for complete creativity in building your own world together, or even just exploring the world together.

4. Lego Marvel Super Heroes
An open Marvel world to explore as little lego figurines. Complete the main conquest together or do side missions, or just spend your time exploring, it's up to you and your family.

3. Disney Infinity 3.0
This is Disney's version of Minecraft, with figurines. While 2.0 is an excellent option in place of 3.0, 3.0 is better for two reasons: Star Wars (of course), and better toy box and mission play. What they were trying to do in 2.0 is done better in 3.0. Not to mention figurines from 1.0 and 2.0 work in 3.0. If I may issue a warning, that's where this game gets very costly. Each new character runs from $10-17.

2. Just Dance
I think this one is self explanatory, just dance with your family. Record what you do, add silly faces, and so on. Again, 2016 is shared here, 2015 or earlier do the exact same, just different songs.

1. Kinect Sports Rivals
There is just something about using your whole body with the kinect to control the player on the screen. You can create your family using the scan feature and then play games together, or you can use the preset characters. Bowling and rock climbing are popular in our house.

Have fun!

29 December 2015

Top Family-Fun Nintendo 64 Games

The past "Top" posts (Christmas albums and Super Nintendo) have had five items, but this one has seven because I had a tough time narrowing down my picks for the Top Family-Fun N64 Games.

7. 1080 Snowboarding
If you live somewhere where it is too cold to be outside or there isn't snow, you can strap on the snowboard boots and race each other down different slopes. Compete to finish first or who ever can do the fanciest tricks.

6. Mario Kart
Shifting from two players on SNES to four on N64 adds more family competition with a lot more fun in the battle and race modes.

5. Bomber Man 64
While you can have fun in the story, this game is best played as a multi-player. While the competition will always be four players, made up of AI's or humans, it is a lot of fun to be able to figure out the right patterns to drop or throw bombs to be able to win the match.

4. Super Smash Bros
Choose your favourite Nintendo franchise character and duke it out with your family who has picked their fav character.

3. Star Fox
Take your family rivalry into the air or in space and battle each other as one of the Star Fox characters. No point in being bound by ground when you can soar in the skies!

2. Golden Eye 007
Take game rating into account with this one as blood does ooze down the screen when you die. However, this game is alone responsible for the multiplayer shoot 'em up games, it is so revolutionary. Battle each other or in groups of 3 or 4. Set the style of the game, secret weapon, choose a map, and attack away.

1. Mario Party
Any of the Mario Party games would do, some say Mario Party 2 is better than the first because Nintendo built on it. This board game like game with mini challenges is an excellent leveling field for those who game a lot to those who don't at all, as the game is a combo of board game and mini-game strategy. Choose one of your fav Super Mario characters and roll away.

***Note: Again as with the Super Nintendo recommendations, I recommend these games and the console as overall they would be cheaper than buying a current generation console.***

28 December 2015

Top Family-Fun Super Nintendo Games

While I do enjoy playing video games on my own, it is much more enjoyable playing with my kids. And there is some research showing that the parent-child relationship can be enhanced when gaming together. Plus, gaming together can help teach gaming in moderation.

So with that in mind, I wanted to share the Top 5 SNES Games that families can play together (or against each other):

5. NHL 96
Any of the NHL series on SNES is a good pick. NHL 96 is when they started getting the create-a-player and roster moves done right. So create yourself, grab a couple of favourite players, put them on one team and play against each other.

4. Mario All-Stars
While Super Mario World is a great game, there is just something about playing the amped up NES Mario Bros. games on the SNES. Take turns in Mario Bros. or battle together in Mario Bros. 3.

3. NBA Jam
Instead of playing basketball formally, liven up the fun with arcade dunks and moves as you battle two-on-two. The graphics and the creativity make for a family fun rivalry.

2. Turtles in Time
If you have the controller expansion you can have to four playing. If not, two of you work together as the Ninja Turtles fight their way to save April. It's a great Co-op game.

1. Super Mario Kart
Race against each other in time trials or in one of the three cups. Or to increase the intensity, battle it out. Or do what I do with my kids, hold down the fort in 2nd place so they can get first and we can finish 1-2 in the races.

***Note: While new gaming consoles are $500+ with new games. With the proper shopping you could pick up a SNES console with controllers and a couple of the above games for $200 or less. Much more affordable family fun***

25 December 2015

My Top 5 Favourite Christmas Albums

Happy/Merry Christmas!

One of mine and my wife's goals over our marriage was to increase our Christmas music library selection. - We have, and I'd like to share my favourite Christmas albums that we have accumulated.

In no particular order. Here they are:

26 November 2015

Documentary: The Porn Pandemic: The Devastating Effects on Children, Family and Society

Noting that this video is produced by Family Watch Internation, a conservative family advocacy group. Also noting that Sex Addiction is not in the DSM 5, but that Pornography may be a reason behind some sexual dysfunction disorders in DSM 5. Overall, something to be aware of.

25 November 2015

The Decline of Play and Rise in Children's Mental Disorders

A recent article by Peter Gary in Psychology Today discussed the rise of mental disorders amongst children correlating with the decline in play.

Pieces that stick out to me is that there is an increase in anxiety or depression in someone's life when they feel a loss of control in their life. I'd tie this to over-scheduling because children have no control over the activity or timing of it.

The other part was that children's goal making skills are now extrinsic instead of intrinsic. The idea that something external, such as a money, is more motivating than intrinsic, I want to do this because I feel good about it.

Do be aware when you read the article, there is a plug for his recent book, Free to Learn. Makes you wonder if the motivation for the book/article is intrinsic or extrinsic?

12 November 2015

Tips for talking to your children about #dementia and #Alzheimers

The following are five tips from The Conversation about talking to your children about dementia:

  1. Tell the whole truth (age appropriate)
  2. Remind children that their loved one is still a person
  3. Prepare children for the unexpected
  4. Brainstorm activities for children to do with a loved one
  5. Look for positives

10 November 2015

Parenting an Anxious Child

My daughter hates having a loose tooth. Her anxiety increases every time she has one. She will not let my wife or I pull her tooth out. She truly hates the feeling. This is because the first time a tooth fell out it was a really uncomfortable experience for her.

So now when she has a loose tooth she begins to withdraw from activities, and stops eating crunchy foods because she doesn’t want to risk the discomfort of her tooth falling out. We have found a solution as a family, while not the most frugal approach, we learned that she trusts the dentist, and when her tooth is loose we take her to the dentist and pay to get it pulled. That way she can resume participating in her life.

While this is my daughters experience with anxiety, it is important to understand that everyone has experienced fear and anxiety at some sort of level. Fear is healthy, it is the body’s response to a threat. It is when the fear response happens when it shouldn’t, or when the response to the fear is not proportional, that it becomes anxiety.

When anxiety hits, the brain goes into its survival mode and responds with fight, flight or freeze instincts. This means that the ability to think, recall, and process information is limited. Some people even “black out” and can’t recall what happened during a highly anxious moment. It typically takes the brain and body 60-90 minutes to calm back down.

In the cases of children, they may not be aware of what is happening, all they know is that they are overwhelmed. The cerebral cortex, the brains captain, is no longer in command when the brain is emotionally flooded, so children need someone to act as their captain during those moments.

However, parenting a child that is anxious can be frustrating and difficult. As the child may be clingy, aggressive, and have sleep difficulties; this may result in school avoidance or withdrawal from activities.

As parents, the best way to help a child with anxiety is to create an environment that establishes and maintains safety. Typically this is done by having a stable and consistent routine, this way a child knows what to expect and what is expected during a day.

It is helpful as a parent to learn if your child benefits from mind to body or body to mind exercises to soothe. An example of mind to body is meditation, mindfulness or visualizations; whereas body to mind is yoga, hot baths or bilateral movements. Each child is different, and each situation may be different with which kind of soothing to do.

It is also important to note, as the Alcoholics Anonymous programs teaches, that being hungry, angry, tired or lonely, makes one vulnerable for relapse, and in this case, makes ones response to fear more likely.

But most of all, love your child, show empathy, and get into your child’s world to understand what increases their anxiety and what helps calm them.

26 October 2015

Book Review: Touching His Robe: Reaching past the shame and anger of abuse

Title: Touching His Robe: Reaching past the shame and anger of abuse
Author: Leslie G. Nelson
Publisher: West Lotus Press (Covington)
Audience: Survivors of sexual abuse, helpers in trauma, Christian based, LDS (Mormon)
Subject: Healing from past trauma
Summary: The author shares her personal sojourn and insights as she overcame her anger and shame from her past sexual abuse. She shares many insights from the bible and other religious leaders as she not only healed emotionally and mentally, but spiritually as well (An area of healing that is often overlooked). If reading for your own healing, this should be done so with professional support. It is also one woman's journey, and is not applicable to everyone's healing path. The hope is that at least one of the life's lessons will be applicable and help the reader on their healing journey.
Score: 7/10 - recommend for spiritual (Christian) healing from trauma.

Amazon: $4.47 Kindle

12 October 2015

Book Review: Persistent Poverty: voices from the margins

Title: Persistent Poverty: Voices from the margins
Authors: Jamie Swift, Brice Balmer & Mira Dineed
Publisher: Between the Lines (Toronto)
Audience: Social sector, policy makers, front-line workers, Canadians
Subject: Poverty, low socioeconomic status
Summary: The book gives a voice to several people working in the field and those living a life a poverty. It's a call for action to help increase support for affordable homes, foodbanks, and the mentally ill. It's also a realization that many of us are one accident away, one lay-off away, from living in poverty. The downside to the book is that it is based in Ontario, so while the information is useful, it may not be applicable to other Provinces and Territories in Canada, or other Countries.
Score: 6/10 - Pick it up if you work in this field.

Amazon: $9.99 on Kindle

09 October 2015

Stress Response System: The Fear is Real, Even Though It's Not Real

I'm a little behind the 6+ million people that have seen this clip, but it is a great example of the stress response system at work:

The best part is when they say: "You know it's not there," "It's not in the room." But for this meteorologist, the perceived threat was real and her body reacted as if the threat was there. It's an excellent example of how at times anxiety, fears, and stress is a perceived threat, not an actual threat.

05 October 2015

The Plasticity of the Brain, and re-training how to ride a bike

There are several things to take away from this video, but watch first:

  1. Knowledge does not equal Understanding. Makes you wonder why we say "I know" to someone that is feeling a particular way.
  2. Brain pathways, they get set early, and are more difficult to change later on. Think of a highway, and a beaten path - it is much easier to travel on the highway.
  3. You can teach an old dog new tricks, as they say, but it may take time.
  4. Body memory, those paths that we don't use in our brain, call be recalled.
  5. Thought rigidity, sometimes one thought we cannot change, no matter how hard we try. For example, first impressions are difficult to change.
  6. When trying something new, if we get distracted, our brain reverts back to the familiar pathway. It is that difficult to change thoughts.
  7. And many many more take away's that stand out to you.

02 October 2015

7 ways gaming can improve your life

Jane McGonigal was recently on CBC's Q, and shared seven ways that video games can improve your life.

She also has a couple TED talks to her name promoting video games (one, two, three); which is a different approach to how the media portrays video games.

Now she doesn't encourage typical video games, but games that are designed to help solve real world problems. For example, one that I recommend a lot is called SuperBetter.

Also check out her latest book:

29 September 2015

Building Self-Esteem: Understanding the parts of Self-Esteem

Frequently we hear people say that they have low self-esteem or low self-value or worth. These can mean many different things to different people.

This is the lens that I view self-esteem from that it is made up of three parts: self-concept, self-efficacy, self-worth. An individual’s Self-Concept is the answer to ‘who am I?’ Usually it comprises their past, present, and future traits, characteristics, performance and accomplishments. Self-efficacy is what you can do with who I am. An understanding of whether one can succeed in particular situations, which has an impact on motivation. Self-worth is the individual’s perceived value of what they contribute to their society, work, and/or family. Self-esteem is then the combination of concept, efficacy, and worth; plus the feeling how much control over one’s life. 

It is helpful to think of self-concept, efficacy and worth, each as sides of a triangle, and that self-esteem is the area of the triangle. Then it is possible to see that as someone’s concept, efficacy, and worth grow so does their self-esteem. As those three shrink, so does their self-esteem.

To help someone build their self-esteem, it is not just about helping them feel good about themselves or having confidence. It starts with the Johari Window principle. Helping them understand themselves. There are parts to a person that only they know about and that they and the people around them know. Then there are also blind spots, parts to a person that only people around them see. One of the first things I recommend is for a person to talk to a couple people that care about them (usually parents or extended family) and learn more about themselves, their family history, and what they think they will become.

Next after learning more about “who I am” – increasing self-concept, it is then important to understand what you can do with what you know about yourself. For me personally, I have learned in my family history that only three people have lived past the age of 80 – all female. So I know I have a limited time, almost an expiry date, which helps motivate me to do things and enjoy the present moment at home and at work.

After learning who one is, what you can do with it – and if that brings motivation, it is now interpreting the perceptions about the value you can contribute to society. Perception is influenced by feedback from family, friends, and society.

With all those parts combined, that makes up self-esteem.

While it is important to build self-esteem, it is even more vital to know what self-esteem is so that the smaller sections of the triangle can be built up.

13 August 2015

How counselling works: Finding a natural, skilled helper

I am frequently asked by clients either before or during counselling, “How does counselling work?” I respond with the 40-30-15 rule created by Scott Miller. But before we get to that, it is important to understand what a counsellor’s background to better understand how the rule is applied.

A counsellor is part of the helping profession. A helper is anyone who looks after the mental and emotional well-being of their client. There are many kinds of helpers with varying degrees and credentials. There are counsellors, social workers, psychotherapists, therapists, marriage & family therapists, psychologists, coaches, and so on.

Typically individuals that pursue these paths have been told that they are “good listeners” because of their natural helping abilities. They then acquire education to build upon and hone their natural abilities. Some training programs are: less than a year, two years, four year degrees, two year master’s degree, or higher.

It is commonly recommended that private helpers seek both a professional body and regulatory body where available. A professional organization has the best interest of the helper in mind, whereas a regulatory organization has the best interest of the client/consumer in mind.  Both lend credentials to distinguish adequate training in helpers.

A helper, typically with less than two years training, is referred to as a natural helper, as they are relying on their natural abilities to have empathy and support. A skilled helper is a masters-level or higher trained therapist with the natural helping abilities, and typically is a member of a professional and/or regulatory body. However, an often missed category is a trained helper that doesn’t have the natural abilities to connect and form a relationship.

And this is where the 40-30-15 rule comes in.

There is such a focus on the technique and skill level of a helper, when only 15% of the effectiveness is dependent on their skill. Which is not to undermine its importance, you gain that 15% when the helper is skilled.

Therapy success has two large portions: the client (40%) – meaning their motivation and life influences; and the relationship (30%) between helper and client. The remaining 30% is a combination of hope (15%) and expectations (15%) that the helper sets.

A skilled helper, in theory, should be able to employ the relationship (30%), skill (15%) and hope (15%); which is 60% of the process, the rest (40%) is up to the client.

A natural helper, again in theory, should be able to employ the relationship (30%) and hope (15%); which is 45% of the process, bringing about as much to the process as the client (40%).

A trained helper without natural abilities should be able to employ the skill (15%) and hope (15%); which is 30% of the process, lacking the relationship. The client, in this scenario, brings more to the table (40%) than the helper.

With that, what makes counselling work? Ensuring that you as a client are ready for counselling and that you have found a naturally skilled helper that you are willing to work and build relationship with.

10 August 2015

10 ways to remain connected to your teen

This list comes from Psychology Today, and recommend going there for more depth.

  1. Bridge Differences with Interest
  2. Use Non-Evaluative Correction
  3. Stick to Specifics
  4. Value Arguments as Communication
  5. Welcome Adolescent Friends
  6. Provide Family Structure
  7. Stay Accessible for Listening
  8. Express Appreciation
  9. Support Adult Friendships
  10. Offer Positive Choice Points

05 August 2015

Six exercises for happiness

The following list comes from Shawn Achor's interview with CBC. Also check out his TED talk on Happiness.

1. Gratitude Exercises. Write down three things you're grateful for that occurred over the last 24 hours. They don't have to be profound. It could be a really good cup of coffee or the warmth of a sunny day.
2. The Doubler. Take one positive experience from the past 24 hours and spend two minutes writing down every detail about that experience. As you remember it, your brain labels it as meaningful and deepens the imprint.
3. The Fun Fifteen. Do 15 minutes of a fun cardio activity, like gardening or walking the dog, every day. The effects of daily cardio can be as effective as taking an antidepressant.
4. Meditation. Every day take two minutes to stop whatever you're doing and concentrate on breathing. Even a short mindful break can result in a calmer, happier you.
5. Conscious act of kindness. At the start of every day, send a short email or text praising someone you know. Our brains become addicted to feeling good by making others feel good.
6. Deepen Social Connections. Spend time with family and friends. Our social connections are one of the best predictors for success and health, and even life expectancy.

23 July 2015

Birth Month correlates with Overall Health

These are just correlations, but very interesting. Maybe it supports the Astrology movement after all?

21 July 2015

The positive & negative impacts on psychotherapists and their families

This is a great read for anyone considering entering the helping profession, especially psychotherapists (Master's level Counsellors, Therapists, Marriage & Family Therapists etc.). The paper is written by Ofer Zur and outlines the dangers and negative impacts on psychotherapists and their families; also highlighting the positives (but that list is not as long).

Negative Impacts:

1. Interpretation
2. Questioning and Inquiry
3. Emotional Draining
4. Distancing
5. Total and Uncritical Understanding
6. Labeling and Diagnosing
7. Demeaning Tales
8. Jealousy
9. Creating a Crisis
10. Anonymity and Confidentiality
11. The Home Office
12. Resistance in Therapy

Positive Impacts:

1. Knowledge
2. Training In and Practice
3. Psychologically Minded
4. Cautious Spontaneity
5. Positive Tales
6. Observing the Compassionate Therapist at Work

16 July 2015

The impact of stress and what to do about it

A couple of years ago when my wife was picking me up from a meeting, I broke my foot just by pivoting on a flat surface. It’s actually quite embarrassing. However, at this point in my life I was starting my second year of graduate school, my hours at work were in limbo, and I just came from a meeting where I was voted onto the board. I understand now, looking back, that I was under a lot of stress and was vulnerable to injury.

Stress is a word that receives a lot of attention, and usually negatively. People often say exhaustedly “I’m so stressed,” with their face in their palms, and then wonder what life would be like stress-free.

Actually, it doesn’t matter if the stress is positive, such as a wedding or buying a house; or negative like a deadline. To the body, stress is stress, even if it is expected. Stress is cumulative, a build up of the everyday wear and tear.

As stress builds up, there are some common symptoms: headaches, flushed face, stiff neck, difficulty breathing, stomach pangs, shaky legs, feet & hands, cramps, and pounding heart, just to name a few. When these symptoms hit, there is a loss in energy, increase vulnerability to illness and injury, and is often referred to as burn out, or rust out. It’s important to realize that burn out, while similar, it is also unique.

A common stress problem solving thought is to ‘remove’ the stressor. But if the stress is originating from parenting, work, relationships, health, and life milestones (i.e. graduation, marriage) – these are typically out of an individual’s control, and can’t be removed. There may be little things that contribute to the cumulative stress that can be lessened, but for the most part, it is best to change priorities and find activities that help you recharge and rejuvenate.

Activities that recharge and rejuvenate don’t need to be elaborate or lengthy; they can be little and short. Just a couple of ideas: going for a walk, reading a book, yoga, meditation, mindfulness, gaming (video or board), taking a bath, and the list could go on because each of us has different ways of recharging. Get creative; make it a priority to take care of yourself. Sometimes you may need to accommodate, such as going on a walk with your children or doing a yoga exercise with them.

But what is actually the most simplistic, yet shocking way, of dealing with stress, is changing our perception of stress. Changing it from being this yucky-negative thing to realizing and understanding that stress is something that everyone goes through, that we can learn from it and it helps us build our character. It is possible to have successful stressful situations.

In the end, research has shown that if we view stress through a positive perception, that alone can increase longevity, not to mention increase our overall wellbeing and health.

30 June 2015

Does Beauty Have An Age In The Media?

Maybe the better question is does sex appeal have an age? Or does the media, particular media targeted towards males have an ideal age for attractiveness? Well, either way, the answer is 26... explained below.

I went to a list website and found FHM's Top 100 list, only grabbing the top 10 ages from the past ten years. (Acknowledged shortfall is that this isn't able to be generalized because it is the FHM's readership).

I went back ten years, 2014 to 2005, and tried to see if beauty has an age.

Here are the year by year findings:

Average 24.2 Top 5 24.4 Bottom 5      24
Average 24.7 Top 5 24.2 Bottom 5     25.2
Average 25.1 Top 5 25.6 Bottom 5     24.6
Average 24.2 Top 5 23.2 Bottom 5     25.2
Average 26.8 Top 5 25.6 Bottom 5       28
Average 26.1 Top 5 25.6 Bottom 5     26.6
Average 27.3 Top 5 25.2 Bottom 5     29.4
Average 25.8 Top 5 25.2 Bottom 5     26.4
Average 26.7 Top 5 27.6 Bottom 5     25.8
Average 28.2 Top 5 25.8 Bottom 5     30.6

The average age of the Top 10 is 26.1; The average age of the Top 5 of the Top 10 is 25.2; and the average age of the Bottom 5 of the Top 10 is 26.9.

Extra Thoughts:
In all the years but 2005, 2007, & 2013; the Bottom 5 on average were older than the Top 5.

What is also interesting, is that the average age of the Top 10 seems to be "ageing" - maybe this is ageing with the readership.

I also noted that some of the female names correlated with recent roles they were cast in; and also if an album/music video came out that year. Such as Kiera Knightly topping the charts in 2006 (She was in Pirates of the Caribbean and Pride & Prejudize); and Megan Fox in 2008 (She was in Transformers); just to name a few.

21 June 2015

Father's Day: 7 Things Amazing Dads Do

This article was originally written in the Meridan Magazine, by Jonathan Decker.

  1. Be A Good Man
  2. Love/Respect Their Mother
  3. Work Hard, But Make Regular Time For Your Children
  4. Share Your Interests, But Encourage Your Kids In Theirs
  5. Influence Instead of Control
  6. Openly Express Affection
  7. Don't Lose Your Playful Side

09 June 2015

Supporting a child or teen with mental health concerns

Kelty Mental Health has pieced together these two great videos to help families understand what to do, where to start and what to expect when supporting their child/teen with mental health concerns.

19 May 2015

Using the Mass Effect Trilogy in Psychotherapy

I'll admit that I am a bit of a late joiner to the Mass Effect trilogy, especially since the first game was released in 2007, and the third was released in 2012. But I am sold, and am a huge fan of the game. I actually enjoyed the game so much, that I feel that it can be used as a therapeutic intervention.

If you Google Mass Effect Counselling, or Mass Effect Therapy you will find this in game clip. But I do believe Mass Effect can be used as a part of therapy to help understand social situations and impacts of decisions.

I have started using it with teenage males that are struggling to understand their social impacts, and the hope that using a video game that is appealing will allow them to role play what it is like to interact in different ways socially.

Theoretical Background
The idea spurred from research that is being conducted out of the University of Victoria, by Kathy Sanford. They are finding that there is an upside to playing video games. That is, in game social skills: i.e. trying new roles, working together as a team; are spilling out into the real world.

Jane McGonigal is the founder of Gameful, and gave a powerful TED Talk about how gamers are solving problems in the digital world and believes that those skills can be harnessed in the real world.

BioWare's Mass Effect trilogy, while it is a mix Role-Playing Game (RPG) and First Person Shooter (FPS), is a game about decisions that impact the story and even the outcome of the game (like a create your own adventure book). The game provides a Good vs Evil or Bad Cop vs Good Cop experience in decisions, choices and conversations via it's Paragon vs Renegade scale. Notice in this review how different conversation choices led to different outcomes (watch for 30 seconds). Such decisions also impact loyalty with squad members, romance, and the game experience.

First, the Empathy Quotient, a 60 question questionnaire, is used as a pre-test to help determine where clients are at presently (Yes I am aware that it was designed to "[assess] the level of social impairment in certain disorders like Autism." But it is also "suitable for use as a casual measure of temperamental empathy by and for the general population.").

Second, play the Mass Effect trilogy. (But Josh, the game is rated M, for Mature, which is for ages 17+. That is true, but if your child/teen plays Borderlands, Call of Duty, Battlefield, and/or Grand Theft Auto V; Mass Effect is suitable). If the rating is questionable, consider reading the reviews on www.commonsensemedia.org for more information. Clients are encouraged to play a Paragon role, if not, notice the outcomes of playing as a Renegade vs Paragon.

Third, the Empathy Quotient is used again as a post test.

The hope is that by having a slowed down conversation process where players can choose how to respond and decision making, that those skills will spill over to the real world. That noticing how Renegade and Paragon actions influence relationships, game play and outcomes will impact real world relationships. The measurable outcome is a higher score in the post-test than the pre-test.

The intervention is in it's infancy, but I am hopeful.

21 April 2015

10 Signs of Burnout

The following comes from Inc.com, recommend reading their article for more depth.

  1. Perpetual Exhaustion
  2. Unhealthy Lifestyle Choices
  3. Inability to Stop Thinking About Work
  4. Stress Related Health Problems
  5. Difficulty Sleeping
  6. Loss of Enjoyment in Daily Activities
  7. Increased Irritability at Home or Work
  8. Persistent Cynicism at Work
  9. Frequently Missing Work
  10. Poor Job Performance

16 April 2015

An Empirically-Supported Marriage

A blogger from Scientific America came up with an empirically supported marriage, and made the following recommendations:

#1: On a daily basis, think about what your spouse does that you value, and verbally express your gratitude.

#2: Everyone fights occasionally, and what determines whether couples stay together isn’t whether they fight, but rather how they fight. When disagreements arise, listen to your partner, acknowledge the role you had in the conflict, focus on specific behaviors rather than criticizing your partner’s personality, and share concerns in a polite, empathetic manner. Respect each other in good times and bad.

#3: Exciting activities that increase your heart rate will let you benefit from misattribution of arousal. So for the sake of your relationship continue traveling, exploring, mud-running, moving cross-country, and taking risks — as a team.

#4: Although it’s good to do things together, it’s also important to support each other’s personal freedom and autonomy. Help your partner continue to be that individual by respecting their personal goals and interests.

14 April 2015

Five ideas to calm your mind before sleeping

The following five ideas came from a Globe & Mail article for trying to calm your mind before going to sleep:

  1. Jot it down
  2. Clear your head
  3. Imagine it away
  4. Do a reality check
  5. Get out of bed
It's important to remember that it is trail and error to see what will work for you. Also, give it more than one night to see if it is effective for you, before trying something else.

12 April 2015

CBC Marketplace's Brain Training: Mind Games #braintraining #dementia

This is a very fascinating episode as they tackle and uncover the market that is forming around increasing cognitive functioning, and in delaying dementia (not to mention my mom was in this episode, she's in the 3rd portion of it).

11 April 2015

04 April 2015

Paradox in life, man is nothing, yet everything to God #LDS #Mormon #Easter

The following is a talk I gave at Church on April 20, 2014 during the Easter Season, it also contains LDS beliefs and teachings, so if this is something you don't agree with, read at your own risk.


I hope that as I speak today, it helps create an environment that the Spirit can be present. Because what I have to say to you may not be as important as what the Spirit needs to say to you. It’s what you hear in your mind and in your heart, not from this pulpit, that is important.

Astronomy Events This Week
There has been a YouTube video that has been circulating around called “What If Money Was No Object.” The premise being that we should chase our dreams and become the best at what we like.

Now whether or not you agree with the premise is not the point, what it is for me is that if I could have chosen any career or decided to do anything in the world, training wise, I would have been an Astronomer.

So, for the Astronomer inside of me, this week has been an exciting week for me.  First there was the Lunar Eclipse that happened Tuesday morning (which I forgot to set an alarm for, and couldn’t stay awake for, but the pictures from NASA and the local Astronomers at the College have been riveting); and then on Friday a planet was discovered that was earth sized, in the habitable zone (a zone where a planet is just far enough from a star to have liquid water, any closer it would be too hot, any further it would be too cold).

This latter event, the discovery of an earth like planet, rings true the verses found in Moses, when Moses is asking the Lord why He made this earth for us. The Lord answered (Moses 1:31-33):

“…For mine own purpose have I made these things. Here is wisdom and it remaineth in me.
“And by the word of my power, have I created them…
“And worlds without number have I created; and I also created them for mine own purpose…”

But we do know why the Lord created all these things, as the Lord says later “For behold this is my work and my glory, to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man” (v. 39)

Now, whereas the earlier event, the eclipse, reminds me of Alma’s response to Korihor, when Korihor is asking, or even teasing Alma to give him a sign that there is a god. Alma responds by saying (Alma 30:44):

“…All things denote there is a God; yea, even the earth, and all things that are upon the face of it, yea, and its motion, yea, and also all the planets which move in their regular form do witness that there is a Supreme Creator.”

Looking to the Heavens
It’s always fascinating to me how the events of this week, the eclipse and the earth like planet, seem to bring our planet earth together.

Astronomy has also seemed to play a key role in the scriptures.

When we first open the Holy Bible in Genesis 1, we read of the creation: calling the light day and the darkness night (v. 5); the organizing of other materials to create a planet (v.9-12); and the greater light (our closest star, the sun) and lesser light (the moon) and also the stars (v. 16).

In Helaman we read of Samuel the Lamanite, who prophesied that a sign of Jesus’ birth would be “a new star… such as one ye never have beheld” (Helaman 14:5).
When Jesus was born, “a new star did appear” (3 Nephi 1:21) and was seen in the America’s, and throughout the world. This is the same star that the wise men, who brought the three gifts to Jesus, saw and “rejoiced with exceeding great joy” “when they saw the star” (Matthew 2:10).

Even Joseph Smith, at least as described in a Truman G. Madsen lecture (T. Madsen, Joseph Smith the Prophet, 2003), would look up to the sky and see the order of the heavens as he gazed at the stars.

Zooming Out/Out of this World
And sometimes, this wonder of the heavens, the vastness of the solar system, the galaxy and the universe, is a great mindfulness or visualization exercise that I like to do with my clients at work. And that is to zoom out of this world.

But first, it is appropriate to understand, or even have respect for the numbers that are used to describe space. We tend to just see extra zeros between thousands, millions, and billions, and may not grasp the magnitude of difference between them.

So for example, if I was really committed to counting to a billion, and would spend 16 hours a day counting, allowing for eight hours of sleep. And if I counted at the rate of one number per second, it would take me about 16 minutes to get to a thousand. I would reach a million after just two weeks. I would reach a billion, again counting a number per second for 16 hours a day, in about 50 years.

This is why Astronomers have started measuring with arbitrary terms, such as an Astronomical Unit (the distance from the Sun to Earth, which is about 150M kilometers), or light years (the measurement of how far light travels in a year, which is about 9.5 trillion kilometers), to help the math be easier.

So as we zoom out from our planet. We first stop off at the moon (about 385 thousand kilometers away). And then we go until the Earth begins to look like a star in the sky, which is when we reach Saturn, just a mere 1.3 billion kilometers from us (28 times the distance between Earth and the Sun). And as we zoom out more to the nearest star, Proxima Centauri, which is just over 4 light years away, we see our Sun as a small star in the distance. And as we move to the neighbouring galaxy (not an orbiting one) Andromedia, it is 2.5M light years away from us. So our Milky Way Galaxy is just a speck in that galaxy.

The further away we get the smaller or more insignificant we begin to feel (Which insignificant isn’t the point of the mindfulness exercise, because that would not be a good therapy session to have people leaving in a more depressed state. The exercise is to try to put life in perspective and a sense of humility).

Which brings us to the great paradox in life, and President Uchtdorf addresses so eloquently, he says (November 2011, Ensign):

“This is [the] paradox of man: compared to God, man is nothing; yet we are everything to God. While against the backdrop of infinite creation we may appear to be nothing, we have a spark of eternal fire burning within our breast. We have the incomprehensible promise of exaltation…within our grasp. And it is God’s great desire to help us reach it.”

How important are we to God?
So how important are we to God? We are important enough to have this world created for us as a part of the Plan of Salvation.

We are so important to our Heavenly Father that he knows us by name. Sister Elaine S. Dalton (October 2005 General Conference) said:

“Did you know that Heavenly Father knows you personally—by name? The scriptures teach us that this is true. When Enos went into the woods to pray, he recorded, ‘There came a voice unto me, saying: Enos, thy sins are forgiven thee, and thou shalt be blessed.’ Moses not only prayed but also talked to God face-to-face, and God said to Moses, ‘I have a work for thee, Moses, my son.’  …In Doctrine and Covenants, section 25, Emma Smith is given a blessing for her comfort and guidance in life. The Lord begins this blessing by saying, ‘Hearken unto the voice of the Lord your God, while I speak unto you, Emma Smith, my daughter.’”

Elder Neal A. Maxwell (May 2004 Ensign) said:

“I testify to you that God has known you individually … for a long, long time. He has loved you for a long, long time. He not only knows the names of all the stars; He knows your names and all your heartaches and your joys!”
God loves us so much, “that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved” (John 3:16-17).

Jesus loved us so much that he performed the perfect atonement.

Easter Season
And it is during this Easter Season, which by the way is dependent on Astronomy and isn’t a set date, that we remember the bleeding in Gethsemane; commemorate his crucifixion; celebrate His resurrection; testify “that He lives!” (Doctrine and Covenants 76:25); and sing that “He is risen” (Hymn 199).

Season of New, Spring, Change, Fresh
It is in this season, the spring season, where we can start new, by making changes in our life. And by taking the sacrament and renewing our covenants. President Uchtdorf shared (October 2010 General Conference):

“Let us simplify our lives a little. Let us make the changes necessary to refocus our lives on the sublime beauty of the simple, humble path of Christian discipleship—the path that leads always toward a life of meaning, gladness, and peace.”

So that as we go down the path of Christian discipleship and get to the other side of the veil, the God who is the master of the Universe, will call us by name and say “Well done, thou good and faithful servant… enter into the joy of thy Lord” (Matthew 25:21).

21 March 2015

The Importance of Home Economics in 2015 #WHED2015

March 21 is designated as World Home Economics day by the International Federation of Home Economics. You may have seen home economics related hashtags on social media as the day was celebrated around the world.

For most of us, when we hear ‘Home Economics’ we think of cooking, sewing and family classes in school. But Home Economics, or Human Ecology, Family Studies, Consumer Sciences or some other name in your province or territory; has grown to meet the present day needs of consumers.

The study of home sciences has been around for over a century, and started as basic outreach programs that taught about food, textile and family sciences to rural communities. As the demand for home sciences increased, this is where we saw the beginning of and growth in home economics, the basic skills for life; because Home Economics focuses on the health of the individual, family, and the community.

Home Economics is not new, there were home economics conferences held as early as 1899 in Lake Placid, to discuss present home science needs, and the future of mental, moral, and physical health in the family.

The best examples I can think of early Home Economists in Canada are Fannie Twiss and Ruth Binnie. They both saw a need to reach rural communities in Saskatchewan, travelling over one thousand miles a month, teaching their household sciences program, which included textiles, nutrition, and also a hot lunch. The main goal was to teach children and youth to sew, and make a hot meal for dinner when they grew up.

While home economics has evolved, and its name has changed, to primarily human ecology in Canada, it still focuses on improving and empowering the wellbeing and quality of life for communities, families, and individuals.

Home economics is informed by the human ecologoical model. At the core is humans, or individuals, and the natural environment, human constructed environment, and the human behaviour environment surrounding the core. Individuals are seen through this lens, and interventions are done accordingly.

Home economics isn’t just about what is trendy. For example, instead of focusing on what the latest diet is, Home Economics is science focused, which has been an anchor throughout these health trends, that a healthy nutritional diet and balanced lifestyle helps maintain wellbeing.

In 2015, Home Economics is needed more than ever, with rapidly increasing consumer debt, individual nutrition concerns, obesity, ever changing family dynamics and roles; individuals, families and communities need information and interventions at the individual, family, community and government level that will support them and help  them grow and adapt to an ever changing  world.

12 March 2015

Homemade Baby Food - Simplified #Parenting #PHEc

By Emily Richards B.Sc., P.H.Ec.

New moms and dads can navigate aisles of prepared food when baby is ready for solids. However more parents now recognize the nutritional and economic benefits of homemade baby food.

In 2014, Health Canada, Dietitians of Canada, the Canadian Pediatric Society and the Breastfeeding Committee for Canada simplified guidelines for feeding infants and young children aged 6 to 24 months. 

Revised Recommendations for Introducing Foods to Baby

In brief, the new advice is to “Start Lumpy” and “Start with iron-rich solid foods at about 6 months of age − instead of previous recommendations of 4 months. Begin with well-cooked minced, mashed or shredded meat or meat alternatives (such as cooked, mashed beans or lentils, eggs) and iron-fortified infant cereals. After iron-rich foods, introduce vegetables, fruit, grains and milk products such as cheese and yogurt in a variety of textures. Delay introduction of cow’s milk until 9 to 12 months of age and limit intake to 750 mL/day. Avoid honey until at least one year of age.” More at: http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fn-an/nutrition/infant-nourisson/index-eng.php

Simple Tips for Making Baby Food

Ø Buy produce in season for best selection and price. Check Foodland Ontario for availability charts: http://www.ontario.ca/foodland/availability-guide
Ø Introduce one fruit or vegetable at a time to monitor reaction. Babies may only enjoy a few teaspoons initially, so prep time is minimal;
Ø Keep it simple − banana or hard cooked egg can be mashed with a fork;
Ø Steam, boil or microwave fruits and veggies until tender. Purée or mash to desired
consistency by adding a bit of the nutrient-rich cooking water;
Ø Avoid adding salt, sweeteners and spices. Avoid rare and processed meats such as deli meats;
Ø No need for fancy equipment. Use a blender or sieve to puree, knives to chop and fingers to shred.
Ø Use clean ice cube trays or small containers to freeze purées to keep variety on hand;
Ø Meals prepared for the rest of the family are easily adapted for baby.

Emily Richards, P.H.Ec., is a Guelph-based Professional Home Economist, cookbook author and member of the Ontario Home Economics Association.

Ontario Home Economics Association (OHEA), a self-regulated body of Professional Home Economists, promotes high professional standards among its members so that they may assist families and individuals to achieve and maintain a desirable quality of life. For further information, please contact: Ontario Home Economics Association. 1225 Meadowview Rd., RR #2 Omemee, ON   K0L 2W0    Tel/Fax: 705-799-2081    Email: info@ohea.on.ca    Website: www.ohea.on.ca

09 March 2015

Kimberley BC is the Best City to Raise a Family

In early April 2013 the Reader’s Digest released a list of the Top 42 Canadian Cities to raise a family in based on these categories: Transit, Median Age, Infant Mortality, Maternity Leave, Daycare, Cost of Food, Mom Groups, Intimate Partner Violence, Child & Youth victims of crimes, Libraries, and Park Space. Of course Kimberley was not on the list because it only looked at provincial capitals and centres with more than 80,000 people. The top five communities were: Windsor, Calgary, Guelph, Ottawa and Sherbrooke. So with all due respect to these concrete urban centres let’s take a look at why Kimberley is the best city to raise a family.

Kimberley, BC

Population: 6,652

Median Age:  46.3. This number is getting lower as young families are moving in, plus there were five kindergarten classes this school year.

Infant Mortality: 4.9 per 1000 live births in the East Kootenay’s. According to Statistics Canada, this is on par with Canada, but just slightly higher than the BC rate of 4.2.

Daycare: There are several great daycare facilities in Kimberley, from First Steps and Second Steps daycare, to Pre-K programs at the Independent School & Gymnastics, to aftercare programs offered at schools, plus several at home providers.

Education: There are two elementary schools, one middle school, one high school, and a not-for-profit school (grades K-9). There are great teachers and support workers at each of the schools.  The College of the Rockies has a satellite campus providing continuing education courses. Plus there are transition programs from Pre-K/Daycare into Kindergarten such as Ready, Set, Learn.

Mom Groups: For such a small community there are a lot of mom support groups. My favourite is Strong Start that offers free supper to families with children under five on Wednesday’s. There are other programs called Baby Goose, Bellies to Babies, Alphabet Soup, Nobody’s Perfect Parenting and Roots of Empathy. Go to cbal.org/Kimberley to learn more about these groups.

Transit: There may not be a scheduled BC Transit service, but there is an affordable door to door bus service. There are also plenty of friendly neighbours who could give you a ride. My neighbour has always been able to find lifts up to the ski hill and around town when their car was unavailable.

Cost of Food: Compared to larger urban centres the overall price of a food basket is more expensive. But pay attention to the flyers, there are some great deals in there. Also, if you have a child under the age of five you qualify for the monthly Salvation Army Good Food Basket that has about a value of $40 in groceries but only costs $10.

Crime: Every community has crime; it would be a lie to say a community is crime free. But in all seriousness, it is more likely that my neighbour’s three-year old son breaks in to play with toys than any other kind of crime. Kimberley has a great RCMP detachment that provides weekly updates.

Park Space: All of Kimberley is a park. There are a couple of designated park spaces for play structures. But when you consider the Rails to Trails, the Lions Trails, the Marysville Falls and the Kimberley Nature Park; there are many outdoor locations for hiking, biking, swimming, running, walking and playing!

Libraries: There is one public library for every 6,652nd person in Kimberley.  In Toronto the ratio is one public library to every 26,684th person.  Windsor is one to 21,089. Ottawa is one to 25,982. Guelph is one to 28,219. And in Calgary there is one for every 60,945th person.

Hospital: Kimberley does not have a hospital, but the East Kootenay Regional Hospital is only a quick 20 minutes away and received a rating of ‘B’ on CBC’s Rate My Hospital. There is a Health Centre, which I have learned can stabilize severe peanut allergy reactions.

Family Doctors: When my family moved here we were able to get a family doctor on our first visit to the clinic despite still having out of province medical cards. This is completely different from experiences we had in different cities where we relied on walk-in clinics.

Health: In the January 2013 Health Profile of the East Kootenay’s it found that there is a higher perceived quality of health, and mental health than the average of BC. The perceived life stress is lower than the average of BC. This is probably correlated to the active outdoor lifestyle and the laid back personality.

Kimberley is the best city in Canada to raise a family, but let’s keep it our little secret.


This was originally published in GO Kimberley, Summer 2013