It's Only My Opinion

Things I want to tell my kids that won't fit on Twitter

Archive for the category “Children”

8 Keys to Getting it Right: Everything Matters

Welcome to the 6th in my series of blog posts on “8 Keys to Getting it Right.”   ‘Everything Matters’ says just that, that ‘Everything Matters’. I try to instill this philosophy in my kids especially during times when they can’t see that what they do, the way they do it, the attitude that they do it with and the impending result may matter a great deal- they just never know when.

Everything Matters...I think that if you are going to do anything, you need to do it with everything that you have. You have to do your best, no matter what the instance or the task at hand. Whether it is making a bed, cleaning your car, taking a class, making a meal, running onto a court, setting a table, raising a child, or doing a task for a job, you give it your best because everything you do and the way you do it-  matters. And guess what? People notice. They notice the attitude and the outcome. They notice the commitment and the enthusiasm. Don’t like what you are doing? So what- do it better than anyone else. Take pride in the fact that it will have your name, your signature on it, no matter how banal it is to you, it may not be banal to someone else. In my opinion, if you want to be considered for leadership, a promotion, be captain of the team or simply keep your job- make every single thing you do matter;  have it make a difference. Have it make a statement and you will make a name and a life for yourself.

Maybe my kids/your kids don’t care. There is a possibility that ‘Everything Matters’ won’t matter to them. In my opinion, my job is to make them care. To open their eyes and help them see. Some kids are naturally responsive when it comes to knowing that ‘Everything Matters’, others are not. As a parent, it is part of my DNA to make it part of their DNA. I am not supposed to be their friend, I am supposed to help them make better choices and then to let them go when the time comes. I just looked up the word Parent in the dictionary.  (I was hoping it was a little sexier but it wasn’t.)   The definition of the word parent means: a person who brings up and cares for another. My husband and I are definitely in the process of bringing up our three kids  and of course, we care for them. For me, if I do care for them then I will always try and do what is best for them as long as I am in the position to do so. I will not hold or bite my tongue. I will take every opportunity I can to teach and train and share the insights and opinions that I have with my kids till they move out on their own. (ignoring the rolling of their pretty blue eyes if I have to.)

Is this an easy job? Nope. I want my kids to know that everything they do and everything they say is a reflection on them and their ability to do more and handle more or be offered more from those around them. Until they are in a position to write their own ticket, I have to help them see the path they are on and where it may be leading them. Will I always be right? Absolutely not. But I have more experience and I’ve either made those mistakes or watched other people make them to know that I have a better shot at guiding my kids then they do on their own.

If you don’t think “Everything Matters,” then look around you. Look at the news of late. Look at our leaders and our teachers, the athletes, the politicians and anyone who has any influence or our attention for a while in the world and tell me I am wrong when I say that “Everything Matters.”

8 Keys to Getting it Right:

  1. Attitude is everything
  2. Do the right thing
  3. Do more than you are asked
  4. Expectation = Disappointment
  5. Don’t make excuses
  6. Everything matters
  7. The 3 R’s: respect, responsibility, reputation
  8. Have a Spiritual Practice

Catherine Kolkoski

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8 Keys to Getting It Right: Don’t Make Excuses

I am enjoying writing the series of blog posts, “8 Keys to Getting it Right”. I hope the people who follow my blog or choose to read it have found the information to be useful. As I think about the key that I will write about in this post, it is probably the one key that our son (who is 19), seems to have taken to heart the most. I know that because recently he quoted it back to me when a situation came up for him in his life. He said, “Mom, you said people don’t like it when you make excuses.” and he is right.

‘Don’t make excuses’ is not only a key that you can practice successfully in your personal life but it is also a key that, practiced well, can aid you in your professional life as well. In my opinion, people would rather not hear your excuses for anything. Excuses are another way of not taking responsibility. What parents, coaches, teachers and bosses would prefer is for you to take responsibility for the outcomes in your life. They rather not hear your reasons why you didn’t do well on a test, or why you didn’t come home on time or why you weren;t prepared for the game or why you didn’t get the sale. What they all want is for you to admit that you did not follow directions, that you choose to do it your way, that you made a conscious choice to disregard the rules or guidelines you were given. Those conscious choices you made then led you to fail. Your decision to abandon that which was specifically laid out in front of you as a way to help you achieve success, led you to the place you ended up.

What your parents, your coaches, teachers and bosses are looking to hear, dare I say, would be shocked to hear from you, is that you made a mistake. That it was your responsibility to accomplish a task and you failed. What would absolutely blow them away would be to hear you say, “I apologize. I made a mistake. It won’t happen again.” Wow!

You see, in my opinion, by not making excuses for your actions and the outcomes you have just elevated yourself in the eyes of the person who put their faith and trust in you. You have proven that you are that trust worthy individual they thought you were . You proved it by taking personal responsibility for your actions. Taking personal responsibility is almost counter cultural in today’s world of blame someone else, make an excuse, and argue your way out of your bad choice.

No matter what you do in life, no matter what guidelines and rules you choose not to follow, no matter what the outcome- don’t make an excuse for it. Fess up. Admit your mistake. Take responsibility for your choices and then apologize if it goes bad. I think an authentic apology goes a long way toward mending disappointment or hurt feelings. I read a really good book on this once called, The Five Languages of Apology. In it the author, Gary Chapman talked about the extent to which one may need to apologize in order for someone to accept the “I’m sorry”. For some it is simply, “I am sorry.” for others, “I am sorry, it was my fault.” or “I am sorry, it was my fault, what can I do to make it up to you?” more still, “I am sorry, it was my fault, will you forgive me”. The level of the apology may depend on the person or the seriousness of the perceived offense. In my opinion, the levels do not matter as much as the actual ability to take responsibility and then apologize for the mistake. My son has a very difficult time with the concept of apologizing. He believes that if he apologizes, he is admitting that he was wrong. Yes, you are wrong and what is so horrible about that? You are human. You an not perfect. You are wrong and your ability to take responsibility and possibly manage the effect your actions has on another human being by not making excuses, admitting your mistake and then apologizing for it can go a long way toward your success in life- even in your failures.

8 Keys to Getting it Right:

  1. Attitude is everything
  2. Do the right thing
  3. Do more than you are asked
  4. Expectation = Disappointment
  5. Don’t make excuses
  6. Everything matters
  7. The 3 R’s: respect, responsibility, reputation
  8. Have a Spiritual Practice

Catherine Kolkoski on Google+

8 Keys to Getting it Right: Expectation = Disappointment

Welcome to blog post four in my series, 8 Keys to Getting it Right. If this is your first time being exposed to the series, I invite you to go back to the beginning and read them all. One post does not build on the other, so if one of the Keys has no interest to you, skip it!

The key “Expectation = Disappointment,” was introduced to me when I was at The University of Arizona by my friend and Sigma Chi big brother, Tod Carson. Of course, I don’t remember the situation surrounding the reason he shared it with me, but the learning has stayed with me for a very long time and I think it so valuable that I have shared it with my children and include it here.

I do remember that Tod had rightly accused me of always expecting more than I should which led to many a disappointment. But hey, isn’t that life? You have X amount of expectations only to end of disappointed X amount of the time. So, what’s a girl to do?

Learn to just be.

Don’t expect people to act in a certain way. Don’t expect friends to be a certain way or for opportunities to pan out in my favor or events to lead to happiness. Expectations can, and usually do, set you up for disappointment. Think about the last time you went somewhere that you didn’t want to go (i.e. party, play, concert). Most of the time, that event ended up being the most fun, or the most valuable for you. Why? You had no expectations.

I bet you’ve heard this before: you never find love when you are looking for it. You find love when you least expect it. Why? You least expect it. When I approach a situation armed with my set of expectations, I increase the chance I will be disappointed.

In my opinion, it is hard not to have expectations. For control freaks, it is doubly hard. Control = lack of control. The tighter you hold on- the more things slip through your grip. The more I try to control things, the more likely it is that I will mess things up. Letting go of expectations and control is not easy. Does that mean I don’t have expectations of my kids? Of course not. I’ve spent the last three posts sharing the expectations my husband and I have for my kids. My Kids have disappointed me and will disappoint me in the future. My unconditional love for them is what gives them a “do over” every time they have disappointed me. As parents, you do that for your kids and in my opinion, we should. I want my kids to know our home is the safe place for them to fail and fall. The people you can disappoint and get a fresh start again. Our friends and our colleagues don’t always get the same privileges. The relationships we have with them are different. When our expectations have gone unmet and we experience disappointment, we may tally those let downs on the internal scoreboard we keep. A disappointment that can’t be forgiven or one disappointment after another can end up jeopardizing our feelings towards friends or colleagues (and sometimes husbands and wives) and we may choose to eliminate the situation, job or the person from our life.

Just to be clear, having expectations is not the same thing as having a goal. A goal is something you do for yourself. An expectation is usually something you have for someone else. I can’t set a goal for you but I can have an expectation of you. See?

In my opinion, Tod gave me a valuable gift when he pointed out what I could not see; that my expectations were leading to disappointments and those disappointments were making me miserable.

Tod invited me to a New Year’s Eve Party at his parents’ house when I was 20 years old. I met a boy that night and we were married a few years later. Would you believe I was not expecting that?

– This post is dedicated to Tod’s parents Ed and Nadine Carson, may they rest in peace.

8 Keys to Getting it Right:

  1. Attitude is everything
  2. Do the right thing
  3. Do more than you are asked
  4. Expectation = Disappointment
  5. Don’t make excuses
  6. Everything matters
  7. The 3 R’s: respect, responsibility, reputation
  8. Have a Spiritual Practice

Catherine Kolkoski on Google+

8 Keys to Getting it Right- Do More Than You’re Asked

I am now 3 posts into my series on the 8 Keys to Getting it Right. If you are so inclined I invite you to go back to the first and second blog to read them. These keys are the values that my husband and I are purposefully trying to instill in our three wonderful children (Happy Birthday Brielle on Monday!) As anyone with kids can attest, all you can do is try. In my opinion, my failure as a parent comes when I don’t try, when I don’t communicate and I don’t take the lead as a parent. Hey, I know it’s not easy. I know that there are days when they don’t listen to my husband and me. But that does not stop me from being the parent. I am still the parent right? I mean, if you live in the house that we pay the mortgage on, drive a car that we make payments on, and eat in our kitchen- then check- I am still the parent and as long as you are my child then I will do my best to make sure you know what is important to me.

Do more than you're asked Sliding by. Doing the bare minimum. Are these the actions or values of any successful person you know? Is this the goal when your coach or your teacher or your boss asks you to complete a task? If so, then a life of being ordinary and average may well be your destiny. When our kids leave the house to go to their jobs (one works for FedEx and one for Cold Stone Ice Cream) the last thing my husband says is, “do more than you’re asked.” He is telling them to do more than people expect. Surprise everyone around you. Give it your all and leave nothing on the table. Amaze them and let them know that you are someone that needs to be kept around. When you do more than you’re asked you become more valuable than the next person. The people in charge will look to you as a valuable member of the organization or team or class. It goes to your attitude. It goes to your ability to achieve success, whatever success may mean to you. See, I am an options girl. I like to have lots of choices. I like to ensure that more often than not there is a range of possibilities. When you do more than you are asked, you open yourself up for more opportunities, more choices, and the possibility that you will get what you want in your life.

I think anyone can do what is asked. But the extra-ordinary do more. They take the initiative to make more out of any situation and thus become more valuable, less replaceable in their spaces in life. Will their teachers and bosses and coaches always notice? No. What matters just as much is what you do even when you don’t get the recognition and the pats on the back. Doing more than you’re asked is about personal ethics and making purposeful decisions to be that better player, that better student or better employee. No matter who notices or applauds.

In my opinion, doing more than you’re asked may get you more than you can possibly imagine.

8 Keys to Getting it Right:

  1. Attitude is everything
  2. Do the right thing
  3. Do more than you are asked
  4. Expectations = disappointment
  5. Don’t make excuses
  6. Everything matters
  7. The 3 R’s: respect, responsibility, reputation
  8. Have a Spiritual Practice

Catherine Kolkoski on Google+

8 Keys to Getting it Right – Do the Right Thing

A few weeks ago I started a blog series on The 7 Keys to Getting it Right. If you want to read  the preface of the story I invite you to go back to the first blog in the series called: Attitude is Everything. There you will also find the list of the 7.  Since the first post, I have decided to add another key. The 8th key, which is ‘Have a Spiritual Practice’.

Do the right thing The second Key, ‘Do the Right Thing’ used to be called, ‘Make Good Choices’. It dawned on us a little too late when the kids were in their later teens, that this was not specific enough. We heard an inspirational presentation by a former marine who was also an Eagle Scout talk about ‘Doing the Right Thing’. It dawned on me during the course of his speech that our definition of “Make Good Choices” and our children’s definition of “Make Good Choices” could be rather opposite from one another. You see, what they thought was a ‘good decision’ was, in our opinion, not a good decision at all. ‘Good’ seemed to be subjective. In fact, we were thinking, “Are you freaking kidding me? You think that was a good decision?” What the former Marine brought to light was the idea of right versus good. There is not a ton of ambiguity around what the’ right thing to do is’ versus what the wrong thing to do is.

We spend an awful lot of time telling our kids what we think is important and then following that up with our actions. Our kids have  called us, “old fashioned” and we have been chided  on numerous occasions,  “no one else does that or thinks that or believes that”.  My answer is always the same, “I could give a rats bottom as they are entitled to their own opinion.” When push comes to shove they will know, without any doubt, what we think is right and wrong. They will know what we believe. Doing the right thing is not always about doing the easy thing. Some days it is doing something or not doing something even though everyone else may be going in the exact opposite direction because it is the right thing to do. Many times the right thing is not the most popular. How much courage and individuality do you have to have to do what is right even in the face of pressure to do the wrong thing or to look the other way altogether? It takes more guts than most people, especially teenagers, have.

In my opinion,’ doing the right thing’ is not about making your life hard but surrounding yourself with people who won’t make it harder for you: your friends, people you work with, people you play with, people you pray with. Some people are in your life for a reason, a season or a lifetime.  As our kids grow into adults, as they discover who they are and what they stand for, I hope that they find themselves surrounded by people who will support their choices. Hopefully they will make some choices because of the values and morals that were instilled in them by us. Will they always choose the path that we would have them choose? Absolutely not. But I can guarantee you that their choices and definition of “right” will have a better chance of reflecting ours because of our willingness and commitment to make sure they knew what we thought the right thing was. Either way, I know we will love and support them because, Family is Everything.

1. Attitude is everything
2. Do the right thing
3. Do more than you are asked
4. Expectations = disappointment
5. Don’t make excuses
6. Everything matters
7. The 3 R’s: respect, responsibility, reputation
8. Have a Spiritual Practice

Catherine Kolkoski on Google+

Fitting in

In my opinion, we all want to fit in somewhere. To feel like we belong. A part of life is spent finding a fit with someone else (partner for life) and  finding a  fit with other people (i.e. a church home or a team or a job).  My son is trying to find a good fit in his relationship. He has been dating for a couple of years now. He has been frustrated and hurt but also had experiences of happiness. I remind him that dating is like trying people on. You try on different people to see which one fits the best. He said that it is annoying because he likes one thing about one girl a lot and another thing about the other girl. Obviously, each one has something that the other one did not. I tell him that is what you discover when you date . You begin to find out what you value most. The characteristics that are most important to you. What characteristics you can live with and which ones are deal breakers. In my opinion, he is a lot like me. He is relationship-centered. At 19 he “wants” to be in a relationship. He treats a young lady like a lady- he respects women and wants to have a relationship with someone he can carry on a conversation with, someone who has goals and dreams for her life. In that respect he is a lot like his father. (A blessing for me!)

No matter how old I get, I still want to fit in. In a world where values seem to alter and flux a bit, I have been trying to fit in. As I was thinking about this and getting coaching from my husband about my ideas and thoughts about  “fitting in” ( and he shared a lot of great insights with me) I remembered a line in a movie I saw a long time ago, “Why am I trying so hard to fit in when I really feel like I was born to stand out?”

In my opinion, in order to make a difference in the world, you have to be different. You can’t do what everyone else is doing- that’s already getting done. You have to go another way, do something counter-cultural, in order to affect culture.

I am telling you this as much as I am reminding myself.

To find the new trail you have to get off the beaten path. Turn around. No one may be following you and you have to be OK with that. If it is right, someone might follow. Your goal may not be to lead; your goal may be to have a partner, someone who shares your journey. Maybe that’s what family is for. (Ironic, how it always comes back to family for me.) Maybe it’s that way for you. Family doesn’t have to mean blood related, it can be mean someone who is willing to walk with you, support, encourage and give you feedback when you ask for it. Someone who feels like family.  We all need someone who is as committed to an idea or a mission as we are- one other person we fit with. When you have that, you have what you need. I think that’s what my son is looking for. He wants to share his journey with someone and since he is like me, he won’t settle for anything less than a perfect fit.

I had S’More

Summer is almost over. Well, I always think summer is over the day school starts. Summer is almost over (for me) and I had one goal: to spend the night camping in the tent with my little one. Most summers I would have spent a few nights in the tent. This summer was a little different. For one, I was working. This is the first summer I have ever worked. Spending the night in a tent on Sunday- Thursday wasn’t an option so my available nights in the backyard were a little more limited. And it’s been hot, even at night. A tent in the heat is not much fun. I woke up this morning and it was 56 degrees. Bingo. Tonight would be the night I would accomplish my goal.

How many people know that it is was National S’More Day on August 10? (Girl Scouts first documented the S’More recipe in 1927 in the Girl Scout Handbook). My oldest, who is 16, now, was in Girl Socuts growing up. She had an outstanding leader who stayed with the girls through their Silver Award (You are wonderful Paula Birchmier), our experience with Girl Scouting was awesome. She and I had many camp outs together at a few different Girl Scout properties. My favorite meal was the one she made for me: a campfire pizza. It was my favorite because it was the first time the moms at the camp out didn’t have to do a thing. The girls cooked and cleaned up. It was outstanding. If you ever camped with little ones, you get it.

When my younger daughter started girl scouts, I volunteered to go through the certification for Camp Mom. I took 40 seven year old girls and their moms on a couple of overnight campouts. That was so special for me: making sure that little ones first experience camping would be so good that they’d fall in love with it like I have.


This summer, I wanted to do one thing. I wanted to spend the night in my backyard  in a tent with my little one, my 9 year old. Tonight, we built a fire together in the back yard. As girl scouts, we practiced camp fire safety rules: wear tennis shoes, pull your hair back in a ponytail, have a bucket of water by the fire just in case and never leave the fire unattended.  Brielle and I roasted hotdogs for dinner and then, in celebration of The National S’Mores Day we made S’mores. Yum. In my opinion, there is something so special about camping out in the backyard with my daughter.

London Calling: Olympic Inspiration

I like watching the Olympics with my kids. The Olympics are full of people with amazing stories. Stories of hopes and goals and dreams come true. From what I have seen they are people who usually knew, from an early age, that they were meant for something bigger. Most were encouraged by family and friends. When my kids were very young we turned off the TV for an entire year- no TV for 365 days and nights. That was an amazing year as my kids learned how to be creative. They did so many other things with their time and because of this opportunity they learned to create, to entertain themselves, to play together and to just- be. We turned our TV off for an entire year except for 10 days: when the Summer Olympics were on. We watched the games every day and then during the commercials the kids would run outside and pretend they were Olympic Athletes. They’d see how far they could throw a stick – the javelin or how fast could they run across the driveway- the 50 meter dash. They were young and carefree and creative. (Man, I would love to turn the “boob tube” off for another year. )

I want to watch the Olympics with my kids again because I want them to see what is possible. I want them to hear the interviews with athletes, to see what hope sounds like, what hope looks like. I want them to hear someone their own age talk about what happens when you decide to do something and then set your heart and mind and body to accomplish it. What sacrifices you have to make, what dedication you have to have, what obstacles you have to overcome. And then what success and triumph and glory looks like.

Lately,  I’ve been studying a lot about having dreams and setting and achieving goals. The one consistent  message  I have heard is this: Do not give up. Never give up. Never quit. Don’t stop.

In my opinion, every Olympic Athlete that is in London these next 10 days knows this- has lived this. Watching the Olympics, I am hoping my kids hear that message as well. That no matter what you want, if you want it badly enough, if you commit to it with all your heart and mind and body, and never give up, you can do whatever you want. You can be whoever you want. Isn’t that part of what is meant by “The Olympic Spirit”?

That inspires me.

The Blessing of my Mother

I have scheduled this blog to post at the exact time we are sitting down for dinner. It is a very special occasion. We are celebrating my mother’s 70th birthday. She doesn’t look 70 and I say that honestly. She is surrounded by her daughters, her sons-in-law, her 8 grandchildren and her husband. This is my gift to you…

Happy Birthday Mom

I have the blessing of my mother.      I have the world.

Happy Birthday, Mom. You are a blessing to me. You are my guide, my role model and my friend. If I am half of the mother to my children that you have been to me, than I am serving my children well. Growing up and still today, I  am braced by your grace, inspired by your wisdom and fortified by your unconditional love. Your ability to listen and share unbiased advice has been a compass to me.

You have been at my side for every important milestone in my life. And I mean every milestone. Piano recitals, high school volleyball games, professional presentations, getting married, having our children, their first birthdays, graduations and everything in between. I feel your presence in my life every single day. You provided the values (as old fashioned as my kids think they are) that guide my life and that I try, with all my might, to pass down to our kids. You gave me a love for running and exercising. You gave me creativity, freedom and confidence. You gave me kindness when I made mistakes and your dedicated ear when I needed advise. You gave me security when I needed to feel safe and supportive words when I needed comfort.

My husband loves you. All of your “sons” feel the same way that he does. You are a joy to be around. You are generous. You are intelligent (graduated sum cum laude the same time I graduated). You are strong. The worthy qualities I have as a person, and as a women, were established and then nourished by you.

You are a blessing to me. Although it is your birthday, you have always been a gift. The gift of life- the gift of spirit- the gift of acceptance and love. As your daughter, you gave me those gifts, those assurances, and because you did, it allowed me to go out into the world and accomplish what I set my mind and heart to do.

In my opinion, you gave me my world.

Happy birthday, mom. I love you and am so proud be your oldest daughter.

For Jo Capps on her 70th Birthday 7.7.12

Your Decision – Your Consequence

The only parenting book I have ever read was, Parenting with Love and Logic by Foster Cline and Jim Fay. When I find something that makes perfect sense to me, something that resonates with me, I stick with it. The philosophy of the book is this: kids like to have some control in their lives no matter how old they are (1-18). As parents, we should indulge them that freedom by giving them things to choose from that we, as parents, can live with.

For example, when younger kids want to pick out their own clothes to wear to school, you could lay out 2-3 shirts and 2 bottoms and let the little one choose between what is offered. The same applies to lots of kinds of choices.  The other concept in the book that I think is powerful is the idea of consequences. A child makes a choice and then, as long as he/she won’t hurt themselves physically, lives out the consequence of the choices they make. How many times has your child wanted to go to school without a jacket, thinking it was warm enough they did not need one. Why fight with them? Why argue? Let them go without a coat and let them experience being cold. Next time, they will make a better choice for themselves because the experience they had was based on a choice they made and also lived with the consequence. In my opinion, kids, no matter how old they are, need to make choices and then live with the consequences. That is how they learn.

I wish for, I pray for times when my children can make choices and then experience the consequences of their decisions- good and bad. The thing is, the younger they are when this happens, the smaller the consequences. The older they are, the more serious the consequences. I don’t eliminate the opportunity for them to make choices for themselves. I pray for consequences they can live with and learn from. My husband doesn’t always agree. Two of my kids are in high school and I believe that the grades they get are their grades. Not mine. I try and explain what I believe could happen in their lives with good grades and what options there may be with bad grades. Do I shirk my responsibility or punish for bad grades? Not really. I may take privileges away, things I believe are distractions (phone, Xbox, etc) but I don’t punish. I do not sit in their classes, I cannot study for them or take their tests. So I believe they need to be responsible for their grades.

In my opinion, my job as a parent has less to do with telling my kids what to do as it is to try and discuss their options, support their decisions and watch them enjoy or suffer through the consequences. So pray for consequences when they’re young. When they’re older it could mean the difference between keeping or losing a marriage, a job or their lives.

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