The Choice is Yours

Lifetree News
Creating Prosperity with Harmony
Alice G. Vlietstra, Ph.D.
May, 2010
The Choice is Yours

In This Issue

1.  Welcome
2.  The Choice is Yours
3.  Take a Breath and Reflect
4.  Rediscover Your Community

1.  Welcome

Gardens are springing up in neighborhoods and local communities all around.
Locally grown food is soaring in popularity. Farmers markets have increased over the last few years, as have many other local businesses, such as food coops, green grocers, and book stores. These are just a few ways in which people are rediscovering the benefits of an economy rooted in the local community.

These community efforts help us to share more, make it with less, and put people and planet first. For many, the downfall in the stock market, the loss of jobs, and global warming has been a wake-up call. Change is needed. The process of change is marked by moving towards what we want, leaving behind what we do not want. All too often, however, there is a tendency to complain when life brings stress. But is complaining a solution? The answer is no. Research shows that it only prolongs suffering. Far more powerful is your ability to use your experience to empower yourself, expand and grow.

This e-newsletter focuses on a key to expansion and growth - the practice of
forgiveness. Forgiveness is like preparing and turning the soil, pulling out
old roots for new seeds to take hold. We will look at the benefits of
forgiveness and give you tools for using it in your life.

2. The Choice is Yours

Let's face it. Often we find there is a big GAP between what we desire and what
we get. For example, your job may have been terminated and your investments may not have brought the return you desired. These situations bring stress into your life. Whether or not you continue to allow them to bring stress into your life,
however, is a choice. The choice is not about what happened, but how you handle it. A key to handling it well is to maintain a positive focus.

The practice of forgiveness in creating a positive focus has been extolled in
psychology as well as religious traditions around the world. Fred Luskin, a
researcher on the psychology of forgiveness, finds that forgiveness increases
physical vitality, optimism, hope, compassion, and relationship health.
Forgiveness also reduces the physical and emotional impact of stress, while
decreasing anger, hurt, depression and blood pressure (2002).

Forgiveness is often misunderstood. First, it is not for others but for you.
It does not mean condoning or justifying horrific acts but rather, taking
action for good. It is a conscious choice that allows you to honor your
larger intent to better others and yourself. One way to move out of hurt is
to become aware of how the negative experience has helped you know what
you don't want. This enables you to become clearer on what you do want.
Then your actions are more effective. A second way is to reclaim your power.

3. Take a Breath and Reflect

When you have a grievance, it is easy to see yourself as a victim.  When you
see yourself as a victim, you give your power to others.  When you see your
situation as an opportunity to become a victor, you take your power back.  
Critical for claiming your power is the ability to avert the stress response,
calm yourself, and take time to reflect.  The following is a quick way to
shift to a calmer mood.  It was developed by Fred Luskin (2002) and consists
of three steps.
 1.  Breathe - Bring your attention fully to your stomach as you slowly draw
     in and out two deep breaths. As you inhale, allow the air to gently push
     your belly out.  As you exhale, consciously relax your belly so that it
     feels soft.
 2.  Focus - On the next deep inhalation, bring to your mind's eye an image
     of someone you love or a beautiful scene in nature. Let it fill you with
     awe and wonder. Focus on your breath, and move your attention to your heart. Be grateful you are alive. This breathing exercise helps to take you out
     of your instinctual reactive response and draw upon the resources of your
     higher brain. 
 3.  Reflect  - Now ask yourself - "What is the highest and best way to handle
     this situation? Listen to the wisdom that comes from within.  When you
     take time to quiet yourself and move to positive emotion, it activates
     your frontal lobes.  This is the brain center for creativity and insight.
     Listen to the wisdom that comes from within. Trust what comes and do it.

We often look for answers outside of ourselves that are better found within. 
This three step process helps you to gain access to the resources of your
higher brain.  Try it several times a day and make it a habit. It will help
you access your heart's wisdom.

4. Rediscover Your Community

When you bring more positive emotion into your life, your hurts will diminish in
importance.   For example, many are stressed by the downturn of the economy. 
One way to overcome this is to remember that no matter how hard our institutions try, corporations and institutions cannot do many things that only people can do. Institutions can only offer services, -- not care.  

Care comes from what we do with those around us.  It comes freely from the heart.  Entrepreneurs often start their businesses in the garage or at the kitchen table. It is the support from the community that helps to build a market. In many areas, jobs are found  locally through word of mouth.  The neighborhood watch provides safety. The real key to maintaining health is a positive attitude, healthy food, and exercise.  All these are nurtured in our communities.  When we create
relationships and connections with the resources that we have, the power of the
community increases, building more with less.  John McKnight has written a
wonderful article on the power of our communities and neighborhoods. A link to
it is on the side bar.  It is well worth reading.

The challenge of our economy, in many ways, is part of a larger process in which we are becoming more inclusive, creating a world that works for all.  Forgiveness enables us to rebuild trust and compassion in our relationships, moving past the old to create a new, more positive, future.  It is a proven method for enhancing your health and happiness, and well worth a try. 

Warm Regards,
Dr. Alice


Luskin, Fred Ph.D. Forgive for Good:  A PROVEN Prescription for Health and
Happiness. NY:  HarperCollins, 2002. Website -

Newsletter Name: 
Lifetree News

Children: The Forgotten Crisis

Successful Relating:
Fulfillment through Connection and Community
Alice Vlietstra, Ph.D.  Editor                                                                                   Children: The Forgotten Crisis

April, 2009

In this issue:
1. Welcome
2. Children: The Forgotten Crisis
3. Commodity or Community
4. Awareness Creates Choice
5. Upcoming Events

1. Welcome
Welcome. Mother's day is only nine days away.  Have you have heard the
saying?  "When Momma is happy, everyone is happy, and when Momma isn’t happy, nobody's happy. Why?   Because mothers look out for the happiness of their children. Thisgives them an expanded view that includes the happiness of everyone.  Today, the children in our society are in crisis. This e-newsletter looks at this crisis and explores a solution. It is related to women's joy. Special for women, I am giving a workshop on joy at the end of the month.
2.  Children:  The Forgotten Crisis  

With the current depression in the United State’s economy, many are becoming aware of the limitations of a society driven by money alone. While much attention has been given to the impact of the economy on jobs, housing, and the environment, an area that is frequently overlooked is the impact of a money-oriented economy on the development of children.

David Myers in 2000, noted the changes that occurred in our society as the
number of material products increased. In 2000, he notes, we were able to purchase twice as many products as in 1960.  In the same time period, however, the divorce rate doubled, the teen suicide rate tripled, violent crime quadrupled, prison rates quintupled (many inmates commit their crimes after getting into  drugs as teens) and there are soaring rates of depression (Christianity Today, April 24, 2000).

Meanwhile, research increasingly shows the importance of family and community involvement in rearing healthy, caring, responsible children. Rather than expensive videos or toys, kids require families and communities
that are aware and care. Because we are aware of this, we have options. We can choose to see children as a commodity, or as part of a community. 

3.  Children:  Commodity or community?

Children as a Commodity:  A number of writers, such as Henry Giroux (2009) and Juliet Schor (2005) have brought to our attention the role of corporations in commoditizing children.  Giroux (2009) reports that children and teens, because of their value as consumers, have become major targets for powerful corporate marketing and financial forces. 

Corporate America, Giroux reports, valuing children as commodities, spends billions a year on shaping children’s identities and lives.  He notes, that even at age one, babies may be watching "Teletubbies" eating the food of its "promo partners" Burger King and MacDonald's. These videos he says, are part of the grooming of children as consumers, who in turn influence the spending patterns of their parents.

Rather than seeing the need to protect children, Giroux states, "The worth of
young people is measured through the potentially barbaric calculations of
finance, exchange value and profitability." One consequence is that many of our children will confront a future that offers little hope for happiness and well being.

Children Need Community:  At the same time, we have increasing amountsof information about what it takes to raise healthy, caring responsible children. Rather than spending money on fancy toys and entertainment, we can provide them with common, ordinary, caring activities. Search Institute, after reviewing extensive research, identified forty developmental assets that are needed for raising healthy children.

It makes sense that children need a caring family, a caring community, boundary setting, organized activities, support for learning, support for developing social skills and a positive identity (Scales, et. al. 2000). Television is not on the list.

Youth with more of these assets not only show fewer problems (violence, drug and alcohol use, depression) but also show more evidence of thriving (school success, leadership, helping others, physical health). You may learn more about these assets at the Search Institute Website.

4.  Awareness Gives Us a Choice:

We can blindly follow corporate dictates, or we can become informed and empowered, taking responsible action in our communities and homes, right where we are, one moment at a time.

Which is more attractive to you? Which do you think has more influence? 
It is a community that is aware and cares. It also takes connection and organization. One of the most powerful forces that holds our society together is women's friendships. When women cultivate their internal strength
and faith in life itself, it can be very powerful. This is women's joy.

Joy, especially inner joy, is much more that being happy with a pleasurable turn
of events.  Arising from within, joy is the capacity to maintain a patient
and persistent attitude in the face of adversity.  It is a faith and a desire
to benefit life itself.  It is one of the keys to successful change. I will be having a workshop on women’s joy at the end of the month.

Join us and become empowered!

Warm Regards,

Dr. Alice


*Giroux, H.A.  Commodifying  Kids:  The Forgotten Crisis.
*Myers, David.  Christianity Today, 2000, April 24.
*Scales, P.C., Benson, P.L., Leffert, N. & Blyth, E. A.  Contributions of developmental assets to the prediction  of thriving among adolescents. Applied Developmental  Science, 4, 27-46.
*Shor, Juliet.  Born to Buy.  New York: Scribner, 2005.
5.  Announcements

May 18:  Teleseminar with Dr. Stan Fine Complementary, 7:00 - 8:00 PM, CDT.

Sign up at

May 30: Workshop for Women:  The Joy Spillover

Check it out at


© Copyright 2009 Alice Vlietstra.  All rights reserved. The above material is copyrighted but you may retransmit or distribute it to whomever you wish as long as not a single word is added or deleted, including the contact information.  However, you may not copy it to a web site without my permission.

Newsletter Name: 
Successful Relating

Tough Times, Tough People

Successful Relating:
Fulfillment through Connection and Community
Alice Vlietstra, Ph.D.  Editor
September, 2008

Tough Times, Tough People

In this issue:
1. Welcome
2. Tough Times, Tough People
3. Becoming Empowered
3. Wise Wealth
4. Announcements

1. Welcome

Welcome. You have heard the news. Times are tough.  Listening to the news on the economy has left us unsettled, When times are tough, some businesses
and relationships fail while others continue to flourish and thrive. What makes the difference?  I believe it is a matter of mindset, the focus of this e-newsletter.  
2. Tough Times, Tough People

Have you ever found that listening to the news leaves you fearful, depressed,
doubting your abilities, and the future?   Does it leave you feeling constricted?
 It does not need to be that way. You can also use it as an opportunity to become
empowered, think for yourself, gather information, connect with friends and family, and act to find a solution that works for you.

Some people are resilient. They can handle adversity well and use it to expand their options. Others often become overwhelmed with fear.  When you are in fear, it can limits your options. What makes the difference?

Three factors stand out to me. The first is perspective.  People who are resilient
honor their strengths and are positive.  When you look at your higher intentions and strengths, you become more aligned with your spiritual resources. 
Then you are not as reactive to the immediate circumstances. By taking a broader perspective you can also build upon the current situation by
transforming it into an invaluable experience from which you can learn, grow, and share with others.

Second, No shame and blame. If a problem arises, it may not be your fault. Research shows that those who recognize that adverse events often result from factors outside themselves are more likely to see negative events as temporary and to take action.  For example, the economic crunch is a problem of both individual spending and government policy.

Third, discover your sources of community. We are all in this together. The combined concerted action of a small group in pursuing a common goal empowers us, even if it is only the support of one person. A shared focus on
using individual strengths in the service of the common good brings a deep personal gratification for everyone involved. It gives you the support
and faith for finding a solution to the problem.

3.  Becoming Empowered

Everyone has strengths. It is a focus on these character strengths that inspires us to work together for the common good.  In learning how to overcome adversity, I have been discovering stories that are just amazing.

For this reason, I have started a series on "Roots: Discovering the Hidden Strengths That Guide and Empower your Life."  You can check out the series by clicking on the blog tab above. 

Last week, I did a teleseminar where I interviewed Kimberly Schneider, an outstanding manifestation coach in our area. You can catch the replay on
the post on "Celebrating Gratitude." The story of her father's heroism in maintaining a positive attitude while struggling with illness was an
inspiration to us all. 

This week, I posted on Paul Newman. What a legacy of generosity! You will discover how his focus on character strengths has revolutionized business.

4.  Wise Wealth

Wise wealth is more than money.  It includes our relationships.  Indeed, research has shown that a focus on money alone does not lead to
increased happiness.  In order to promote well being, material wealth also needs to be balanced with strong relationships that promote the common good.

In previous newsletters I have written on the gender differences of single focused (men) and diffuse awareness (women). I believe this shows up in our orientation towards money.  As is often noticed, men earn more than
women, and women shop.  Today, many individuals are shifting their
orientation to one that collaborates on the strengths of gender rather than focusing on just one or the other. Indeed, research shows that solutions that build upon the strengths of gender far more lasting and profitable than either one alone (Romig, 2001).

One big challenge to this shift for women is that we still are impacted by old patterns of thinking from the past.  A generation or two ago the men were the
breadwinners and the women took care of the children. In today's economy, women do both.  Suze Orman says, however, that women often follow
an old map that no longer works.  Other writers, such as Babcock and Laschever, says it shows up when women don't ask. 

For this reason, I have organized a workshop for women: Secrets to Wealth and Wisdom. The focus this workshop is to become aware of our old map, release it and learn new approaches towards negotiation that bring out the best of gender.   If you are a woman who is uncomfortable asking for what you want, you will not want to miss this workshop. 

5.  Announcements

 Workshop For Women: Saturday, October 18. Secrets to Wealth and Wisdom:
Asking For What You Want - Money. It will be held on October 18, 1-5 PM. at
"A Gathering Place,"  12131 Dorsett Road, Ste 101, in Maryland Heights, MO. 63043.  Email me for a flyer.

To Your Success,

Dr. Alice


Babcock, Linda and Laschever, Sara. Women Don't Ask.  .Princeton University Press, Princeton University, 2003.
Orman, Suze.  Women and Money.  Spiegel & Grau, New York, 2007.
Romig, Dennis. Side by Side Leadership, Bard Press: Austin TX, 2001. 



© Copyright 2008 Alice Vlietstra.  All rights reserved. The above material is copyrighted but you may retransmit or distribute it to whomever you wish as long as not a single word is added or deleted, including the contact information.  However, you may not copy it to a web site without my permission.

Newsletter Name: 
Successful Relating

From Fear to Connection and Community

Successful Relating
Fulfillment through Connection and Community
Alice G. Vlietstra, Ph.D., Editor
February, 2008
Moving from Fear to Connection and Community

In This Issue:
1.  Welcome
2.  Beyond Tragedy
3.  Community Consciousness
4.  A Choice
5.  Announcements

1.  Welcome

Welcome.  We are in a time when we are experiencing many challenges. Global warming, economic stress, and increased crime are only a few. Here in the Midwest, we are recovering from the tragedy of the shootings in St. Louis,
Missouri and at Northern Illinois University.

Events such as these can create a deep sense of helplessness, fear, and frustration.  They also may lead to an increased awareness of the deeper
problems and dramatic change.  This e-newsletter explores the possibility that how we experience this reality is a choice.

2.  Beyond Tragedy

Is it possible that out of tragedy, a deep stirring of consciousness can arise?  These shootings have been a grave concern.  Will the solution be one of shame and blame?  Or is it possible to achieve an understanding of the
underlying causes so as to rise above them?  Can we honor those who have died by treating these events as a stimulus to create a healthier, saner, society?

In his book Lost Boys (1999), James Garbarino shares how human development experts predicted this kind of violence more than 25 years ago. 
They believed the violence was a result of the fragmentation in our society that deprives individuals of a sense of connection, community, of being heard, and accountability. 

3. Community Consciousness

The incidents themselves give rise to a greater community consciousness.  When we see the impact of the damage, a new awareness emerges.  There is
a need for identifying these kinds of problems early. No longer can the self-interest of any one person or group be pursued at the expense
of the larger whole. This is true whether the battle occurs in a personal relationship, a family, or in society as a whole.

Often, there is the belief that the change needs to come from strong leadership or a power outside ourselves. But, once again, this may only perpetuate the battle. Beyond the strong need for immediate protection, a more long-term
solution for change may result from an increased awareness within ourselves of taking small constructive actions to promote connection and community, one moment at a time, right where we are. 

4. The Choice

We can choose to look at what we have and the strengths that exist within ourselves and within our communities.  This type of examination gives us an opportunity to rethink the release old patterns and begin to grow anew.  Later, we
will be able to look back at the situation and determine what has been accomplished and gained.  Withstanding and recovering from such tragic
events may be a matter of perspective. What do you think?

5.  Announcements

Saturday: March 22: 1:00-5:00 Workshop,      
 "Mind, Money, and Spirit:  Releasing Financial Stress"
We will look at the core patterns that impact your relationship with money.   

It will be held at “A Gathering Place” at 12131 Dorsett Road, Ste. 101, Maryland Heights, MO. 63043.  It will be held on Saturday, March 22, from 1:00-5:00 PM.   Call me at 314-729-2855 or e-mail me for a flyer.

Warm Regards,

Dr. Alice

Garbarino, J.  Lost Boys:  Why Our Sons Turn Violent and How We Can Save Them. 1999. New YorK: Anchor Books




Copyright 2008 Alice Vlietstra All rights reserved.

Newsletter Name: 
Successful Relating

The Lost Child

Successful Relating
Fulfillment through Connection and Community
Alice G. Vlietstra, Ph.D., Editor

To subscribe or unsubscribe, see below.

December 2007

In This Issue:

1.  Welcome
2.  The Lost Child 
3.  Renewed Hope
4.  Announcements

1.  Welcome

Welcome. This is the holiday season, the time for celebrating, renewal,
and hope.  When you look over this last year, what has touched you the
most? Did you get what you wanted? Or, would you have liked more to happen? 
How has this affected your intentions for next year?
What I received was different than what I had expected, even better. This can
also happen to you. Let me share my story.

The Lost Child

It was December 2002, and I was in Central Missouri, doing yet another investigation for an inmate on death row.  As an expert witness in human development, I had been asked to testify on the early childhood factors that impacted the development of his personality.

Was this person a monster, an evil person?  Or, was there another story?  As I saw all too frequently, there was another story, one of a lost child – a child that had fallen between the cracks of a busy, fragmented world.

The pattern was similar to many I had seen previously; poverty, broken family, school problems, shame, blame, and guilt. As in the rest of my investigations, the crime had been committed by age 18.  The child's most basic need, to be connected and significant, had not been met.  Instead, it had been replaced
with fear, anger, drugs, and crime. 

The choice now was death or life in prison. And, he was not the only one. The prison business is one of the fastest growing in the country.

I was concerned. Must it be this way?  No. We have enough information to do more for our children. It was then that I decided to shift gears, and use my background in human development and psychology to touch the hearts and minds of the community to effect a positive impact for change. 

3.  Renewed Hope

Over the last five years I reinvented my career.  I sought out advanced techniques to better access the early developmental emotional states and patterns. Then I delved in positive psychology, the study of character strength and virtue, and
in the skills needed for successful, healthy relationships. Finally, it all came together with a deeper understanding of the law of attraction. 

This year, my story is different.  Again, I was asked to serve as an expert witness
in Central Missouri, -- this time to reunite a child with the biological parent.

In the courtroom, faces were grim and pinched, grievances had been expressed, and the air was tense. An infant had been placed in alternative care and local groups had voiced concerns.  Children in foster care had died.  Immediate
placement of a child was not always better than the child remaining with the parent.

This time I was most grateful to be able to speak to the character strengths, virtues, and developmental assets present in the family -- generosity, perseverance, spirituality, and to me, the most powerful, forgiveness. 

The judge ruled in favor of including an evaluation of not only potential problems,
but also of the developmental assets, virtues and strengths in the home. This ignited a broader, more positive approach. The child was reunited with the biological parent.  

What touched me most deeply about this story was the power of the community to work together for good.  Once they were made aware of the bigger picture, their perspective shifted; instead of making complaints they focused on working together as a community in the best interest of the child.     

Our children are our hope for the future. Often, the voice of the child is hidden,
both within ourselves and within the children in our lives. Once it is honored
and expressed,and our higher ideals are acknowledged, the negative can be transcended.
We can build a new future. I hope you include this renewal in your intentions for next year.  Thank you for being my very best gift, the gift of being YOU.

Warm Regards,

Dr. Alice

5.  Announcements

Women, would you like to experience more flexibility in your life, more peace at
home, and true wealth?  Then come join me for our workshop on Saturday afternoon, January 19th, 2008. 

“For Women:  Secrets to Wealth and Peace”

Call me at 314-729-2855 or visit:


© Copyright 2007 Alice Vlietstra. All rights reserved.

Newsletter Name: 
Successful Relating

Surviving Difficult Times - Community

Successful Relating
Fulfillment through Connection and Community
Alice G. Vlietstra, Ph.D. Editor

To subscribe or unsubscribe see below

September 2005

In this issue:

1.  Welcome
2.  Rebuilding Community
3.  Community Gives Meaning
5.  Announcements

1.  Welcome

Welcome to my eighth e-newsletter focusing on "Creating a New Story." The last newsletter focused on individual values and strengths and their impact on community.  In this newsletter our focus will be on the importance of a supportive
community for survival during difficult times. 

2.  Rebuilding Community

In the wake of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita and the devastation that has occurred in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas, the importance of community is once again
brought to our awareness. Our desire to care for each other in times of need is amazing and yet is often taken for granted.  Money, clothes, food, etc. has been
pouring in to community organizations to help the survivors of the hurricane. People have opened their homes and businesses to those who have lost everything.  The country is mobilized around those in need and is helping them
clean up and rebuild their communities.

The news media has shown us that there were people who chose to face the hurricane alone.  Some managed to survive, but many others made the wrong choice and were swept away.  In the aftermath, survivors are once again
faced with either "going it alone," or joining others in rebuilding new communities of which they would like to become a part.
A disaster like Hurricane Katrina helps us transcend our individual interests and almost forces us to redefine ourselves as part of a community.  We become more willing to give and to accept help in working towards the common
good.  The thought of rebuilding a community such as New Orleans could be totally overwhelming, if not impossible, individually.  With the help of many hands, however, the rebuilding can and will be accomplished, just as it was in
New York after the 9-11 disaster.

3.  Community Gives Meaning

In the process of rebuilding communities, many lasting relationships are created because everyone’s energy is focused on common goals which will benefit all.  This shared focus on using individual strengths in the service of community brings great personal satisfaction to everyone involved.  Those not involved in the rebuilding process often may feel even more isolated and alone than before
the disaster. The more we commit ourselves to community, the happier, the richer, and the more fulfilled our lives become.

Many children have lost their parents and families in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.  Those children who have had the good fortune to survive with their families, have an ideal opportunity to observe that people joined in a
common cause can produce miracles. 

Young children, most of the time, live in the present moment and do not experience "horrible" events in same way that adults do, if there are caring, loving people around them. They are completely open to any positive or humorous experience that may occur.  They have faith that whatever is occurring now will eventually be over and the future will be brighter. For children, the support community is critical and unconsciously teaches them that it takes a
community to build a functioning society.

They say "It takes a village to raise a child," and it takes villagers to build communities.  Individual strengths are needed in service of the community, not only during times of disaster, but also in everyday life.  The lesson we can learn
from Hurricane Katrina and from 9-11, is that disasters can bring out surprising heroism from each of us and make us aware that in order to lead "Meaningful Lives" (see the August newsletter) we must do our part to make the world a better place for all.

Warm Regards,

Dr. Alice


Coming up in November, at the Soul Esteem Center, I will be giving a four-week workshop entitled   "Spirit, Mind, and Money." 

The views herein are the views of the author and may or may not reflect the views of the cited organizations.

© Copyright 2005 Alice Vlietstra.  All rights reserved.

Newsletter Name: 
Successful Relating
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