Tag Archives: play

The Importance of Laughter and Play for Children in Foster Care


It was noisy.

The seven year old was laughing. Laughing very, very loudly. Running through the house, the little blond haired boy was chasing our five year old daughter. Indeed, both were laughing, and the noise was echoing through the entire house. It wasn’t long before they begun this game of chase that our three year old joined in.

It was noisy. And, it was beautiful.

For the first time, our seven year old son from foster care was laughing. In fact, it was the first time the seven year old had even smiled in our home. Andrew had been living with us for four months, placed into our foster home due to severe and horrific abuse from the hands of his mother; his mother, the person who was supposed to shield her own son from all harm. Instead, his mother had abused her son so traumatically over a long period of time in his short life that Andrew had never really been given the opportunity to laugh. This innocent seven year old child had never known what it was like to, quite simply, have fun; never given a reason to smile.

The first months of Andrew’s time in our house often saw my other children, both biological and adoptive, try to invite their newest foster sibling into their world of play and imagination. At each invite, and each opportunity, Andrew would instead cling to my wife and I, choosing not to engage with the others. When either my wife or I were in the kitchen cooking, in the bedroom folding clothes, or other house duties, the seven year old would stand closely next to one of us. If either of us were sitting down, the child would sit next to us. Either way, he would never speak, simply cling to us, in his own world of trauma and anxiety.

Today, though, was different. For some time, Andrew was watching some of the other children playing in the lounge room, while my I was in the other other room, taking care of the dirty laundry. Perhaps it was the consistent approach from my children; perhaps it was his curiosity; perhaps he realized that his siblings from foster care were not going to hurt him. Whatever it was, Andrew finally joined in, and when he did, it was as if the flood gates of laughter had opened. I watched in amazement as this seven year old, this seven year old who never once expressed any emotion of happiness, joy, or amusement, was laughing. This seven year old boy was healing.

Laughter and play are wonderful ways for children in foster care to begin their healing process, as they help these children in need cope with their stresses, traumas, and anxieties. Indeed, as children in foster care begin to find a sense of humor, they will find it to be a resourceful tool they can use. As Paul E. McGhee, Ph.D. states,
“Your sense of humor is one of the most powerful tools you have to make certain that your daily mood and emotional state support good health.” Continue reading

Secret of Adulthood: Sometimes, You Have to Work Hard to Be Lazy.

SometimesWorkHardtoBeLazy_124896-300x382From Further Secrets of Adulthood.

I feel this way often. I need to schedule time to be unscheduled, I need to force myself to wander, I have to reassure myself that staring into space is as useful as staring into my laptop.

I guess the idea isn’t so much “laziness” as ”leisureliness.” Continue reading

August Osage County: The Fall of Woman

august osage countyHoly Hannah. Can you spell d-y-s-f-u-n-c-t-i-o-n and m-i-s-e-r-y?

I want to think the main characters in August: Osage County are just cinematic creations—the vitriolic pill-popping Violet and her three daughters—tight-jawed, unforgiving Barbara, quietly wounded, faithful Ivy, New Age escapist Karen. But no.

The film induced too many pangs of recognition, reminders of my own alcoholic step-father and his verbal abuse; the unhappy weirdness of so many of my friends’ parents growing up; Mommy Dearest sitting on book shelves; alcohol and drug abuse statistics; news stories. And from the murmurs, gasps and reactions of the audience it seemed pretty much everyone else in the theater was personally affected too.

“I always wondered if my mother killed my father,” the middle-aged woman behind me stated calmly to her seat-mate as the credits rolled. Really?

“I always knew I’m fucked-up because of my mother,” another woman said, strolling past on her way to the door.

“Holy crap.” Francesca, the friend I’d gone to the film with, turned to me, eyes wide. “Is the world really like this?”

Is it? I’d like to know! Comments please!

For sure the film drives home the point of just how much pain there is locked up in human beings—and how suffering, meanness and abuse are passed from one generation to the next. The sins of the fathers and mothers as it were—not “sin” as in doing bad and wrong, but sin as in missing the mark on life—relentlessly passed from one generation to the next, century after century until?

Until we get to see it.

Sin was originally an archery term that meant you “missed the mark” or bulls eye—your targeted goal. And what is the targeted goal of life anyway? Being a better person? Figuring out how it all works? Having fun? Contributing to the wellbeing of the whole? Having interesting experiences? If so, surely we’re ready to stop seeing this kind of experience as interesting? Like, maybe soon we’ll have had our fill of meanness and sorrow and be ready to call these kinds of people and their drama-filled lives “boring?”

But until that happens audiences will pay to see stories like these. It’s what theatre was designed to do from the most ancient times.

Stories let us witness ourselves. They let us stand (and sit!) safely outside our pain and see how it contaminates and ruins everything—how we unconsciously contaminate and ruin everything—how the bleakness that rules so much of our lives happens. The camera zooms into Violet’s face as she sits on the swing telling the story of her mother’s Christmas present to her and we get it. We can’t hate her. We want to, just like her daughters and everyone else around her want to. But she is us. Her story is our story, tirelessly passed along—the story of the ravening dark Goddess that lives in us all; the maddened Goddess that shows herself most clearly through women.

Beyond doubt, August: Osage County is a story of the Fall of Woman and what has happened to her. The men, who clearly are not without their flaws, mostly move around as loving foils enduring abuse. Even Violet’s husband’s suicide occurs off-screen. It isn’t important. It’s simply the kind of normal fall-out that happens when The Feminine is too deeply wounded to care about anything or anyone anymore.

The image of The Feminine we enjoy seeing and being around does not live in this film. The light side of the Goddess is beautiful, lyrical, self-sacrificing, loving, passionate, compassionate and inspiring—like Arwen, the elven beloved of Aragorn in Lord of the Rings. In Violet we see the opposite. Here She is the equivalent of the Orc and the Uruk-hai—the fallen elves, tortured and mutilated beyond endurance until they become a force for evil.

The blessing of August: Osage County is that here evil has a human face on it and we are able to see Violet is not evil at all, just wounded. We are able to see what pain does—how it looks, what it says, how it lashes out—and finally have compassion. We see the light, love, beauty and hope in us all—the young woman in Violet’s wedding picture—marred and twisted into unrecognizability and we feel for her and feel for ourselves.

It’s not an easy movie to watch. But then life is not an easy movie to live. And in both there is hope. One day all of us will get in a truck in our pajamas and move on.

Play Your Way to the Best Fitness of Your Life


Do you remember the days of recess in elementary school? Finally liberated from lessons and projects, if just for 15 minutes, you’d run out of the classroom and skip freely into the yard. Whatever corner of the playground struck your fancy, it’s likely you were running around, letting off steam, and, most importantly, having fun.

Speaking of which, when is the last time you had fun? And we don’t mean the kind you have when you throw a dinner party and sit respectably around a table with your friends. Neither do we mean the kind of fun signified by snagging a half-off pair of shoes or booking tickets for Spain. Would your 5-year-old self be giddy over one of those activities? Probably not.

No, we’re talking about the kind of fun that launches you into a whole new mindset, moved more by impulse than by intellect, lurching forward faster than your mind can process. This is the kind of play-exercise-fun you undoubtedly engaged with as a child before so many inhibitions set in and told you there were right and wrong ways to move your body and express your inclination toward merriment. What society missed, however, is the fact that playing is one of the best and most natural ways human beings have to exercise and let off steam. But past a certain age, we almost never do it.

But that’s all changing now. Some gyms, like Sports Club/LA, have started offering play-based exercise on their class schedules because they recognize the value of fun in fitness. “Play” is embedded in our DNA, after all, and we aren’t the only animals who do it. Countless other animal species exhibit play, especially among the young, for reasons that are still debated but might range from learning coordination, to honing the stress response, to socializing, to developing brain function. Either way, play seems to be an integral part of these species’ livelihood, or else its evolutionary riskiness would have weeded us out long ago.

Even apart from the many benefits to learning and development, play is fun. It gets us moving, it helps us build communities, and it adds whole new dimensions to the “real world” which can seem so stuck in its ways.

Paving the way for play-fitness is Sports Club/LA’s new class, Recess, which uses playground-inspired activities and team-based games to get participants moving, pushing themselves, and – you guessed it – having fun.

As trainer Ian Kilpatrick from Sports Club/LA says,

It is my belief that every single person can find enjoyment in some form of exercise; they just have to find it. I think an element of “play” in a workout dramatically increases the chances of someone having fun, and when you’re having fun and working hard simultaneously then you eliminate that “dreading working out” feeling many of us get. Everyone is different, so some people may need or enjoy that feeling of discipline or pushing yourself to pain, but the fact is that fun will never get old.

Some adults have gotten the idea and joined recreational sports leagues, taken up ice skating, dance lessons, or Frisbee and revived the activeness of their youth. As Kori Rodley writes for Yahoo, play is important at any age.

You may find that you are having so much fun “playing” that you don’t even realize how much movement and exercise you are getting! You will likely use and stretch muscles that you have not used in a long time and may find not only your physical, but your mental health improves with some active, fun, playful movement!

If you find yourself flagging in energy and enthusiasm when you work out, then don’t hesitate to get creative! Ian suggests the following exercises get a taste of what Recess class is all about:

One of my favorite partner exercises from Recess that any two people can try on their own is a “help up.” In this exercise you hold tight to the hands of your partner as they sit all the way down onto their butts. Once they have their full bodyweight on the ground they stand up as you sit down the same exact way. It may sound easy, but it requires team work, coordination and gets tiring fast!

Another partner or group exercise that two or more people can try on their own is a “mirror drill.” All you have to do is face your partner and choose a leader. Once you’ve decided who is leading the drill then that person will start shuffling from side to side changing direction whenever they want. It is the job of the partner or other group members to react and keep up. These should only last for about 10-15 seconds then switch who the leader is.

If this style of exercise appeals to you, then try it out! Find a community center with recreational sports leagues, join a hiking group, or take a tumble with your kids. Forget the inhibitions that say playing isn’t proper, mature, or “ladylike.” Having fun is your birthright, and there’s no shame in being fit and happy!

What games did you love as a kid? Let us know in the comments section!

* * *

SPortsClubLA2012Sports Club/LA has been recognized as an urban lifestyle brand that serves as the ultimate health and wellness destination. Visit a Sports Club/LA location in Boston, Chestnut Hill, Miami, San Francisco, Washington D.C., and New York Upper East Side as well as their sister club, Reebok Sports Club/NY. For more information visit www.SportsClubLA.com.


You Were Born to Be Happy, So Never Stop Playing

ParagliderBy Jay Forte

“We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.”

Someone once told you that life was supposed to be hard, difficult and challenging. They told me the same thing. So for the longest time we believed that work and life were to be difficult if they were to matter.

I don’t believe that any more. Life is not meant to be won or lost, only played. And “played” is the operative word. We are here to play in life. We are here to enjoy, experience, learn from, improve and be thrilled by the amazing things on our planet.

So imagine this: we are each given an undisclosed amount of time with the only instruction to go discover what you love and are good at, then use it to make your life, and that of others, amazing. The guidance isn’t to go find what is difficult for you and the things that make you unhappy and go do those. Rather, find what moves you and plays to your intrinsic and unique abilities – your talent, strengths and passions. This is so that as you move through life, you love it.

There are over 7 billion people on the planet. No two of us are exactly alike in abilities, talents, passions and interests. There is room for each of us to define a great and happy life according to what moves, inspires and excites us. There is room for each of us to play in life.

Most of us struggle in life because we don’t know ourselves well. We don’t know what we are good at, passionate about and what matters to us. When we don’t this, we don’t know how to build our lives and work in a way that allows our best to come through. We follow where others tell us to go. We work in jobs that don’t fit us. We believe things we are told to believe, and follow others rules instead of following our hearts. Everything then feels like work. Life isn’t fun when we live someone else’s life. Their definition of a great and happy life will never be exactly ours. And until we live ours, we will always feel that things are more work than they should be. Until we live our definition of life, we will never play as much as we could to fully experience and love life.

Suppose for a minute that instead of telling yourself that life is hard, difficult and a challenge, you heard that life is wonderful, joyful and fun. What if the story we tell ourselves is one that is uplifting, powerful and amazing? What would change? What opportunities would present themselves that can’t surface with such catabolic thinking and energy? Our thoughts create our emotions, which drive our actions. Change our thinking and we change our lives. Change from “life is difficult” to “life is meant to be played” and see what life becomes for you.

We choose everything in life – everything. So if we choose to love life, appreciate what shows up, learn from everything and stay focused on the joy of life, we intentionally and consciously build a happier life. We can shift our energy to one that is optimistic, encouraging and empowering. We have that power. We just need to believe that it is possible and choose it. There isn’t anything else involved.

For this week, start each day with an intention to have more fun and play more in life. This doesn’t mean you aren’t serious about your work and your life decisions, but these decisions can also bring you great joy. Change your thoughts, change your life. Tell yourself how you want your life to be. We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop play. Play on.

“Owed” to “God”…

We kinda suck.
for if tHere
be Creator,
we’ve made
them out to be
‘haters’, baiters,
facilitators of pain
and punishment in
judgment of our ‘sins’.
If I were ‘Them’,
I’d bitch slap us.

What if…
We really are created
in the image of…then what?
No wonder we struggle with
guilt and sin because if we ARE in
the image of Creator … can you imagine?

Here’s the deal… there is Know Such a Thing
Creator wouldn’t punish in judgment of anything
Destroy such precious generations of life
and that’s right… we’ve been ‘here’
a very Long Time for reason
through countless seasons
breathing surviving
existing over Time.
We grew. Learned
yearned, cared to
dare and Became.
We invented
debated, moved
over lands and
Pro.Created. Grew
schools, organized rules
in towns growing over grounds
into cities of abundant sounds.

Do we know exactly how ‘delicate’
we ARE in this Universe? How almost
impossibly improbable our existence even is?
You being here, now at this moment
in this space of real time current
reading this silly little rhyme
is THE definition of Time.

We Owe it to God,
because the truth is?
We’re pretty hard
on ourSelves.

All things considered….


Owed to OurSelves

Seriously, I’ve been thinking about this
whole genesis thing and there’s that part
the one just before the start
that says something kind of sad…

It said that God was alone before they had
the idea to create Us and I was glad
to see that such a Verse was written.

This is the part of God I can see as Human.
Admittedly I’ve not read the book
but I did read that page and look
we all have our understanding
and we read just what we need. Right?

And I did in deed, over and again
see how sad this God had been
alone before there was even a When.

… Can you imagine?

What might have been seen
in the face of the waters Then
and in the greatest effort of Love
Imagination was created Above
because before We could be…?
I’m guessing…
God had to reach inside to see
Just and exactly, what and how
precious We, had to be.


“Mirror Mirror is the Ball….”

Time to Play on Labor Day

The United States celebrates Labor Day as a day when most American workers can stay home with their families instead of working, and this is traditionally the last day of summer vacation before kids go back to school. Whereas American workers might think that the opposite of work is rest, kids will tell you that the opposite of school is play! Here are some quotes to help inspire people of all ages to enjoy some play time today:

  • “I still get wildly enthusiastic about little things… I play with leaves. I skip down the street and run against the wind.” – Leo F. Buscaglia
  • “Play is the only way the highest intelligence of humankind can unfold.” – Joseph Chilton Pearce
  • “When we come together to play and be, we are truly ourselves. When we are truly ourselves it is wonderful and when we act collectively in that wonder we do transformative work for our community and our world.” – Brad Colby
  • “Play is the exultation of the possible.” – Martin Buber

May you enjoy some uninhibited, joyful, exuberant play time today!

To follow me on Twitter, click here: Twitter.com/DrDebBrown.

Is Nature Calling You Outside This Weekend?

Reflecting back on the workweek, how much time did you spend in an office or cubicle with artificial lighting? How much time did you spend in front of a computer or a TV? How much time did you spend in a car, restaurant, store, or other manmade structure?

This weekend, I hope you give yourself some time to go play outside for a while! Time to head out to the pool, to the beach, to the mountains, to the park, to the trails – out into the fresh air where time seems to slow down, and we return refreshed and re-energized. Thoreau wrote, “We can never have enough of nature. We must be refreshed by the sight of inexhaustible vigor, vast and titanic features, the sea-coast with its wrecks, the wilderness with its living and its decaying trees, the thunder-cloud, and the rain.”

We are all part of the interconnected web of life on Earth and always welcome to join the ongoing celebration all around us. There is music in the wind, the waves, the rustling leaves, and all the living things with whom we share the earth, and we are continually being invited to join the dance:

"Inside this middle-aged body of a housewife there is a dancer. Don’t laugh. I have danced with sunflowers in sandy September fields with fruit trees each spring, blossoms in my hair at the lake’s edge in winter where tall grass and thin reeds wobble on pointed toes in the wind and in summer with the sea where anyone can find the dancer inside. Don’t laugh. Barefoot, arms outstretched, palms raised to the sky, to the birds, to the clouds, to God, who choreographed it all, I danced. I knew every step and the waves stood up and bowed." – Elaine Christensen

No matter what your plans might be, I hope you have a great weekend!

To read other motivational and inspirational thoughts throughout the day, follow me on Twitter at Twitter.com/DrDebBrown.

Play Each Day to Relieve Stress

 A half a dozen years ago, I found myself in a rough patch. Looking at the four seasons of tough times, I had a good four to six months of what in my last post I would have called "winter." I wasn’t happy with what life had dished out in the early months of 2003, nothing was earth shattering, but nonetheless very disheartening. Discouraged and unsure of the future, I was weathering tough times’ dark, messy middle when luckily, I received some good advice. "Even if you don’t want to, do something that you enjoy each day," my husband told me.

Children Playing 1941
Children Playing 1941

He had reminded me to play; to do something that might not have any obvious purpose other than to make me smile. Trusting him, I took his advice and made sure I did something that had before brought me happiness. I ran around the neighborhood, spent time with friends and danced around my kitchen. I played games with my children and traveled with them. Play time helped me to recover my bearings and after studying tough times for the next half a decade, I understand why.

As expert Dr. Stuart Brown explains, play keeps us healthy and thriving. "By its nature it is uniquely and intrinsically rewarding. It generates optimism, seeks out novelty, makes perseverance fun, leads to mastery, gives the immune system a bounce, fosters empathy and promotes a sense of belonging and community."  The following video clip from a three part PBS special describes the importance of play:

I now try to remember to log in some good old fashioned fun whenever I can. So, please play. Play hard and play often, and I hope it will allow you to "play well."

 From "Playing Well at Work and Beyond" by Deidre Combs

The Game Of Life

I believe that life is like a game.
To become a good player requires discipline,
dedication and determination.
You have to know and understand the game.
And you need to know exactly which position you want to play.

Becoming a good player means
staying focussed on the game and realising your potential.
You have to have insight on the goals you would like to achieve
and practice hard and long to get to there.

You simply cannot cry over past mistakes
and worry about the future.
You have to stay focussed on where you are
and where you would like to be.
Yes, you have to be very clear about where you’re heading too.

Stay firm on your feet and avoid any distractions.
When you fall, get up as quickly as you can
and continue to play.
Focus on what you can do and accomplish,
instead of what you can’t.

Make good use of your talents and abilities
or you might lose them forever.
Take heed of your strenghths and in so-doing
keep them alive, growing and developing.
Also, learn to develop good communication.

Know your opponents amd team players.
Keep your eyes on those who play with you.
But also, don’t lose sight of those who play against you.
And remember, practice makes perfect.

Possesion of the ball is the key
     to winningin football,
 basketball, and the game of life.”
       – Laing Burns, Jr-


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