Category Archives: Uncategorized

Paranoia… paranoia…Everybody’s coming to get me!

There is a quote that is often attributed to Joseph Heller (author of Catch-22) –“Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t after you.”

I am a runner, no… wait, that is a little bit of an overstatement – I am a jogger. There are few things that make me as happy as a sunny morning jog out in nature. I was bopping along this morning enjoying a gorgeous Southern California Sunday morning when a little bird happened into my path. He (I decided it was a “he”) was a cute little blue bird. He landed about 30 feet in front of me on the path. As I continued my run, he became nervous as I neared and flitted another 10 feet down the path. You can imagine what happened as I came closer… This recurred repeatedly for nearly a half mile before the bird ultimately got a bit smarter and flew away somewhere not directly on my path.

Being the over-thinker that I am, I wondered if this bird somehow perceived me as a predator, if it felt as though I was stalking him and not just that we were on the same path. I think we do this in our lives. We give intentionality where (maybe) there was none. Think about it – how many times have you been on the freeway and had someone cut in front of you? Are you likely to feel they did this TO you and it was ON PURPOSE? Hey, they could be totally terrible people or it could have been an honest mistake – you might have been in their blind spot. Have you ever been left out of some social gathering and assumed they did it on purpose? What a bitch, right? Could be… or it could have been an oversight or there might have been some reasonable explanation.

What does attributing intention matter? Well, if we are intentionally slighted, our response might be hurt or anger or sadness. We are a victim in the interaction. It might cause us to see the world a little more negatively. So, I see it this way – maybe we have a choice. We can choose how we interpret and react to these situations. The outcome is the same – you were cut off or left out, but, maybe, you can feel a bit better about it.

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A little girl died

This morning, a little girl died after participating at the same dance competition where my daughter was dancing. She was only 7-years-old and suffered from Asthma which ultimately killed her. Neither my daughter nor I ever met her (at least not that I know of), but her passing triggered a number of insights on my part and conversations between my daughter and I.

  1. For the first time in her life, my 9-year-old realized that children really do die. I think this is something she knew in an abstract kind of way, but for a girl like her, who loves to dance and wasn’t “sick” to die – this was something she had never considered.

Mama insight – I think I was slapped with the same realization. This is something that always happens to someone else’s kid and it happens somewhere else – until it doesn’t and it occurs in your world, even peripherally.

  1. This was a reminder for me not to sweat the small stuff. It’s funny, Charlie called me from dance class tonight to tell me she had forgotten her spelling assignment at school which meant she couldn’t fully complete her homework. We’ve really been working on her independence lately and (a few days ago) I would have been annoyed she wasn’t being responsible in bringing her homework home. We talked through how she could problem-solve the situation and get the assignment done, even if it might be a day late. She was so relieved I “wasn’t mad”.

Mama insight – OK, give the kid a break once in a while. It is important to get homework done and be responsible, but none of these things are “end of the world” kind of things.

  1. It is important to be doing things you enjoy. There will always be responsibilities and “have-tos” that we need to do every day, but it is always important to do the things we love as well. This little girl died way too young, but I am hoping the fact that she was doing something she loves will give some small comfort to her family.

Mama insight – make room for fun. Play, have fun, be silly, enjoy each other. Sometimes we get so caught up in the things we have to do (or think we have to do) that we leave no room in our lives for plain old fun. You never know when your (or your loved one’s) last day might be. Don’t keep putting things off – you might not get a chance.

It shouldn’t take someone’s premature loss to make me re-assess the way I am living my life and how I interact with my child, but I am hoping I can make something positive out of this. They are collecting money to try to help the family pay for her funeral expenses – no family saves money for this (college, maybe, but never a funeral). If you are so inclined and are able, please check out their site and help them out (http://www.youcaring.com/memorial-fundraiser/raniyah-simmons-funeral-expenses/297314), but even if you aren’t able, please take a moment and consider her loss and whether it might cause you to make some changes in your own life.

Will that be credit or debit?

I recently lost my American Express card. Not a major tragedy, I know, but I have to admit I went through a variety of emotions – anger at having lost it, fear someone would find it and try to use it, frustration at the process of cancelling it and requesting a new one (not to mention changing all the things that automatically bill to the card – yoga!), and finally a strange kind of grief or loss at not having it in my hot little hands. Again, I want to acknowledge this is not a major tragedy – no one died and it will be replaced, but the process sucked. I basically went through the Kubler-Ross stages of grief over a bit of plastic! (Here is a sneak peak, if you aren’t familiar with the stages of grief: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/K%C3%BCbler-Ross_model).

Then… an interesting thing happened. I was buying less. See, my American Express is the only credit card I use. I use it for everything – I mean, everything – groceries, gas, shopping, yoga, anything and everything. I didn’t pay attention to what I was spending at all, I would just wait until the bill arrived at the end of the month, stare agape at the balance, and then pay it off. For the past seven days, I have not had my American Express and, instead, have been using my debit card. It was strange, but having to write each of these purchases down in my checkbook made me reconsider them – was it worth it? Did I really need it? Somehow using “real money” made it feel more real than slapping down a credit card.

My new Amex arrived today… I am trying to decide if we will have a new relationship or if I will snap back into old patterns. For now, I am enjoying my new awareness and hope it will continue – would couldn’t benefit from saving a little more each month?

Trying to do too much? Nothing gets done.

I was talking with a client recently about the idea we have too much on our plate and are trying to get too much done at once – which, unfortunately, leads to nothing getting accomplished. It made me think about how we can do a lot of things in our lives, but only a few things really well.

Say you have 17 vases lined up on a table. Each vase represents something you are trying to get done. In your hand you have a pitcher of water. You fill up your pitcher and begin moving down the line pouring a little into each vase as you pass. Every so often, you have to run back to the faucet and fill up the pitcher again. Imagine how long it will take you to fill up those vases. Forever! It is so much easier to pick just a few things (vases) and focus on those. Line up two to three vases and pour water into them. They are much quicker to fill and you can then go back and select a few more vases to work on.

You can approach life the same way. Pick two or three things to be your primary focus. Pour your energy into them until the tasks are completed. Bask in your sense of accomplishment for a while and then move on choosing two to three other tasks. Your energy cannot support too many activities at once – you are more likely to grow frustrated and give up. Accomplishment takes too long. Success is too far away.

One Size Never Fits All

 I’ve always been reluctant to believe labels that state “one size      fits all” because, we all know, it is total crap. It isn’t even true to  say “one size fits most” – maybe most can get the item on their  body, but it will not be comfortable or pretty. There was a post  recently on BuzzFeed  (http://www.buzzfeed.com/candacelowry/heres-what-one-size-fits-all-looks-like-on-all#.bx3kq3XO2) where they examined this concept. They had women of all shapes and sizes try on clothing sold as one size fits all and you can probably guess the results. Check out the post – it is nice to have confirmation.

Unfortunately, it is not just clothing that is sold as one size fits all. Oftentimes, it is how we live our lives, too. Not all paths are appropriate for all people, but we tend to look at people as strange if they deviate from the expected course. There is an expectation people will graduate from high school, go to college or into a vocation, get married to someone of the opposite sex and proceed to have 2.5 kids. If any step is challenged, there is a problem. Let me give you an example – I have an older sister who has been married about 25 years. She and her husband decided early on they didn’t want to have children. I don’t know why (it really wasn’t my business), but they were clear about their choices and stuck to them. Near as I can tell, they have had a fantastic relationship and have never wavered in their decision. Here is the thing, whenever I talk about my family with someone new, I am often asked if there is “something wrong” with my sister because she doesn’t have kids. I think there is an assumption there must be a medical reason they didn’t have children – some form of infertility. When I explain they just didn’t want kids, many get a strange look on their faces like she is somehow damaged. Nope. Her choices just differ from what might be expected.

We also tend to apply a one size fits all approach to our relationships. We have an idea of how things should work and then are stunned when it might not work. Have you ever had a friend go through a break-up? You probably had an idea what you could do to help them, right? You offer to hang out – watch a movie or hit a bar, you talk about how their ex didn’t deserve them anyway and how they are going to be so much better off, the usual stuff. This may not work for everyone though. Some may be angry about the breakup. Others might be sad. A few might even be relieved.

There is no one size fits all in life. We need to take most things on a case-by-case basis. Find what fits for you (or your friend or family member). It would be an incredibly dull world if we all truly fit into one size for everything. Let’s celebrate what causes us to be different from one another and what makes us unique.

Good Enough is the New Perfection

The concept of “good enough” is one that has (and continues to) challenge me throughout my life. I wanted to be “the best” at everything and strove for perfection. This lead to immeasurable frustration, and countless hours of banging my head against the wall. Why? Perfection is an elusive bitch and impossible to obtain. Am I the only one with this struggle? Heck no.

One of Charlie’s dance teachers and I were talking the other day about getting ready for an upcoming dance competition. She shared that she rarely sleeps during the weekend of competitions because she stays up all night adding additional stones to costumes or tweaking choreography or adjusting hairpieces. We talked about how hard it is to know when the costume, routine or anything is “good enough” and to know when to stop. This is a challenge we all face in many ways. When is our house clean enough, our children well-behaved enough, our report well-written enough? How do we know when we are clear to stop?

What does “good enough” mean? There is the dictionary definition which is something like “adequately good for the circumstances”, but this is really vague because good enough means different things to different people. Let me give an example, in college I had the opportunity to live with MANY roommates over my many years (undergrad and grad school). One thing you quickly learn living with different people, is you all have very different ideas of what constitutes clean. When is it “good enough”? I had roommates who freaked out if there was a water glass left on the counter of an immaculate kitchen. I had roommates who weren’t concerned if there were mountains of dishes piled in the sink. Each of these people had concepts of what was “good enough”. You can imagine the conflict if I had lived with these two people at the same time. (For the record, I was somewhere between these two extremes).

We each have to come to our own definition of good enough for our own lives. We then need to come to terms to others’ reactions to our idea of good enough. They may be angry (as were my roommates by each other’s level of cleanliness) or frustrated or completely agree. Create your standards and be generous to yourself. Good enough can be as much as needs to get down to achieve a satisfactory result. Returning to my daughter’s dance teacher, good enough is a successful routine with a completed costume. Anything extra (even if it takes it closer to perfection) may be a waste of time and energy.

Fewer, but Bigger, Problems as Kids Age

How strange that the young should always think the world is against them — when in fact that is the only time it is for them. ~Mignon McLaughlin, The Neurotic’s Notebook, 1960

 

When our kids are little, they are tiny balls of need. They need us for everything. They need us to feed them, change their diapers, move them around the room, comfort them, and entertain them. They are completely incapable of surviving without an adult to take care of them. This changes as kids get older. The number and types of things they need from us changes as they grow and mature. It is important to remember, though, as these changes occur, they still need us (just differently).

It reminds me of Christmas morning – bear with me, this will make sense, I promise! When kids are little, they tend to get tons of Christmas gifts. Their gifts are relatively inexpensive, little toys and, therefore, there is a potentially huge pile under the tree. When kids get older, their desired gifts become larger and more expensive. Because of this, there are frequently less gifts.

Problems are a lot like this. When kids are little, they have a ton of difficulties are need our help a lot of the time. These needs are typically not all that complicated (eating, sleeping, toileting, dressing). As they get older, they come to us with help less often, but when they do their problems are so much bigger (relationships, drugs, sex, career). Don’t let their infrequent requests to cause you to think they no longer need you (even when they act like they don’t), their potential problems are huge and they will benefit from your guidance.

Making a Peaceful Pond out of a Pile of Apples

        vs            

I was talking with a client earlier this week and he was explaining why it is so hard for him to make a decision about what to do next – even when the options are all relatively simple things. He reported feeling paralyzed by anxiety about possibly choosing the wrong thing – making a mistake. I asked how he visualized this options, he described a pile of apples at the grocery store. He shared that if he selected the wrong thing, he would upset the whole pile, causing an avalanche of apples which would overwhelm him and make a horrible mess. Once he described this to me, I could completely see his feeling frozen and unable to make a choice. It was like he was playing a giant game of Jenga and pulling the wrong piece might mean “game over”. You know Jenga, right? See the picture below. Google it if you can’t figure out how to play (it really is pretty basic).

My client and I then agreed that he needed to change the way he is visualizing his list of tasks in order to make it easier for him to select one. He came up with a new visualization strategy I thought was absolutely brilliant. In order to reduce his anxiety, he decided to no longer see his tasks as being piled on top of one another, but instead as being pebbles on the bottom of a calm pond. My client can look into the pond from above and select whichever task he might like and have no concern his selection will create a chaotic event. We discussed how sometimes he might choose a large pebble, while other times he might select a smaller one. If he selects a pebble, it is perfectly acceptable to work on it for a while and put it back and move on, if needed. We even discussed using the natural elements around the pond (i.e., perhaps birds are singing and the sun is shining) to help to relax him and reduce his anxiety.

My client is unlikely to report immediate and permanent reduction in his symptoms based on one visualization activity, but, if he continues to work on this activity, he will likely feel better gradually over time. This goes to show how, sometimes, it isn’t the problem itself we need to change, but simply the way we look at it and the meaning we take from it.

If you can teach them to drive, you can teach them internet safety!

                                   

The internet can be a scary place. If you are a parent, the internet can be a very scary place. The internet is terrifying both for the information that can come in and what can go out. Examples of how scary information that might come in are: perpetrators trying to contact your kids, “inappropriate” information they can access (violence and pornography to name a couple of topics), and bullying they may receive from others both known and unknown. Examples of what might go out from your child is: private and personal information your child may knowingly or unknowingly share with others, bullying your child may commit against another person, and photos your child may post of themselves or others.

This potential flow of information back and forth is enough to cause a parent to want to ban the internet all together. I am going to advise against a complete internet embargo. What I do recommend is supervision. Be involved with your children while they are interacting on the internet. You have an opportunity to teach them to appropriately use the internet. Let me give an analogy. As their teen approaches the age when they can begin to learn to drive, many parents become terrified. Should parents ban their teens from learning to drive to protect them from any potential future car accident? Heck, no. Use your time while they are under your influence and you can supervise them to teach them how to drive safely. Make sure they take the required training courses, spend time with them in the car observing their developing skills, remind them about important safety skills (i.e., no texting or phone calls), and encourage them to practice with appropriate supervision.

How does this translate to internet safety? Have them use the internet with appropriate supervision, observe their internet use and discuss important internet safety rules. Internet rules you can give to your children include:

  • Personal Information. Don’t give out personal information without your parents’ permission. This means you should not share your last name, home address, school name, or telephone number. Remember, just because someone asks for information about you does not mean you have to tell them anything about yourself!
  • Screen Name. When creating your screen name, do not include personal information like your last name or date of birth.
  • Passwords. Don’t share your password with anyone but your parents. When you use a public computer make sure you logout of the accounts you’ve accessed before leaving the terminal.
  • Photos. Don’t post photos or videos online without getting your parents’ permission.
  • Online Friends. Don’t agree to meet an online friend unless you have your parents’ permission. Unfortunately, sometimes people pretend to be people they aren’t. Remember that not everything you read online is true.
  • Online Ads. Don’t buy anything online without talking to your parents first. Some ads may try to trick you by offering free things or telling you that you have won something as a way of collecting your personal information.
  • Downloading. Talk to your parents before you open an email attachment or download software. Attachments sometimes contain viruses. Never open an attachment from someone you don’t know.
  • Bullying. Don’t send or respond to mean or insulting messages. Tell your parents if you receive one. If something happens online that makes you feel uncomfortable, talk to your parents or to a teacher at school.
  • Social Networking. Many social networking websites (e.g., Facebook, Twitter, Second Life and MySpace) and blog hosting websites have minimum age requirements to signup. These requirements are there to protect you!
  • Research. Talk to your librarian, teacher or parent about safe and accurate websites for research. The public library offers lots of resources. If you use online information in a school project make sure you explain where you got the information.

My helicopter can kick your lawnmower’s ass!

            vs               

I have to admit something. I have always considered myself a bit of a helicopter parent – not only that, but it was a point of pride for me. What is a helicopter parent, you say? Where have you been? Under a rock? Well, my sheltered friends, a helicopter parent is a parent who pays extremely close attention to a child’s or children’s experiences and problems, particularly at educational institutions. Helicopter parents are so named because, like helicopters, they hover overhead. I thought being a helicopter parent made me a better parent, a more involved parent and I secretly and not always quietly judged other parents who were not hoverers. I thought they were negligent and overly permissive.

As my girl grows, I have realized that “helicoptering” after her hasn’t always been in her best interest. There are times (an increasing amount as she gets older) when she needs to assess situations, make her own decisions and act on those decisions without my immediate and direct influence. She shouldn’t be totally cut loose because she is still a kid and needs her mom, but I am definitely trying to fly a little higher and hover a bit further away. I am a work in progress.

Imagine my surprise when I learned there is a new term going around. Have you heard about lawnmower parents? A lawnmower parent is a parent who clears all obstacles from their child’s path, so that they never have to deal with any problems by themselves. How is a lawnmower parent different from a helicopter parent? Instead of hovering, lawnmower parents clear a path for their child before they even take a step, pre-empting possible problems and mowing down obstacles in their child’s way before the child even finds them.

I can’t believe I am going to use a football analogy (my husband must be SO proud!), but here goes. A helicopter parent is the coach on the field, keeping an eye on their quarterback. The coach is constantly watching the game and players and call plays from the sidelines. A lawnmower parent is the fullback, always on the field. The fullback clears the path for the quarterback or running back and his/her job is to anticipate and remove any problems their player may encounter.

I 100% understand the desire to be a lawnmower parent. I am an anxious gal to begin with and the idea of my daughter suffering in any way fills me with terrible dread. I want to wrap her in bubble wrap (both physically and emotionally), so the big bad world doesn’t beat her up too badly. I would love to prevent my daughter from experiencing any pain or discomfort. I, however, would not be doing her any favors. All of us eventually experience problems. Our kids, when they are little especially, are given the gift of our guidance and wisdom, but if we protect them from everything, they never learn how to manage or to benefit from our advice. We can do our best to buffer their pain, but it does need to be experienced, so they understand pain happens sometimes and they can survive it. By overly protecting them, we are not helping them, but hindering their ability to handle future difficulties.

I am going to do my best to keep my lawnmower parked in the garage and keep my helicopter up high and in the periphery. I am going to trust in my daughter to deal with her life. I am going to be available, however, if she ever needs advice or a shoulder to cry on. Remember my football analogy? I am trying to enjoy my seat in the bleachers watching my girl kick ass.