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Get it On: The Dance Challenge

May 8th, 2016

In our dance series of moves we’ve learned from teens, we’ve highlighted several dance moves. Did you take the time to demonstrate the moves you know and that your youth know?

Not only is dancing (movement) good as a brain booster, it’s also good as an inter-generational activity and a cultural activity where we exchange things we know and love about music AND share stories.

One last clip . . . just because – watch and see who knows what, who does what and what other epic moves it brings to mind.  Let the fun begin!  Enjoy!


Boost Your Brain: The Final 3 Dance Moves

May 2nd, 2016

On our journey to learn new dance steps from youth, we leave you with these three.  Are they still the latest?

Ask your teens to teach you the newest moves.  Ask the to share dance stories – the flopped moves, the great moves, maybe even the embarrassing moves.  It’s fun what you’ll learn as you move, laugh and dance together . . . which brings us back to the point of this series: boost the brain, boost the relationships.


for this next one, it takes about 30 seconds in to get to it.  :-)

Boost Your Brain: The Dancing Goes On

April 25th, 2016

Movement is an important brain booster.  And dancing is a great way to bring in oxygen, get the blood and heart pumping, reduce stress, build friendships and have a good time.

For this week’s dance moves, these three steps are easy (supposedly) beginner moves that anyone can do – even those of us with two left feet!  Poll your teens – do these moves still make the cool list? Or do they help them get away with “looking” cool?


What do you GET to do?

April 8th, 2016

A repost from our friend and colleague, Anderson Williams,

Anyone who knows me knows I can drop the occasional four-letter word. (I am perhaps being kind to myself here.) But, with a four-year-old and two-year-old at home, I pay more attention than ever to my words.

Surprisingly, it hasn’t been difficult to avoid cursing in front of them. It really hasn’t. But, paying attention to those words has made me more cognizant of all words I use in front of them. It’s sort of like eating habits: if you give up sweets, you end up paying more attention to the other things you eat too!

My four-letter-word diet has illuminated a much worse practice: confusing the terms “have to” and “get to”.

My habit first jumped out at me one day when I caught myself telling my daughters that they “have to” go to school (daycare, but we say school) on Monday. I stopped and thought: “what a terrible message!” My girls love their school. They love everything about it (except maybe nap time). We hear all weekend about their teachers and friends and the games they played in the gym. They love it. And, here I am sending the message, or at least emphasizing, that it is compulsory; they “have to” go.

No, my girls “get to” go to school, and they acknowledge that by their desire to be there. They also “get to” go because they are part of a family that values education, has the resources and flexible enough jobs to allow for the opportunity. They “get to” go to school for many reasons that we as parents, and they as children, should always be cognizant of.

I was so mad at myself for such a poor choice of words!

And then, I did it again!

My wife and girls and I were heading out of the house somewhere and I said: “first, we have to go grab some lunch.” Have to!? Really?

At least, this time I caught myself and restated – “First, we get to go grab some lunch.” We get to go to a restaurant. We get to be together. We get to eat a meal that we enjoy. To suggest we “have to” diminishes everything about the experience we were about to share, and moves emphasis toward some other event we “get to” do later.

There have obviously been countless other times I have failed in this word choice, and almost certainly there will be more as I break the habit. Just last week, I said: “I have to go vote!” But, breaking this seemingly simple habit is core to who I am and how I want to raise my daughters.

This distinction between “get to” and “have to” isn’t about decency or manners or appropriateness like we think about with four-letter words. It’s about privilege. It’s about humility, being thankful, being present. It’s about acknowledging your own experiences and opportunities and those of others. It’s about your approach to life, not taking things for granted.

So, bring on the four-letter words, but let’s please not pretend we “have to” do things that we really “get to”. That’s a pretty [expletive]-ed up message to send to our kids.

Boost Your Brain: Dance Move #3

April 4th, 2016

Movement is an important brain booster.  And dancing is a great way to bring in oxygen, get the blood and heart pumping, reduce stress, build friendships and have a good time.

As Ann and I led a series for workshops, we tested various dance games.  We quickly learned that not all dance moves are universal . . . or equal.   As always, we love learning from youth . . .

Here’s this week’s moves that we learned. (One I can do!)

Ask your teens: are these moves in? Or are they now “so last year”?


Boost Your Brain With Dance

March 21st, 2016

Movement is an important brain booster.  It brings in oxygen, gets the blood and heart pumping, reduces stress and quite simply, it can be . . . just good ole’ wholesome fun.

When Ann and I lead workshops for camp, we often try out new games.  And our latest round of new games included dance moves.  In one game, instead of us telling them the moves to do for the game, we asked them for the dance moves.  And that’s where our education began . . . In the next few weeks, we’ll share the moves we learned and that made us “cool” with future teens and young adults.

It’s all in the moves. My personal favorite I learned while teaching Y-CAP summer camp staff (Vanderbilt football players primarily).  The guys taught me how to do the Whip.  Which came in quite handy a few months later when I was leading a training in New York and got the group’s attention by – yep, you guessed it – doing the Whip.

Cool dance move #1.  Enjoy!

Appreciation Challenge

March 17th, 2016

There have been a few times when I have created presents for other people that are simply lists or little booklets about the best of who they are.  Something along the lines of the “12 gifts of you.” The gift includes simple things that I note about the person that I appreciate about them and am thankful for. Sometimes they are things that I see that I’m not sure that they see about themselves.

It’s a simple gift but a thoughtful one.

This past week I got to be on the receiving end of such a gift. My sister decided to do five days of appreciation of me for my birthday.  Every day she sent me five things that she appreciated about me and she actually did this for five days. It was such an awesome gift of perspective and surprise.

I’ve always enjoyed being on the giving side of such a gift, but to be on the receiving end gave me a whole new perspective. Wow!

To jot down a few things you like about someone is such an easy way to express appreciation and to encourage them.  And, it ends up being a gift for both the giver and the receiver.

Here’s an example of what I’ve done.  I emailed my writing partner this morning.  The subject heading was “Appreciation Day.”  In the body, I said “I love that you . . . ” and then listed 4 or 5 (the number doesn’t matter) things that I love about her.

The things you appreciate don’t have to be huge. They can be quite simple.  For example, for Ann, one line was about how much she relishes chocolate and coffee with a big grin.  It makes her happy.  I also noted how she is so good at re-framing negatives into positives – a trait I admire.

Who could you take five minutes to send an appreciation note to?  Could you make it a weekly practice to send one note?  Or monthly?  Try it out. See what happens.  Making someone’s day doesn’t have to take money, a lot of time or energy.  It can be as easy as saying “I love you” or “I love the way you . . .”

The Power of Re-directing

March 11th, 2016

Guest blogger: Vanessa Helbig

Vanessa shares about the intentional action steps she took as a result of attending one of the trainings towards getting her Youth Worker Certification.

I started working with the girls at my site on December 1st. They are a very lively and spirited group; however, they often channel this energy into negative outlets. The classroom was often in chaos with students speaking loudly, arguing, complaining, and acting unhappy with a variety of new teachers coming in and out throughout the semester. They were feeling abandoned, with little structure. So there I was, the third teacher these girls have had walk into their lives in the past three months. They were very skeptical of me and the changes I had to implement. Each day felt like a battle. I spent most days trying to quiet angry students and redirect everyone to positivity and completing tasks.  I started to notice that when I walked into the school, I was bracing myself for certain students to act out as they always had in the past.

However, in the training, we talked about not pre-judging our students and that has sat with me for a while. As much as I wanted to look at each student with new hope every day, I looked at them through my own survival mode. I noticed their misbehavior first, instead of the sharply-tuned skills they were trying to master. Most of their negative behaviors were their own survival modes. Some were guarding themselves from another person walking out of their lives, venting the overload of emotions from a dramatic day, or trying to navigate growing up. In those moments they were responding with their gifts and talents in the only way they knew how.

I wanted to guide them into finding positive outlets for their natural strengths for the betterment of the group.  I channeled my discouragement of loud students who always want to talk and be the center of attention to encouragement of the student’s talent for leadership and communication.  I would look at angry students who were always upset with someone, and value their passion for friendship and loyalty. When a student would act out and I was not able to reign them back in, we would step aside for a chat. I would tell them how thankful I was for their leadership, passion, etc., and I would make sure they knew how special their traits were. Then I would ask them to help me lead the classroom with respect and kindness. Then I would address their specific misbehavior.

With this change, I started to feel better when I looked at my students. I would look at them and see hope and possibilities. In addition, I now try daily to compliment each girl throughout the class time. I try to point out something positive in each one of them where everyone else can hear. In this way I am encouraging positive behaviors and building stronger relationships with my students.

Sadly, this story doesn’t end perfectly. A few of my students have been exited from the program for behavior issues, but each of them knew that I believed they could improve their behaviors and that I saw amazing gifts in them.  Through their behavior issues I had a chance to talk to them about their value and talents; this time was an opportunity we may not have had otherwise. I hope those seeds take root over time in their lives. However, I have still witnessed successes in each girl. When my girls start to get upset they will ask to speak with me so they can calm down and have a listening ear. These moments are huge successes for me because not only are they realizing that I care, but they are practicing a coping skill that will help them their whole lives.

They are learning to pause, take a breath, and communicate before acting out. In addition, one of my girls has opened up to me about her struggle to still be a good person. We are talking about all the good she is and wants to be, but she is struggling with navigating peer pressure and growing up. When she has a difficult behavior day, she always apologizes to me and we discuss what we can do for next time. That is such a big improvement, and I believe my curtailing judgement and giving of grace has helped this change take place.

My classroom is now a room where I give grace, highlight strengths, and start each day with new hope for each student! It does not always look neat, quiet and orderly but it is a place where each student is learning their value.

What action can you commit to trying to have a more positive influence on your youth?


Design for Change Global Conference – a Youth Perspective

March 7th, 2016

DESIGN FOR CHANGE (USA) is a global movement of young people who are changing the world!

This video shares a perspective from some of the students who attended in 2013.  Take a quick peek into what could be a life-changing experience for you and your team!

Learn more about how YOU can be the change here.


Design for Change USA Challenge Winning Project: Students Take on School Dropouts

February 29th, 2016

DESIGN FOR CHANGE (USA) is a global movement of young people who are changing the world!


We are pleased to share with you one of the Design for Change USA projects from young people across the nation.

What will you tackle to BE the CHANGE?

Find out what you need to do and how to enter here.

A Story of Youth Support

February 19th, 2016

Here’s a story shared with us by a colleague on how two youth started a simple act to support other youth:


Design for Change USA Challenge Winning Project: Cleaning Up the City

February 15th, 2016

DESIGN FOR CHANGE (USA) is a global movement of young people who are changing the world!

We are pleased to share with you one of the Design for Change USA projects from young people across the nation. We hope you will join them in BEING THE CHANGE!

Find out more about how to enter the contest here.

Check out the 2014 winners for DFC USA, the YELL Team from Boston

Design for Change USA Challenge: the 2015 Winners Take on Recycling

February 10th, 2016

DESIGN FOR CHANGE (USA) is a global movement of young people who are changing the world! One of the opportunities that DFC offers youth groups is outlined below:

  • Who: Any group of young people (K-8) with an adult mentor e.g., teacher, parent, youth leader, coach.
  • How: Teams dream up and lead social change projects in their own schools/communities using DFC curriculum and training, along with the web portal and other resources.
  • What: Teams are expected to fully implement, present and submit their social change project to DFC USA by the deadline: May 15, 2016.
  • Winners will be announced May 30, 2016.  (Learn more about contest rules here.)

We are pleased to share with you one of the Design for Change USA projects from young people across the nation. We hope you will join them in BEING THE CHANGE!

DFC USA Winners 2015

John Winthorp Elementary School, Boston

Design for Change

February 8th, 2016

We like to highlight resources of agencies that work with youth to develop leadership skills and provide opportunities for youth to give back. In this post, we want to introduce Design for Change:


DESIGN FOR CHANGE (USA) is a global initiative empowering young people to be agents of change in their own schools and communities. Through hands on training, a design thinking curriculum and robust technology platform, DFC engages young people in social change, helping them build their character, capacity and confidence. Once complete, students are required to submit a short video detailing the evolution of their project. These videos are scored and a team of young people from the USA are selected to participate in the annual DFC global conference involving students from 35+ countries.

For more information, please visit:

Check out their web for resources, lesson plans and activities to engage youth in service-learning!