Britannia Beach Book Trailer

The Britannia Beach Series

Introducing my exciting new Young Adult series with HarperCollins/HarperImpulse

Put It Out There (July 1st, 2016: Digital, August 11th, 2016: Print)

What Are The Chances? (August 16th, 2016: Digital, October 20th, 2016: Print )

And Then What? (October 6th, 2016: Digital, December 15th, 2016: Print)

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Does police bashing prevent police brutality?

A friend of mine recently posted a link to a controversial article written by the wife of an RCMP officer. She examined the tendency for the public to automatically finger point and blame the police. She acknowledged that although there are few bad apples in the policing field, most members are working very hard to serve and protect and make it home alive at the end of the shift.

Many of the comments on her article were supportive. They respected that men and women in first responder professions risk their lives every day and that they are put in positions where their decisions or mistakes might have dire consequences. The author’s main point was that the public shouldn’t judge a situation that they know very little about, or automatically blame the police when they don’t know what led up to the decision that the officer made.

 The other side of the comments on her article ranged from people pointing out that police brutality exists, to extremely hostile, police-bashing, angry-at-the-man type sentiments. She eventually had to close the comments when individuals threatened her and wished that her police officer husband would beat her to death.

As I read through the progressively more disturbing comments, something occurred to me.

Regardless of your opinions about the police, we can all agree that there needs to be more accountability. I don’t mean holding a person or group accountable; I mean being personally accountable.

Whether we are bureaucrats, corporation heads, teachers, parents, or blue-collar workers we can all be more accountable for our behaviours and choices both the ones we make and the ones we don’t. This would include what we say or stay silent on, how we spend our money and time, our attitude, what we consider important, and whether we jump to blame or jump to find solutions.

We are all responsible to act the way we would if we knew everybody was watching, even when nobody is watching. We are all responsible to respect other people’s things, families, beliefs, and lifestyles as if they were our own. We are responsible to ensure the safety and well-being of our fellow humans, whether that means protecting the environment, speaking up against an injustice, or simply being honest and trustworthy.

Personal accountability is fairly simple: work hard to be a person others would admire; adhere to the law or run for office to change the law; admit when we make mistakes; accept the consequences when we slack, break a rule, or screw up; exercise our right to vote so the people we want representing us are elected; appreciate and value the people who are trained and willing to do the difficult or dirty jobs that we can’t or don’t want to do.

Everybody is where they are today because of the choices they made yesterday. If you commit a crime you will be treated like a criminal. That is the choice you made and it’s not a police officer’s fault that you made that choice. On the other hand, if you are in a position of authority and you abuse the privilege or power that has been entrusted in you, you shouldl lose that position of authority.

I’m glad there are men and women who are willing to be spit on, attacked, and threatened with weapons as their profession. Sure, some police officers are corrupt or lack integrity; some have been on the traumatizing and sometimes thankless job too long; some have personal problems that affect their judgement; and some abuse the authority they have been entrusted with. Most of them are individuals who are caring, responsible, brave, and calm in threatening situations.

If we cop bash, the type of young men and women who we need in policing will think twice about choosing that profession.

Instead of bashing, let’s all work on being accountable to ourselves first.

Sometimes the NECESSARY HELPFUL TRUTH tastes bad and is hard to swallow

 

There are two basic problems that occur in our communications with each other. One is that we said something we shouldn’t have said. The other is that we didn’t say something we should have said.

 

 

In elementary schools there are posters with THINK printed on them to remind children what they should consider before they speak. The T reminds us to ask ourselves whether what we are about to say is TRUE. If you spread a rumour, lie, or share an inaccurate fact, who benefits? Likely the only person who benefits is you, and in most cases that benefit will be only short-lived until the rumours come back around or the lies catch up to you. If it’s not true, don’t say it. If you’re not sure whether it’s true, check your facts then check the next point before you share it.

 

 

The H reminds us to ask ourselves whether what we are about to say is HELPFUL. There are many TRUE statements that are not HELPFUL to share. For example, if you walk into someone’s house and say, “Wow, looks like you haven’t had any time to do housework,” this may be true, but saying it serves no helpful purpose.

 

 

The I reminds us to ask ourselves whether what we are about to say is INSPIRING. I actually prefer the word encouraging, but since THINK is not spelled with an E they went with INSPIRING. The choice of words and the delivery are what makes a message encouraging. The helpful and true components of the message will be ignored if it’s discouraging.

 

 

The N reminds us to ask ourselves whether what we are about to say is NECESSARY. What you say should serve a purpose: to make someone’s life easier, safer, happier, fix a problem, design a plan, inform, or entertain. It’s not NECESSARY to notify people of things that they already know, talk for the sake of talking, or correct a person for errors that don’t impact the outcome of the conversation in any way. If you say too many unnecessary things, people will start to avoid and ignore you.

 

 

The K reminds us to ask ourselves whether what we are about to say is KIND. This one is subjective because, like medicine, sometimes the NECESSARY HELPFUL TRUTH tastes bad and is hard to swallow. It can sometimes seem mean or like the person doesn’t care, but if what they said will make your life better in some way, take it with a grain of salt. Just because something is hard to hear, doesn’t mean it’s mean.

 

 

If something that someone said rubbed you the wrong way, it’s possible that they didn’t THINK before they spoke, but it’s also possible that you weren’t ready to hear what they said. If you are trying to recover from the sting of someone’s words, ask yourself the following questions:

 

 

What was the intentionality of the speaker? If a person says something that is based in ignorance or distraction rather than malicious intent, don’t take it personally. Everybody is entitled to their own opinion and if you don’t share that opinion, simply ignore what they said. If they said it to be malicious, don’t interact with them.

 

 

What pushed your button? You need to dig deeper than the surface to answer this question. Find out exactly what rubbed you the wrong way did they touch on an insecurity that embarrasses you? Did they remind you of someone else who made you feel bad about yourself? Are you mad at yourself for not saying something back and standing up for yourself?

 

 

Maybe it wasn’t even what they said. Maybe it was something that happened earlier in the day and they were just the icing on the cake that pushed you over the edge. If what they said is something that wouldn’t have normally bothered you, it was likely your own mood that impacted your response.

 

 

What is your relationship to the person who said it? We assign different weight to comments based on where they came from. Ironically, it is often feedback from strangers that stings the most probably because we know they have a non-biased opinion and no reason to hold back. Keep in mind that strangers don’t know everything about you or your situation.

 

 

If there is some truth to what a person said and you would like to use it as a place to focus self-improvement, fine. If they are off base and imposing their own expectations on you, just say “thanks for your input” then let it go.

 

 

Words are powerful and as with all sources of power, they can be used to help people or destroy people. Use and receive words wisely

 

 

Considering Divorce?

I was reading an article written by a recently divorced woman named Jennifer Cullen. It was a list of things she wished people would have told her about divorce ­ not that she thought the insight would have changed her decision to get divorced, but it would have helped her understand what to expect and prepare for.

 The feedback comments she received were heated and obviously struck a cord with a lot of people. It wasn’t the content of the article per se that people were responding to; they were reacting strongly to the subject of divorce in general because even when divorce is the best option, it is still not easy for anyone involved.

Divorce is hard (and expensive). You’ve been warned, so don’t say, ‘I wish someone would have told me how hard it was going to be before we separated’.

There are numerous reasons why people get divorced. Some reasons may seem more justified such as one of the spouses is cheating, carrying out criminal activity in the home, alcoholic, or abusive. Some reasons are as simple as we just don’t love each other anymore.

Some people feel very strongly that when you make a commitment ‘until death do you part’ or some equivalent, that vow should be taken seriously and literally. Other people feel strongly that we only live once and life is too short to spend it being unhappy.

Everybody is different and it’s not fair for an outsider to judge who should have tried harder to make their marriage work and who was right to walk away when they did. Keep in mind that a lot of people are divorced who didn’t want to be. Their spouse ended the marriage and put them in a situation that they never wanted. Judging them for the situation they are in only makes everything harder.

Regardless what your personal beliefs on divorce are, we can probably agree that those who are going through a divorce will be in for a difficult transition. It will be a challenging adjustment for everyone involved, including the person who initiated the separation. Freedom from an unhappy existence comes at a price.

For example, a woman who has broken free from her verbally abusive husband may feel liberated and confident, but it doesn’t mean everything about being independent is rainbows and butterflies. The same applies for a man who leaves a loveless marriage after twenty years of trying every type of counselling available. He may feel grateful to be finally free to find true love, but starting life over has its challenges too.

When children are involved it is even more painful for everyone. Divorce may have been the best, or the only, option given the circumstances of the marriage, but justified or not, children will still be hurt by it.

 Of course, there are many well-adjusted children of divorce who have been able to blossom with the love of both parents and possibly two fantastic step-parents. There are also many happy and thriving children of single parents. But in my experience, even the stable, successful children who intellectually understand that the divorce of their parents was necessary and resulted in a better environment for them to grow up in, have a tiny part of their emotional inner child that still wishes their parents didn’t have to get divorced.

Even if we all knew how to communicate respectfully and skilfully to resolve conflict, if we were all emotionally mature enough to contribute to a marriage in an equal and unconditionally accepting way, and if we were all perfectly compatible for our entire lifetime, I’m sure there would still be divorces. Why? Because we don’t have a crystal ball to predict the future and know that someone is going to become, as an example, a raging alcoholic when they are fifty years old.

Bonus warning: marriage is a lot of work. It is not all good times and you will be challenged to grow, be flexible, and to compromise. If you have any doubts about the person you are thinking about marrying, listen to your instincts. If there are any red flags, don’t brush them off. If there are already problems with respect, communication, and division of responsibility, it’s best to walk away early or work them out in counselling prior to making a commitment to marry someone or to have children with them.

Enjoying The Journey

When I worked as a social worker, one of the programs our agency provided was a summer day camp for children who were, for various reasons, not be able to attend community centre programs. We went to the zoo one day and one of my favourite kids was acting particularly anxious. He was running ahead, pulling at my hand to hurry us along, and on the verge of tears if the group paused to look at an exhibit.giraffe love

I told him we had all day and he didn’t have to worry about missing anything, but he was desperate to get to the next exhibit. As soon as we all arrived at the next exhibit, he was off and running again. He desperately wanted to see the wolves, but barely even glanced at them before he checked the map to see what was coming up.

We all tried to slow him down so he could enjoy the moment and soak it all in, but the excitement of everything that was offered at the zoo was overloading his system. tigerWhen we passed the tigers, all the other children stopped at the fence and observed as the trainer feed the big cats. My student wasn’t even paying attention to what was happening right in front of him. He only wanted to know what was next, even though he’d been looking forward to seeing the tigers.

I eventually took the map away from him, but it didn’t slow him down. Every time we got somewhere, he just wanted to get to the next somewhere. At the end of the day, when the tour was finished, he cried because it was over. He cried a lot, and he wanted to go back to do it again.orangutang

People ask me all the time to help them achieve their goals. They set their personal, work, and financial goals and assume that when they reach them they will finally be happy. People also come in all the time wondering why after they achieved all their goals, they’re still not happy.

Achieving goals is not a bad thing. Challenging yourself with novel aspirations that are slightly outside your comfort zone is the best way to learn and grow. However, it’s not the achieving that creates the happiness; it’s the striving. If we aren’t paying attention during the journey, we miss the point.

If you ask an angsty existential teen the meaning of life, he will say that in its simplest terms we live to pass on our DNA to ensure the survival of our genetic pool. Then we die.grave

If that’s the case, why is everyone trying to rush the process?

Goal driven people want to get to the top of the mountain, and they want to get there first, but what if the top of the mountain is where it all ends?mountain path

People rush up the path assuming that ultimate success and happiness can be found there. They ignore signs and avoid the other people along the path only to be told when they reach the peak, “Okay, it’s over”. The thing they feel at that point is regret that they didn’t take more time and pay more attention to all the things that happened along the way.

It’s true that everyone is on a slightly different path. Some are paved highways and some are muddy pothole filled back country foot trails. But we are all ultimately going to end up in the same place.

If we don’t like where we currently are, we can get on or off any given path at the next intersection or fork in the road. Find a road that makes you want to meander and enjoy the scenery. Nobody knows how long their particular journey to the top of the mountain is going to take, but whether it is destined to be short or long, we might as well slow down and enjoy the trip.

The Hard Truth

“It’s discouraging to think how many people are shocked by honesty and how few by deceit.” ― Noël Coward, Blithe Spirit

I’ve written about the topic of honesty before – a lot. Apparently, it bothers me when people aren’t honest. This time I’m not going to focus on liars. I’m going to focus on people who avoid telling the truth. They are the bystanders who feel the same way as the person who spoke the truth, but they would never say anything because they don’t want to appear mean and they are afraid of conflict.

They let the truth sayer take the fall.

You could ask anyone what quality they appreciate in a friend or a partner and one of the top answers will be honesty. Our society is always teaching such things as, honesty is the best policy, and the truth will set you free, but the truth is very few people actually want to hear the truth, especially from their friends.

The fact that they even think being honest is mean is disappointing. Honesty among friends should never be considered mean, rude, or in poor taste. Sure, how the truth is presented is important and sometimes it’s not done with enough tact. Regardless how it is said and how much it stings to hear it, if it’s honest, you should always appreciate it because it means they care enough about you to tell you the truth.

I can agree that there are some situations where telling a falsehood does no harm and does spare someone else from being embarrassed. It’s a slippery slope into full lies though. We start with an ingenuous compliment then next thing we know we are telling doozies that are designed to protect ourselves from taking accountability for a mistake.

The reason very few people tell the truth even when they think they should is because it’s hard. People get mad at you when you’re honest about something they don’t want to know.

Thomas Sowell said, There are only two ways of telling the complete truth – anonymously and posthumously. His quote made me laugh because it demonstrates how much people really dislike the thought of having to be honest.

Most people want their friend to agree with them and empathize without making any suggestions or recommendations. I don’t want friends who only tell me what they think I want to hear, and I don’t want friends who only say how they really feel about me behind my back. If a friend thinks I’m wrong about something or that I could change something about what I’m doing to make a problematic situation better, I want them to tell me. I might not think they’re right at first, but once it sinks in I’ll likely consider it because I trust their opinion.

I don’t see how you can call yourself a friend if you can’t be honest. Truth is the foundation of trust, so without it how will you ever know what to believe or who you can really depend on? If someone prefers to avoid conflict and would rather be phony so they appear nice, their relationships will always be superficial and fake.

If you lie to spare someone’s feelings or to avoid conflict, either the truth will come out or you’ll have to live with being disingenuous. If you tell the truth from the beginning, you will only be dealing with the hurt of the truth.

I can get over the sting of being told something that was hard to hear, but I don’t think I’ve ever gotten over being lied to by someone I wanted to trust.

 

 

“If you do not tell the truth about yourself you cannot tell it about other people.”

Virginia Woolf

“Whoever is careless with the truth in small matters cannot be trusted with important matters”
Albert Einstein

“Nothing in this world is harder than speaking the truth, nothing easier than flattery.”
Fyodor Dostoyevsky

“I meant what I said and I said what I meant.”
Dr. Seuss, Horton Hatches the Egg

 

Topic Poll for Richmond News Family Function Column

Drink up — The Importance of Hydration

I’ve spent decades dehydrated. I didn’t know I was so severely parched until I started hydrating properly. The main reason that I didn’t realize how bad it was is because I very rarely feel thirsty. I’ve since learned that my body expresses dehydration through less obvious symptoms than thirst. Instead of thirst, I get a racing heart, dizziness, and I have difficulty recalling certain words when I’m talking. The symptoms go away immediately after I hydrate. Now, I just try to stay hydrated so my body doesn’t have to go through the stress.

The human body is more than fifty percent water – the brain is closer to seventy-five percent and the blood and kidneys are around eighty percent. We constantly lose water through breathing, sweating, and going to the bathroom. Without sufficient replenishment, muscles fatigue and cramp; skin dries out; toxins build up in all tissues; the body can’t regulate temperature through sweating; nutrients including oxygen are not transported properly through the blood; the bowels get sluggish; and the brain and kidneys can’t function properly. Basically, we can’t function well.
The kidneys in particular like to soak up the H2O. They regulate electrolytes, filter toxins out of the blood, and regulate blood pressure. Without sufficient water, sodium, potassium, and other minerals needed for muscle and nerve function, we become unbalanced. Toxins build up and cause infections and illness. In addition, low blood volume due to dehydration causes the heart to work harder to circulate the thick blood. Ultimately, people who don’t drink enough water can experience symptoms beyond thirst which include dizziness, fatigue, irritability, headaches, cognitive fuzziness, and decreased coordination.
It is usually athletes who are most concerned about staying hydrated, but young children and the elderly are also at an increased risk to suffer from symptoms of dehydration. In these populations, several seemingly unrelated symptoms such as, confusion, crankiness, sleepiness, heart palpitations, and constipation are overlooked as a symptom of dehydration.
One other seemingly unrelated symptom of dehydration is the sensation of hunger. The body will send a craving message for food because it is desperate for any type of fluid and doesn’t care if it gets it through a food source. Many people think they need to eat, but in fact what they need to do is drink. For people who experience thirst this way, the sensation of hunger goes away when they drink. Drinking water before a meal is often suggested as a way to aid in weight loss.
The best way to determine whether a person is dehydrated is the colour of their urine. Light or colourless urine is good. Dark yellow urine is an indicator of dehydration (note: vitamin B supplements will make urine turn more yellow).
I realize that the summer is almost over and some people will wonder why I’m mentioning hydration now. The reason is because we are usually good at hydrating when it’s hot out. It’s the rest of the time that we forget.  Out of all the clients who come to see me at my office for counselling, approximately seventy-percent do not eat or hydrate properly, which makes them less resilient to the effects of stress. If you are currently going through a transition or dealing with a problem, it is even more important to take care of your body. Physical health and emotional health are intertwined.
Try whenever possible to encourage children to hydrate with water and avoid drinks that have caffeine. Caffeine is a diuretic that pulls water away from the cells and has a dehydrating effect. A lot of people complain that they don’t like the taste of water, but that’s because they drink too much sugar. You can try to put a little lime or lemon in the water if you are weaning off sugar. Eventually, even the most sugar addicted person will start to like the taste of water again if they drink enough of it. We have some of the best water in the world, so turn the tap on and fill your glass, your granny’s glass, and your kid’s glass.
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Expressing Emotions

Do you ever lash out at a person who doesn’t deserve it? Overreact to minor incidents? Cry over everything?
Or, do you avoid confronting someone who has hurt your feelings? Not react when something is upsetting? Feel nothing even when you know you should?
Feelings are complicated, but we all have them and they are an extremely important aspect of being a human being. Understanding them is vital. The four main emotions are anger, sadness, fear, and joy. They motivate us, they protect us, they bond us, but they can tear us apart if not managed properly.
Most people feel uncomfortable around three of the four strong emotions. This discomfort is partly because the expression of a strong emotion usually means something is wrong and needs to be addressed. It is also partly due to the fact that many people were never taught how to express or manage strong emotions.
When something makes us uncomfortable and we don’t know what to do about it we will either avoid it or suppress it. Unfortunately, avoiding and suppressing emotions both have detrimental effects on relationships and physical health. Those who avoid and suppress strong emotions may think they are dodging the problem, but by shutting off their feelings they can eventually end up with other issues such as stomach problems, heart conditions, eating disorders, depression, anxiety, relationship difficulties, or self-harming habits.
It might be a surprise for emotion suppressors to know that they are not fooling anyone. Bottled up emotions may be tucked away festering inside, but that doesn’t mean others can’t tell. The people around a suppressor can feel the tension that it takes to hold the emotion back and that tension shuts down communication. In addition, emotions are faster than thoughts and before a suppressor’s mind is able to shut off a reaction, their facial expression and body language has already given them away for a brief instant. Because it’s obvious to others that suppressors aren’t being completely honest when they say, “I’m fine. Nothing’s wrong”, the people around the suppressor feel shut out and they become confused and uneasy since they can’t read the emotion properly or predict the reaction.
Expressing emotions is good for a person and their relationships, but it’s easier said than done for these reasons.
A) Anger has a bad rap for being negative and people think they shouldn’t feel it. They especially dislike this emotion if they grew up with violence around them. I would like to clarify that anger is a normal human emotion that is designed to protect us and our loved ones from harm – we need it to survive. Although it is wrong to express anger in a violent or destructive way, there is nothing wrong with the emotion of anger. There is no need to be afraid of it if it’s being expressed in an appropriate way.
B) Most people were never taught how to express anger in an appropriate way. It is best expressed physically, so if you are feeling angry you should go for a walk or run, smash a tennis ball around, or chop some wood or something. Once the physical energy is released then you can express the emotion though art, journalling, music, or talking.
C) Most people have trouble identifying and labelling sensations in their body in order to communicate them as feelings. Half the time they don’t know that their heart rate is up, they’re flushed and sweating, and their muscles are locked up like steel rods. Even when they do know that they are feeling anger, frustration, sadness, or worry about an everyday thing, they don’t realize there is always a deeper feeling that has nothing to do with the everyday thing. I’ll make it simple; the deeper feeling is always hurt or fear. If you can be aware of, admit to, then talk about that underlying feeling of hurt or fear and what caused it, it will go away.
To summarize:
Emotions are transient if you express them. They will cause deferred problems if you suppress them.
The goal is not to be happy all the time or to never rock the boat, it’s to be comfortable with all emotions and appreciate the message they are sending us.
All the I statements in the world won’t help you communicate your emotions if you don’t know how you’re really feeling, so take the time to check.
-D.R. Graham
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