Good Music, Brighter Children Blog

Lemon Ice Cream

This is an amazing ice cream—light, refreshing and delicious! It is very simple to make and takes about 10 minutes to prepare and another 20 minutes in the ice cream freezer. I got this recipe from my friend, Cindy Segawa 30 years ago.



3 Lemons (juice only)

3 Oranges (juice only)

3 Bananas—mashed

2 quarts Half & Half

3 cups sugar



Squeeze the oranges and lemons.

Combine the juice of the oranges and the lemons and the mashed bananas, the Half & Half and the sugar in a blender.

Blend until smooth.

Put in an ice cream maker and freeze as directed.


Some Tips for you and your Kids: 

1. Involve your kids–they can squeeze the lemons and the oranges and they can mash the bananas. 

2. Purchase one of the old fashioned ice cream makers–the ones that require ice and rock salt. You can find these at Sears or J.C. Penny. First, the ice cream turns out better and second your kids can watch the whole process.  I have a Hamilton Beach and an Aroma brand–love them both!

3.  The Half & Half–you can purchase this at Costco under the organic brand: Horizons

4. Sugar–use the organic sugar found at Costco

5. One more thing-store-bought ice cream is nothing more than synthetic chemicals. Did you know that there are so many synthetic ingredients in ice cream that by law the ice cream makers are not required to put all the ingredients on the label?  If they did, there would not be any room for any other words.  I’m serious. Dump that stuff and start making your own–plus it is a fun family tradition! 

Tomorrow I will be posting my recipe for chocolate chip cookies–they go amazingly well with this ice cream.


Sharlene 2014

If you are a parent, I think you will agree—most parents want to be a lot of different things to their children—their protector, their provider, their example, their hero, their counselor, their friend, their confidante—all qualities that add up to…a parent and parenting.

 Traditions018As a parent, what was really important to me was to build a strong and loving relationship with each one of my sons. As a result, I was always looking for ideas that would help and assist me with that goal. Mark and I actually did several things to accomplish this, but today, I want to share with you one idea we used to build a close and caring relationship with our sons. It became a tradition in our home. It is fun, your kids will love it, and it will be the starting point of constructing an amazing bond between you and your child. Traditions010

Date Nights

 In 1980 Mark and I started the tradition of taking each of our sons on a monthly “Date Night.” At the beginning of each month we sat down with the boys and marked four dates on the calendar—one date night for each child. Most the time we tried to make it a date with both parents, but there were months when only one parent would go with the child. We always planned these dates the first couple of days in the month so they were “cast in stone;” thereby avoiding a conflict and interference of other activities.

 Traditions013Mark and I kept the date nights simple, yet fun. When they were young we took them to the park (to feed the ducks); to a bookstore; to the beach; a farm, swimming, fishing, the zoo, sleigh-riding, a music activity, a cooking night, or a special visit to the library. And every date night included food—lunch, dinner or some special treat like ice cream, popcorn, etc.


Traditions011As they got older the venue of the date nights changed—now they were interested in golfing, sporting events, music concerts, plays and other activities. We tried to choose activities that would allow for interaction and not places like Disneyland where you are mindlessly going from one ride to another or movies where you sit mute in a theater. Those activities were saved for later.

 But no matter where we took them, our goals were the same—alone time with each son; time to interact one-on-one and have a good time—separate from their other siblings.


Here are some tips to making it a perfect outing:

**Make date nights interactive: We asked a lot of open-ended questions about school, sports, the music they were learning and the music they liked, their friends, their concerns, hopes and dreams, etc. We wanted them to talk–a lot!

**Avoid criticism or preaching and stay away from topics that could evoke hurt feelings or anger.

**Focus on having fun, laughing together, enjoying one another’s company and communicating.



Traditions012We also made some mistakes with date nights. When our oldest son Jason was four we took him to see the Vienna Boys Choir. We erroneously thought that since they were young boys singing (and Jason loved to sing) that he would enjoy seeing this choir. Wrong, wrong, wrong! We barely lasted until intermission and the only redeeming part of that date night was taking him to McDonald’s (his choice) afterwards.

 However, “Date Nights,” paid off in other ways. The boys loved them, looked forward to them and even when they were teens, (and do not want to be seen with their parents) they still wanted to go and participate in these monthly rituals.

 For example, when Ryan was 16 he wanted to go hear David Helfgott play the piano at the Hollywood Bowl. If you are interested in the story of David Helfgott, read the book, Love You to Bits and Pieces: Life with David Helfgott. Ryan had seen the movie, “Shine” and wanted to see Helfgott up close and personal. So we went. It was actually a turning point for Ryan and his music. He was getting bored with practicing, but seeing Helfgott and understanding his life story and all he had to overcome, Ryan became inspired. From that point on he practiced with a vengeance until he left for college.


So, try it with your children. Set aside a day each month; mark it on your calendar; and decide together with each of your children what you are going to do. Leave your cell phones behind and focus entirely on your child. You will be amazed how this will begin to build a bond of trust and appreciation for one another and open the flood-gates of communication. Plus it speaks volumes to your child that you are willing to sacrifice your time to build a relationship with them.


(these are all pictures of our sons–Jason, Ryan, Brandon and Trevor when then were young–each one represents a date night we took them on. They are all grown now and taking their own kids on date nights–thus another family tradition has become a legacy for future generations!)

Sharlene 2014

Today I want to give some pointers on how to read my book Good Music Brighter Children. Over the past two months, people have asked me various questions so hopefully these ideas will help you to get the greatest benefit from the book.

I’m a practical person and I’ve written a practical book. It has entertainment-value, knowledge-enhancing value, and family-building value. Just for the record: it is a NOT a self-help book or a music book that is going to teach you how to play a musical instrument.

So, let’s discuss what you can expect when you read, Good Music Brighter Children...

 Question: In a nutshell, what is this book about?

 Good Music Brighter ChildrenGood Music Brighter Children is a book that will teach anyone how to build a bigger, better brain using music.  If you are a parent, it will give you the A-B-C’s on how to introduce music to your kids and how music will impact your life and your child’s life in countless ways.

This book includes stories, studies, easy ideas, and numerous suggestions on how to introduce you and your child to music as well as the reasons why you want music a part of your family. It is a book right from my heart because I’ve lived and experienced every chapter over the past 30 years in some way or another.


Question: Who is your target audience?

 Answer: I wrote it mainly with parents and educators in mind. Why? Because I’m a parent and an educator and I wanted to help both groups of people—which in my opinion is actually one group of people because parents ARE educators! However, the book is also written for anyone wanting to build a bigger, better brain.

Question: This is a big book—it’s a little overwhelming…

 Answer: Do not be intimidated by the size of the book—464 pages. It is really not that long. If you take away the 50 page “Resource Section,” the “Note” section and the Index—you have dropped the book by more than 100 pages—plus there are a lot of blank pages that the publisher “counts” as a page where there is no text.

Question: Why do you talk about so many studies?

 Answer: Studies need to be included because I’m establishing a foundation that what I’m saying about music just isn’t off the top of my head, or based on a story my neighbor told me, or something I read on the Internet.  It is necessary to base my assertions on definitive research. Why would you believe something if it is merely based on a charming little story?  Hence studies are included (along with many captivating anecdotal stories) and footnoted in the back of the book. Btw: If you don’t like studies, then don’t read the first two chapters.

Question: What is the best way to read this book—front to back? Or can I skip around?

 Answer: You do NOT have to read the book in any order nor do you have to read the entire book to understand the message of the book.  Nearly every chapter stands on its own.  You can skip around depending on your interests. Here is a breakdown of some of the chapters and possible interests:

**Music Research: If you are interested in music studies or you are writing a research paper on the brain-benefits of music, read Chapters 1 and 2.

 **Music & Kids: If you are looking for ideas on how to introduce music in your home and to your children then read “Part Two: Music in the Home.” It contains hundreds of ideas on how to accomplish this with ease.  

 **A Music Educator or Parent wanting music in the schools: If you are an educator or an advocate of music in the schools, you will need ammunition to help you in this process. I’ve included dozens of science-based studies and reasons why we need music in the schools. Read: Part Three: “A Need for Advocacy: Music Education in the Schools.”

 **A Parent with a learning disabled child: If you have a learning disabled child, an autistic child, a child with any physical disabilities, read chapter 8

 **A Parent wanting to support the arts community: If you want to support the music and arts community by taking your child to different concerts, musicals, ballets, etc., read chapter 10.

 **Becoming More Creative: One of my favorite chapters is chapter 9—it is all about creativity. I have a special interest in creativity so this chapter will help you to understand how music develops and enhances creativity and the different things you can do to help your child and yourself be more creative.

 **Starting an Orchestra: If you want to start an orchestra, read chapter 11. To my knowledge, there has never been a book written on the A-B-C’s of starting an orchestra. I started an orchestra and this chapter tells about my own personal experience and how you can start an orchestra in your school or community.

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 **Building A Parent/Child Relationship: Music is important, but building a relationship with your child is MOST important. As far as I am concerned, chapter 12 is the most important chapter of the book—and many people who have read the book agree. In fact, you can even read this chapter first.

**Resource Section: this section is invaluable! It is 50-pages chock full of musical information–composers and their “best” music for kids; music CDs and books, music to play while your kids are studying; unique music programs, music materials and music organizations, ideas to reinforce your child’s school experience with music and much, much more!

One last thing…

 When I began re-writing this book, I was well aware that people’s attention spans were going down the tubes and most people today have the attention span of a gnat (thank you technology!). Many people’s motto is: “If you can’t read it in 5 minutes, toss it.” I had also read that despite 250,000 books published each year, people are reading less because they get their information from sound bytes on the Internet (sad).

However, I still believe in parents. I still believe that most parents really want what is best for their children and will go to any length to see that their children have what it takes to succeed. If your goal is to help your child succeed in life and beyond, then you need to read this book. It will be one of the best decisions you make.

 The easiest way to purchase the book is to order it online at Amazon. Barnes & Noble and all other major and minor bookstores carry it—but it may need to be ordered.  It costs about $19—it’s cheaper than taking your family to lunch and definitely cheaper than the parking at Disneyland and has far greater and lasting benefits.

So, what are you waiting for? Get a copy and start reading!

Sharlene 2014

Sometimes the best medicine is laughter! In fact, I read that reading something funny every day actually keeps your immune system high thus keeping you more healthy.  So, here is something that will make you laugh. It is timely advice regarding eating, drinking and exercise (as if we needed anymore advice on these subjects!). The words are spoken from the mouth of a “famous” (or infamous) Chinese doctor. So sit back, enjoy and have a good laugh!

Question: Doctor, I’ve heard that cardiovascular exercise can prolong life? Is this true?

 Answer: Heart only good for so many beats, and that is it…Don’t waste on exercise. Everything wear out eventually. Speed up heart not make live longer; that like say you can extend life of car by driving faster. Want live longer? Take nap.


 Question: Should I cut down on meat and eat more fruits and vegetables?

 Answer: You must grasp logistical efficiencies. What does cow eat? Hay and corn. What are these? Vegetables. So, steak nothing more than efficient mechanism of delivering vegetables to system. Need grain? Eat chicken. Beef also good source of field grass (green leafy vegetable). And pork chop give 100% recommended daily allowance of vegetable products.

 Question: How can I calculate my body/fat ratio?

 Answer: If you have body and you have fat, ratio is one to one. If you have two bodies, ratio is two to two.

 Question: What are the advantages of participating in a regular exercise program?

 Answer: Cannot think of single one, sorry. My philosophy: No Pain…GOOD!


 Question: Aren’t fried foods bad for you?

 Answer: YOU NOT LISTEN!!! Food fried in vegetable oil. How getting more vegetables bad for you?

 Question: Will sit-ups help prevent me from getting a little soft around the middle?

 Answer: Definitely not! When you exercise muscle, it get bigger. You should only do sit-ups if want bigger stomach.

 Question: Is chocolate bad for me?

 Answer: You crazy? HELLO…Cocoa bean! Vegetable!!! Cocoa bean best feel-good food around!

 Question: Is swimming good for your figure?

 Answer: If swimming good for figure, explain whale.


 Question: Is getting in-shape important for my lifestyle?

 Answer: Hey! ‘Round’ is shape!


 So, there you go! I hope this has cleared up any misconceptions you may have had about food, exercise and dieting! And no, I do not know where this doctor practices medicine…(just in case you wanted to go to him).


Sharlene 2014






A couple of weeks ago, I discussed what are referred to as “Red Alert” ingredients found in skincare products. Today we are discussing what the  Environmental Working Group (EWG) considers “Yellow Alert” ingredients found in your cosmetic and skincare products. So, take out a sheet of yellow paper to put your “yellow alert” products on and grab your bundle of cosmetics and let our work begin!

 Some of the following five chemicals can create the formation of carcinogenic chemicals called nitrosamines and are considered harmful:

 1. Cocamide DEH

 2. Lauramide DEA

 3. Cocamide MEA

 4. Triethanolamine (TEA)

 5. Diethanolamine (DEA)


Here are other chemicals that are considered Yellow Alert:

 1.Mineral Oils: they coat the skin like plastic, so it cannot breathe. They slow down the skin’s natural function and cell development, resulting in premature aging. They can also be contaminated with PAH (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon) which can be carcinogenic. They can be found in mascara. It appears on the label reading, “Petroleum” or Liquid Paraffin.”

 2Parabens (methyl, ethyl, propyl, butyl, isobutyl): These are chemical preservatives that have been identified as estrogenic disruptive of normal hormone function. These will increase the risk of breast cancer.

3. Phthalates: cause a broad range of birth defects and lifelong reproductive impairment in lab animals. They are hormone-mimicking chemicals and have raised concern for increased breast cancer risk. They are often hidden under the term, “fragrance.” Dibutyl and diethylhexyl have been banned in Europe but not in the United States


 4. Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS), Sodium Lauryl Ether Sulfate (SLES). This is a foaming agent derived from coconut oil. (btw: coconut oil itself is wonderful, this is not).  It is found in a huge variety of skin care products including toothpaste, shampoo, bubble bath, soap. The EWG considers it to be a carcinogen. Others say it is prone to contamination by 1,4-dioxane.

 5. Polyethylene Glycol (PEG): PEG is a potential carcinogen that is used as a grease-dissolving cleaner and a thickener for skincare products. These chemicals are considered so toxic by the EWG that workers have to use protective clothing when handling these items. They can cause brain, liver and kidney malfunctions. Also, watch for any others in the glycol family: propylene glycol, isopropyl alcohol, butylenes glycol.


 6. Formaldehyde-Producing Preservatives: some preservatives are formaldehyde donors in that they lease small amounts of formaldehyde into the skin. Formaldehyde can cause many health issues including joint discomfort, chest pains, and chronic fatigue. Examples: hydantoin, imidazolidinyl urea, diazolidinyl urea

 7. Talc: found in baby products, underarm deodorants and cosmetic powder products. Talc contains a chemical that is similar to asbestos and can increase the risk of certain ovarian cancers


 8. Acrylates & Methacrylates: found in nail products, these products can cause contact dermatitis.

 9. Alcohol, Isopropyl (SD-40): This is a common additive in cosmetics. It is a drying agent that strips off the outer layers of skin, exposing you to bacteria and other toxins. It can also promote brown spots and aging.

 10. Tocopherol Acetate: it is a synthetic version of vitamin E and is a suspected carcinogen and causes dermatitis.

 11. Phenonip: a preservative that contains parabens

 12. Quaternayr Ammonium Compounds (Quats): They are used as preservatives and are the primary cause of contact dermatitis. They will listed as: benzalkonium chloride, cetrimonium bromide, quaternium-15, and quaternium 1-29

 13. Cationic Surfactants: Found in hair conditioners. Can make your hair dry and brittle after long-term use. They are allergenic and toxic. They are listed as: stearalkonium chloride, benzalkonium chloride, cetrimonium chloride, cetalkonium chloride and lauryl dimonium hydrolyzed collagen.

 14. Benzyl Alcohol: it is a petro-chemical that can be a severe eye irritant and respiratory system.


 15. Silicone Derived Emollients: coat the skin like plastic wrap and can accumulate in the liver and lymph nodes, which can promote tumor growth. They include: dimethicone, dimethicone copolyol and cyclomethicone.

 16. Carbomer 934, 940, 941, 961C: this is used as a stabilizer and thickener in creams, cosmetics, toothpastes and bath products. It is a known allergen that causes eye irritation.

 NOTE: If you are ever in doubt, go to this website:  It is from a company called Safe Cosmetics and you can go here and get the safety scoop on any product you are concerned about.

 You can also go to: and click on “Chemical Profiles.” You can check your air, water, home, and general environment for toxic concerns. You can see how your area stacks up toxicity-wise against every other area in the US.

Last, you can read about this and more in the book, “Gorgeously Green.”

Good luck!

Sharlene 2014

Book Curious GeorgeI love to read! I remember my kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Shelby reading to our class the classic tale of Curious George; that engaging little monkey who was always getting into trouble. In the third grade we studied American Indians and Mrs. Jensen read us a book about a little Navajo boy. In school, my favorite time of the day was when my teachers read to the class.  My summers were filled with reading dozens of books and I was one of the first in our neighborhood to join the yearly Summer Library Reading Program.

 On Sundays my father read to us from the funny papers and each year my mother bought all of us a new book for Christmas.

 Reading is one of those activities that takes you to places of the heart and mind and leaves you with a longing to return often. I think I’d rather read a book than eat a chocolate bar.

 I raised my sons to be readers and did this by reading to them every day until they left home for college. We were a read-aloud family. Both reading aloud and reading alone were important traditions in our home and one that reaped big rewards.

 When our first son Jason was born, I took books with me to the hospital and started reading to him almost immediately. The nurses thought I was loony. I didn’t care—I was starting a tradition.  My goal for reading to all my babies was the same: hear my voice; know that I love them; and introduce them to the wonderful world of books.

  Reading became a ritual in our home. We read books before school, after school, before bedtime, on trips, in the car and sometimes at the dinner table. We made weekly trips to the library (where we checked out at least 50 books at a time) and our favorite outings were spent at bookstores (it is sad that they are disappearing…)

Book Miss Nelson is MissingWhen our sons were young, their favorites like Curious George, Goodnight Moon, Where the Wild Things Are, Mr. & Mrs. Pig’s Evening OutThe Monkeys Tale, The Widow’s Broom, The Cut-Ups, Miss Nelson Is Missing, (and too many others to mention here) were read dozens of times. Later some of their favorites included books with more text than pictures like: James and the Giant Peach, The Half-a-Moon Inn, Inside My Feet: The Story of Giant, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and many others.  As they went into their teens, the reading became more sophisticated and now we discussed “great literature.”Book

 In the early years of reading, I noticed that each of my sons looked at different things on the pages of the books which later correlated to other interests they had.

For instance:

 Traditions004Jason was always captivated by the words on the pages and would point to the words and ask—“What does that word say?” Today he practices law; continues to love words, think in words, and is an excellent writer.

 Traditions003Ryan was fascinated with the illustrations and words. Today, he is working on his PhD in English and he is a talented artist. He still loves pictures, words and is an exceptional writer and has been published in numerous journals.

 Brandon was mesmerized by the expressions on each character’s face. He would ask, “Why do they look that way?” “Why are they looking mad? Sad? Angry? Happy?” Brandon has a degree in Film and Philosophy. He is a gentle soul; is always concerned about how people feel and is an avid reader and superb writer.Brandon

 Traditions005Trevor wanted to break down the parts of the book and talk about them. He loved a lot of different kinds of books including How Things Work, and books on science and the world. He has a business degree, reads a book a week and is an incredible writer. (For his birthday this year, his wife made him a cake in the shape of a book that said: “To My Bookworm”).

 All four boys continue to be avid readers and outstanding writers. Thankfully their wives love reading so the tradition of reading aloud to my grandchildren continues to yet another generation.

 Reading to childrenIn the past 30 years there have been many books written on the importance of reading aloud to your children each and every day. Here are just a few of the findings of what reading aloud each day to your children can do for them:

**Builds early readers, early talkers

**Increases vocabulary, spelling and writing

**Increases attention span

**Builds Imagination and creativity

**Stimulates questioning—the best way for a child to learn

**Builds a bond between the child and parent

So, what are you waiting for? Grab your child, grab a stack of books and begin reading! It will be the best tradition you will start in your home!Reading

 Reading Suggestion: The Read-Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease. This book was my “Bible” from 1980 on. It’s an incredible book that should stay on your nightstand and read every year until your children leave the nest. It includes reasons to read-aloud, how to read-aloud, and books to whet your child’s appetite. It is a MUST!

Book 2Enjoy!

Sharlene 2014

Once again, I want to focus my blog on something that may interest kids. Last week we talked about vibrations. Today I want to discuss sounds; how we hear sounds; sounds that mammals and birds make to communicate, and music that resembles sounds found in nature.

How We Hear Sounds:

Sounds travel by means of vibrations called sound waves in the air or the water. These sound waves travel into the ear canal and to the eardrum. The eardrum passes the vibrations into the inner ear or the cochlea. Inside the cochlea there are thousands of tiny hair cells. They change the vibrations into electrical signals that are sent to the brain through the hearing nerve. The brain tells you that you are hearing a sound and what that sound is.

  Because we have two ears we can hear sounds coming from both left and right ears which help us to determine which direction a sound is coming from.

Animals Hear Sounds

 Animals can also hear. Some animals can hear sounds that are too high-pitched or too low-pitched for us to hear. For instance, dogs and cats can hear sounds that are too high for us to hear.

Sharlene Blog047 Elephants communicate using sounds too low for us to hear, but strong enough for us to feel. If we put our hands on the ground where elephants are making noise, we can feel the vibrations of those sounds.  Elephants hear each other from miles away by keeping their ears wide open like the picture of this elephant.

 Have you ever wondered how snakes hear since they do not have ears? Well, snakes can feel vibrations in the ground. These vibrations travel through the snake’s bones and to it’s brain. This way the snake is able to find food and avoid danger.

 Dolphins use sounds of clicks and whistles to communicate with other dolphins. In the water, they can actually “see” the sounds that other dolphins make.

 Whales also use sounds to communicate. In fact, whales sing! Some of their songs have been recorded for us to hear and they almost sound human-like—like this Beluga whale singing on this YouTube video. It’s pretty funny to listen to and sounds like a kid playing a kazoo…

Activity: It’s summer. Pick a day and go on a nature walk near your neighborhood. Go early in the morning or later in the evening when it is cooler. Take a piece of paper and a pen and mark down all the sounds in nature that you hear. Listen carefully for unusual, soft, or interesting sounds. Try to guess what animal is making the sounds you are hearing. Take a long a camera and if possible take pictures of those animals/birds you are hearing.

 BirdWhat you will probably discover is that many of the sounds in nature can be used in music. Oftentimes, musicians will try to imitate sounds in nature like thunderstorms, mountain streams, or chirping birds. Many times musicians will connect the sound of an animal to a certain musical instrument.

 Good Music Brighter Children006For example, in “Peter and the Wolf,” different instruments of the orchestra imitated the sounds of the different animals. The duck is portrayed by the oboe, the cat by the clarinet, the bird by the flute and the wolf by the brass instruments.

 See how many sounds you can find and identify in nature. Draw pictures about your discoveries while listening to a recording of “Peter and the Wolf.”


Sharlene 2014

I’ve decided to add a category entitled, “Traditions.” I love traditions and I believe that family and traditions go hand-in-hand. But, I also believe that everyone–single or married–can establish meaningful traditions in their lives and in their homes. When Mark and I were raising our sons, traditions played a very important role. We incorporated traditions for every holiday and rite-of-passage. We borrowed traditions from my family, his family, from friends and even from magazines. And, the sharing of traditions between friends makes traditions even more meaningful.  So please share with me traditions that are special and unique to you and your family and I will blog about them–send pictures, too! Today let’s talk about the importance of traditions…

“There are no perfect families and there are no perfect relationships—just great moments,” says the late author and writer, Carol Ottesen.  And great moments can become great traditions.  Despite the message of TV’s reality shows—that there is only one winner—when combining family and traditions, everyone, including future generations become winners.

    Megan and Mikel Poulsen of Bremerton, Washington will never forget the green milk and pancakes their mother made for breakfast every year for St. Patrick’s Day. It was one of the many traditions celebrated in their home and they looked forward to the holiday with eager anticipation.

Family lullabyHeidi Fisher of Pierce City, Missouri fondly remembers a German lullaby her grandmother sang to her each night before going to sleep—a lullaby that had been passed down for three generations and now continues on with her nieces and nephews.

In order to keep their four children occupied and happy while taking road vacations, the Spencer family from Ft. Collins, Colorado traditionally plays “Beetle Bug” while in the car.

Whether it is a favorite family recipe, a special family song, a certain game played on vacations, or a bedtime story repeated night after night, traditions are laden with meaning and purpose.

   By definition, traditions are beliefs and practices enacted repeatedly from generation to generation and taught by face-to-face contact within small groups. Family researcher Lloyd J. Newell, PhD of Brigham Young University describes traditions as the “heart” of the family and the “core” of family life because they both sustain family members through life’s challenges and weave connections between generations.  From the simple to the elaborate, traditions keep families close by providing a solid foundation that helps to stabilize and organize family life and provide important life-sustaining memories.

   Judy Van WieFor over 30 years, Bernard and Judy Van Wie of Rancho Palos Verdes have strung twine for each of their three girls on the Christmas tree leading them to their “most meaningful gift.” “It has been a tradition in our home for as long as I can remember. And now that our children are grown, this tradition has been passed down to our grandchildren.” she says.

   Being single doesn’t stop Jeannette Peck of Bountiful, Utah from creating traditions in her home. “During the summers when I was growing up, it was a family ritual to pick fruit in nearby orchards. We brought bushels of fruit home and either bottled it or turned it into jams and jellies. I vividly remember the fun we had laughing and joking as we worked together around the kitchen table.” Today, Jeannette has over 30 fruit trees on her property and she uses the fruit to make dozens of jars of jams and jellies for family and friends.

   Everyone can implement traditions into their homes either through rituals that are handed down from generations past or borrowed from others. Creating traditions coinciding with holidays is an easy place to start.  For example, specific foods prepared at holiday time can quickly become favorites that can be served traditionally year after year.

Joanna Lyons of Rancho Palos Verdes, California started the tradition of making Rocky Road Bars for her family and now her daughter and sons make this same dessert for their families.rocky road bars-small

Along with food, holiday activities that are repeated year after year can also become meaningful traditions. Seeing the Nutcracker ballet or A Christmas Carol can become a yearly holiday outing. Barbecuing at the beach or breakfast in the canyons for the 4th of July, traveling yearly to a favorite vacation spot or having a weekly family game night can become essential traditions that strengthen family ties.

   Barbara WhiteTraditions create a sense of personal and family identity and can be the glue that holds and binds a family together in both good and bad times. When Barbara White, of Torrance, California was newly divorced, she found that it was the traditions from both her childhood and those she had created with her children that kept the family close during the transition time after her divorce.  When faced with problems I find that going back to my roots—my family and the tradition of love, compassion and caring—help me to see the solutions more clearly. It is my family and the traditions forged there that remind me who I am and what is eternally important. They provide both the anchor and the compass that gives me the footing and direction I need.”

    It seems that during uncertain times, it is the family that individuals turn to for solace and comfort and for finding solutions to seemingly insurmountable problems. Addressing the unrest in the world today and where to find solutions Thomas L. Friedman, Foreign Affairs columnist for The New York Times, believes that the home is the best place to start. About the only thing we do know for sure is where the cure has to start. It has to start in the home, the basic building block for any community or country. Nothing good will happen in your statehouse, or in your schoolhouse, if it does not start, and is not sustained, in your own house.”

 According to Newell, family traditions are vital to the family and hence have the power to lift the family out of the everyday and into a realm of meaning and purpose. “Traditions have the power to change and mold a family into a more functional unit. They are vital to families and individuals because they link the past with the present and thereby allow for continuity or change. Traditions have meaning not only because of what they represent now, but also because of what they represent of the past or presage for the future.”

 Summing up the life-sustaining power of traditions, Tevye from “Fiddler on the Roof concludes, “Without our traditions, life would be as shaky as a fiddler on the roof.”

Sharlene 2014

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