Are You Rooted in Reactive Parenting?

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Definition

Reactive: Tending to be responsive or to react to a stimulus. Characterized by reaction.

Proactive: Creating or controlling a situation by causing something to happen rather than waiting to respond to it after it has happened.

~The Free Dictionary online

 

As a 14 year old girl, I was running wild. I took my first drink at 12, and by 14 had moved onto parties, weed and actively lying to my parents to get out of my chaotic home. I had allowed hands on my body, many a kiss, and was fully invested in how I looked from a boy’s eyes. My opinion of me, was not so important. My opinion of me, was an after thought. If I were an adult, watching me at 14, I would surmise that I was a “wild child”.

What does a “wild child” look like as a parent?

Last night, my 14 year old son hung out at the park with a group of kids (boys and girls) until dark, when they changed the venue to a neighbors back porch, remaining until I couldn’t take it anymore and needed to shut my weary eyes and fall asleep.

I was worried.

I was anxious.

I was mindless.

I was creating stories in my head.

I was reactive.

I suddenly realized, that since my son turned 14 last week, I have felt triggered. I had become more protective…more irrational, and more moody.  Somehow, I had allowed my thoughts to react to who I was at 14. Treating my son as if he was the same.

I tell my clients, when they are feeling anxious….listen to your body. What is your body telling you? My heart was racing, my thoughts were ruminating and my shoulders were raised and tight. My body was screaming out that I needed to be on guard. My amygdala wasn’t letting shit get past to my frontal lobe, where everything would finally make sense. My intuition was speaking, from my frontal lobe, but my amygdala was so invested in freaking out, that I couldn’t hear my intuition.

I was so rooted in my old story, that I was letting it color what my story looks like now. If I were to access my rational mind, it would sound like this. The characters in my old story were dysfunctional. They were angry, confused, exhausted, and not paying attention. They had bigger problems to deal with, than a 14 year old girl trying to figure it out. At 14, my parents had just gotten divorced. My sister had just been sexually assaulted. Our home had just been taken from us. No one was looking. My family was scattered, and I was an after thought. I could do whatever I chose…because no one was looking. I was left to come up with….what do I choose?

I chose to skip school.

I chose to accept any label assigned to me.

I chose to push old friends away, scared of being judged.

I chose to self medicate the pain.

I chose to give my body away, before I was ready, and with it, my confidence.

Turns out, a former wild child, can easily become a reactive parent. We remember what it was like to be 14, but our memories are skewed by emotional mind. We feel the anxiety in our hearts and assume there is a reason for it. We recount late nights and bad choices, and fear our child will follow suit.

Parenting is hard. Isn’t that an understatement of epic proportions? Mindful parenting is even harder. Mindful parenting requires I don’t lean on old stories. It requires I just be present with my emotional mind….do my best to bring in rational mind, and make my decisions from wise mind.

I know this….I don’t want to be a reactive parent.

A reactive parent assumes that our children are doing what we did.

A reactive parent parents in reaction to our own childhood.

A reactive parent imposes guidelines according to our fears, instead of facts.

A reactive parent dismisses all of our hard work.

A reactive parent ignores our child’s specific make up, and groups according to age.

A reactive parent is not mindful….they are operating on auto pilot.

A reactive parent doesn’t trust.

This former wild child wants to parent proactively and mindfully. I want to take the gifts from my old story and let them inform my present story. I study mindful parenting, and teach it as well. I still wasn’t ready. I wasn’t ready for the wonder. I wasn’t ready for the fear. I wasn’t ready for the vulnerability. I wasn’t ready for it to be so damn hard.

It’s so easy to teach others, however, when it applies to yourself, it is harder to see.

My reactive parenting colored the characters in my present story.

The main character in my present story is an honor roll student. A good kid, by all accounts. He has two very involved parents, who are watching. We see him. We are curious about him. We notice changes and we are there to guide, not impose punishment for the sake of punishment. The main character in this story….just wanted to hang out with his friends…after dark…..laughing, trading sarcastic remarks and growing. No trouble needed.

He has made mistakes, of course. Mistakes that measure quite small on the yard stick of childhood. Mistakes that should inform our parenting, not guide it. He will make more….of this I am sure.

How does a former “wild child” parent a good kid?

Proactively. Mindfully.

A proactive parent looks at patterns of behavior.

A proactive parent listens.

A mindful parent doesn’t let feelings cloud thoughts.

A mindful parent doesn’t assume motivation.

A mindful parent has empathy for what a teenager goes through.

A proactive parent welcomes mistakes.

A proactive parent uses mistakes to create growth.

A proactive parent cares less about punishment and more about making sure the lesson gets through.

A mindful parent takes inventory of our experience and ensures we are not operating from old story.

When you are in reactive mode, you will know. It doesn’t feel right. It feels uncomfortable and on edge. This isn’t where your parenting should derive from. Mindful and proactive parenting, come from your gut. It comes from knowledge, and being firmly rooted in present story. It comes from recognizing and being in tune with your thoughts and having the wisdom to not believe them all. Let your child’s actions inform your parenting. Nothing else. This puts your child and you in control, instead of your emotions driving the bus.

I wouldn’t change a thing in my childhood. I love who my authentic self is….and without my inner wild child, who would I be today? Should we discount all of our experiences? Absolutely not. Our experiences are there to inform and to create a place of wisdom. But wisdom knows the difference between decisions based on emotion and decisions based on facts. Tap into your wise mind. Know the difference between emotions and thoughts. Treat yourself tentatively. Just because you are the adult, doesn’t mean you are behaving rationally. Question yourself, and allow yourself to be put on trial by you.

Lastly, hang on friends. Parenting teenagers is a bumpy ride……even for this former wild child. It becomes much easier, if you don’t expect perfection. Listen to your emotions, and don’t trust every thought that comes your way.

 

Mindfulness of Emotion:

Notice the feeling.

  • Identify the feeling- name it.
  • Notice how and where it shows up in your body.

Observe the feeling as:

  • Pleasant, unpleasant, neutral

Accept the feeling- don’t judge it or try to change it.

Investigate the present moment of the feeling.

  • Notice the opponent of the emotion that is present as well as those aspects that are past or future aspects of the feeling.

Stay present with it.

Don’t identify with the feeling.

  • Your emotion does not equal you.

Examine the thoughts and the story behind the feeling.

Identify the trigger for this emotion.

When have you experienced this emotion before?

An Open Letter To My Daughters Fourth Grade Teacher.

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An Open Letter to My Daughters Fourth Grade Teacher,

I watched you today, at the awards ceremony for our dear students. 

I am a noticer. I notice things. I notice hard things, beautiful things, hidden things and quiet things. Really, I notice everything. 

Today, I noticed.

I must be getting old, because I struggled to keep the tears back in my daughters fourth grade awards. I am not a crier. When I am proud I just smile. When I am sad, I get quiet. I am usually too busy cracking jokes with my husband to even be very serious at awards. However, today was different. It was different because when I walked into the room and awards began, there wasn’t just a teacher at the front of the room…..there was a mom… a mentor… a role model… a light. The whole mood was different. You barely noticed we were in the room, as you were too busy noticing our children.

You exuded kindness, compassion and light. You treated each child as if they were your own. You treated each child with respect, looking them in the eyes and embracing them.

I was privileged to sit in your awards ceremony today dear teacher. 

You made a difference today dear teacher. 

You saw every single one of those children today dear teacher.

You looked each one of them in the eye and took extra time to notice their light. 

You talked about their light as if there was no one else in the room but them.

You didn’t miss a beat dear teacher.

Being seen is a gift. Not every teacher is capable of seeing a child. But when it happens, magic follows. When you take the time to see a child for who they are behind what they present to you, then you take the time to make an imprint on their lives forever. 

My eyes brimmed with tears as I watched your students wait to be seen, and then their faces light up as you saw each and every one of them for the gifts they possess. 

I noticed something different in your class today dear teacher, no one was invisible in your class. I have been in many classrooms where every child gets an award. This one was different. They didn’t just receive a piece of paper. They received a moment. They received a moment of light in that room today. You took the time to unearth what sets them apart one by one in front of the whole room.

No one’s light went unnoticed.

No one’s face looked empty…because they are used to being seen by you.

They knew something I didn’t….they knew that you wouldn’t forget them. 

They knew you wouldn’t miss them. 

They knew they mattered to you. 

They knew you saw them.

They sat and waited until it was their time to shine….because they knew their turn was coming.

In life, our turn doesn’t always come. The light doesn’t always get shined upon us and things don’t always turn out the way they are supposed to.

So thank you dear teacher for seeing them today and everyday. Thank you for shining a light on them this year for their own precious gifts they possess.  Thank you for noticing their character.  Thank you for noticing their hard work. Thank you for noticing what’s behind their laughter, their tears and their behavior.  Thank you for seeing them dear teacher. This may be one of the few times in their lives that the light is upon them. Thank you for sharing it equally today and everyday.

Your job is hard dear teacher. We know this as adults. What we don’t always know is how much of your heart you give everyday. Thank you for sharing your heart dear teacher, for without it, we struggle to see our reflection in you. Thank you for sharing your light, for that may be the only light we see. Thank you for making an imprint on their hearts, not just their minds, for that will ripple for years to come.

Thank you for teaching, modeling, mentoring and loving our children.

With love,

A Grateful Mom.

Wings to Fly and the Knowledge to Know Better

While watching a CNN interview with Donald Trump and his children recently, I was struck by something. No, not what you would assume one would be struck by when watching Donald Trump. I was struck by a story he told about his brother who died from alcoholism. Trump’s children were on stage with him and they recounted how from the time they were little, their dad would tell them every single morning “no drugs, no alcohol”. When asked why he did this every morning, Trump responded that he was fearful and just wanted to make sure that he didn’t neglect to let his children know where he stood on the subject.

I don’t think I’ve ever heard Donald Trump say he was fearful of anything. Fear in parenting is universal. Why wouldn’t we have fear?

The world seems like such a scary place to send our most precious humans into.

What if we haven’t taught our children everything they need to know?

What if we haven’t said the magic words that will keep them from experimenting with drugs and alcohol?

What if they do know the difference between right and wrong, but the peer pressure is too much?

What if it’s just one time, but that one time is life ending?

What if…

I could go on and on with the “what if’s”, and believe me, I have done so in my head a million times with my son who is embarking on his first year in high school.

I think back to my own childhood. I began to drink and experiment with marijuana at 12 years old. I ran hard and fast for 15 years, not missing a chance to self-medicate. Many parents who have a past of using drugs or alcohol at an early age worry that their children will follow in their footsteps, however, this doesn’t have to be the case. Even parents who chose the right path worry that their children may veer off the path they have laid for them.

But where does “what if” get us? “What if” contains anxiety, lack of control, mindlessness, and irrational thinking. “What if” keeps us in an emotional mind, and prevents us from operating from a wise mind.

As with anything in our lives, we must do our best to prepare, while being mindful that the outcome is out of our control – unless we lock our children in their rooms until they are thirty years old, of course. We MUST learn to trust them and the jobs we have done with them.

Communication is key. Hopefully, you have been building and encouraging communication since your children were small. If not, don’t fear…it is never too late to open that door.

  • Ask open ended questions.
  • Show true interest in their lives.
  • Encourage open conversations about drugs and alcohol.
  • Educate yourself on the fads of today concerning self-medicating.
  • Be honest.
  • Be mindful of the signs, and know where to look for them.

Many of the parents I come in contact with believe that “helicopter parenting” is the way to keep their children out of trouble. They believe that if they hold on tight and shelter their precious beings from the outside world that no harm will come to their children. Unfortunately, many times this behavior results in rebellion. That rebellion can take many forms, and self-medicating is just one of them.

Fear gets us nowhere. Parenting through fear gives us a false sense of control. However, if we stay “in the know” and make an effort to communicate consistently and openly with our children, we can operate with an educated mindset.

They say knowledge is power, and parenting without fear is no different.

Educate yourself on pill parties.

Educate yourself on Molly, Spice, Orange Crush and the like.

Know what a “Syrup Head” is.

Know what “Special K”, “Crank”, and “Triple C” are.

These are the drugs of choice in today’s world. No longer do we just have to think about traditional drugs and alcohol. The world has changed, and we must change with it.

When you were a teen, did you listen to people who don’t seem to know what they are talking about? Did you tune your parents out when they sounded behind the times? Our children are no different than we were at their age.

Be ahead of the game, so you know what to look for and you know how to talk about the dangers, without presenting it in a way that cause your children to tune you out.
When you parent through preparation, communication, and trust, you are parenting the whole child. You are giving them the respect they deserve by coming to them with knowledge, not fear.

Educating your child gives them wings to fly. Make it your goal to have the most educated child in the room when it comes to drugs and alcohol. Then, and only then, can they make the best choice for them.

Remember, knowledge is power. Our children are powerful beings, let’s equip them with wings to fly and trust that we have done our very best job in sending them out into the world.

Mindful Parenting: The Knowledge to Recognize the Problem and the Wisdom to Grow.

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When asked for my parenting fails, I immediately read other contributions. They are all so cute. Easy, no big deal, parenting fails. Parenting fails that most likely won’t have lasting effects, and my inner jerk is telling me, that my parenting fails are much bigger than these, so maybe I shouldn’t share. But here I am…..

From ages 0-6 my son was easy. He wanted to please. He wanted my approval. I was his whole world and he was mine. Our relationship had no bumps. It was easy, flawless, and rewarding at almost every turn.

Then, out of the blue….he developed his own personality. Of course I expected this, what I didn’t expect was my inability to handle the rejection.

He didn’t always want to do what I was asking.

He talked back.

He said no.

He was sarcastic.

He was stubborn.

He had discovered his power.

The calm, controlled parent I had been, had a decision to make. How am I going to handle this new developing personality?

So much of how we respond to our children when angry is from our old story. How did our parents respond when they were angry? Regardless of how we WANT to respond….we have coping skills that come from our childhood. We learn by watching our parents, and just when we least expect it……if we haven’t learned new skills, our parent’s resurface in us when we become parents.

I found myself raising my voice.

I found myself belittling.

I found myself letting my anger control my response.

I found myself reacting…..with no thought.

I had always maintained that I would never lay my hands on my child. I stayed true to this, however, I did the same thing with my tongue. When faced with a lack of control, I became angry. I did my best to control the situation with my words, and tone of voice. My son could see the anger in my face, and feel the lack of control in my words.

I could see the fear in his face.

I could see the cycle continuing.

I could see where this would lead us.

The moment I saw fear in my son’s eyes when he looked at me, will forever be the moment our lives changed.

I realized, I had to learn how to be a parent. I had to learn how to respond instead of react. In the absence of positive role models around anger, I had simply watched and learned. I had no idea this was present in me, until my beautiful child’s face was red and streaming with tears as he looked into the eyes of the person he loved most.

I looked back at him and decided he deserved better…..WE deserved better.

I went all in. Went back to school for my passion, which was counseling, and learned more about myself, which led to healing, growth and skill building.

I apologized to my son, and we started over.

I became a parent who responds, and doesn’t react.

I became a safe place, even when he was naughty.

I became a parent who welcomes mistakes, as they provide opportunities for growth.

I became a role model.

I became a cycle breaker.

Every chance I get, I share my message. Just because you aren’t physically abusive, doesn’t mean you aren’t an abuser. It doesn’t mean you aren’t modeling the wrong skills, but expecting better from your children.

Take the time, to be mindful of who you are and who you come from. Are you continuing cycles? Are you reacting when you feel out of control? Be mindful of the words you are using with your children. It’s the words that leave a lasting impression.

Today, my 13 year old son and I enjoy an extremely close relationship. He has never mentioned how I used to respond, and when asked, he doesn’t seem to remember. I am lucky. His memories are full of a mom who is safe and as far as he is concerned, always has been. I am much harder on myself, but as a work in progress, I continue to be mindful of my emotions, and thoughts before words come out of my mouth.

If you see yourself in my story, I encourage you to simply say it out loud to yourself and expect better of YOU. It’s a process, and involves skill building and mindfulness. It is never too late to break cycles.

I am sharing what I’ve learned in my community at www.facebook.com/groundedone/ and www.groundedblog.com

This post comes from the TODAY Parenting Team community, where all members are welcome to post and discuss parenting solutions. Learn more and join us! Because we’re all in this together.

Why Happiness is Terrifying to Parents: The Journey to No Fear Parenting.

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There is a video circulating on the internet of Steve Harvey talking about “jumping”. The magic that happens when one jumps from a career they hate and is only serving to further the cycle of paying more bills and buying more stuff, to a career of passion.

What if every human was following their passion? What would that world look like?

This incites the system to chant “life isn’t all about rainbows, unicorns and happiness”!

If we truly get to the heart of what we were born to do, what we dreamed of doing….many of us aren’t doing it. Fear is the reason. Yes, we all have bills to pay, and we are living in a world of doing what you gotta do to get to where you want to be. A world that the system created. We have anxiety passed down from generations around not following the system. We teach what our parent’s taught us when it comes to the system.

A seeker is always looking for the reason. They are always questioning and asking for more. I have been a seeker from the time I could walk. I asked so many questions, and processed out loud from the beginning. Many times, my seeking was met with fear. This is completely understandable coming from the generation that my parents were born into. Seeking was not encouraged by most. Seeking was not nurtured. Seeking was feared, but for a few brave souls.

Seeking does not serve the system and you must be brave enough to withstand the curiosity. The curiosity looks like rejection. The curiosity looks like silence. The curiosity looks like difference. Difference is scary.

This is by design. Seekers do not serve the system. Seeking is all about how can we change the system.

It’s not about responsibility, it’s about fear. It is absolutely possible to be both a seeker and a responsible human being. I would argue a seeker is more responsible, because it takes the victim out of the equation. You are in control of your own journey. The information is available, but how trained are you in seeking the answer? Does your brain go to the easiest solution, the one served up by a society that may or may not have your best interest at heart or does it look for more?

This is a different world, if we let it be. There are many more options that we didn’t have. If we raise our children to be seekers, then we instill in them a belief in more. That is not something to fear, it is something to admire.

Anxiety is the silent poison we pass on to our children when we parent out of fear.  But we press on. We do this out of protection and habit. We do this out of our participation in a cycle that we may not even be aware of. Parental fear has good intentions, but it is no less poisonous than many things we would never dream of feeding our children.

We feed our children the hype.

We feed our children the fear.

We feed our children the rhetoric.

We feed our children the noise.

We feed our children the internal struggle of bucking the system we hate.

If our children are seekers, they may be met with resistance. If they are seekers, they may be singled out as trouble makers. Seekers are critical thinkers, and in the system, critical thinking is not always encouraged. We operate on a need to know basis in schools. We teach what  to think, not necessarily how to think.

I believe there is a fear around teaching our children “how” to think. If our children know “how” to think, then they may not subscribe to the system. This is a very real possiblity. What would that mean for our precious system?

We want the best for our children.

We want our children to be accepted.

We want our children to be successful.

We want our children to not struggle.

We want our children to be safe from judgement.

We want our children to fit.

What are willing to do to ensure this protection? Turns out we are willing to funnel them into a system that we may not agree with, but we have no idea how to get out of.

This same system is the one that has funneled us into 9-5 jobs that may pay well, but offer no satisfaction at the end of the day.

This same system has convinced us that we must work longer hours, to make more money, to buy more stuff.

This same system tells us college is the answer, and then promptly sends us the bill sending us in to deep, deep debt the day we walk out.

The same system that claims there is a formula to success, but is nowhere to be found when the formula fails.

This same system plays on our fears by offering up daily news stories scaring us into submission.

This same system hand feeds us photo shopped bodies adorning the covers of magazines, for our children to aspire to.

Submit. Conform. Blend in.

Yet we, as parents, continue to focus on letter grades, we continue to sign our kids up for sports whether they are interested or not. We continue to believe that the road the system has laid out for us is the road we should train our children to take. We continue to groom our children for a system we despise. Because if we don’t……what does that mean for our kids?

If they take the road less traveled, it might mean heartache.

It might mean struggle.

It might mean disapproval.

It might mean rejection.

But you see, that’s where the journey is! When we parent our children according to fear, we rob them of the journey. We funnel them into a system, that may not be the path they are created to take. The growth is in the pain. The rejection, the disapproval, the heartache….it is all there for a reason. It is there as a sign, that we are supposed to go within. Our happy lies within us, but as parents sometimes we neglect to teach this lesson. Because we are scared. Because no one taught us. When we teach our children that their happy is always with them, and does not lie in outside opinions of their specific journey, we teach them freedom. We teach them to be seekers.

If we are truly honest with ourselves, we can see how the system infiltrates how we parent on an everyday basis. Breaking this cycle, requires self awareness, accountability, and empathy. Breaking this cycle requires facing our fears about happiness. If we teach our children to aspire to happiness…

Happiness could equate to laziness.

Happiness could equate to less.

Happiness could equate to struggle.

Happiness could equate to not caring about the system.

Would that be so bad? If our generation of parents hates the system, then shouldn’t we be a part of changing the system?  That doesn’t include creating a different system, it includes creating a different road for every child to follow. It includes open minds and open hearts. It includes acceptance and compassion for differences. We need every type of human and every type of passion in this world.

I dare to dream. If that dream is to come true, as parents, we must turn this ship around for our children. We must at least take the helm and try and steer it towards happy. Fearful or not.

Creating the window for us to observe our own thoughts around the system and our children’s place in it requires mindfulness. It requires us to be mindful of our fears. It requires a quiet place in our minds to simply observe our thoughts around the system and be curious of the root. It requires us to not believe all of our thoughts, just because we are having them.

Let’s not be fearful of the “more” for our children.

Let’s model “jumping” whenever we can.

Let’s not be fearful of stepping a foot out of the system.

Let’s not be fearful of our power or our children’s.

Let’s model fearlessness in the face of judgment.

Let’s model authenticity.

I’m scared too, let’s hold each others hands and jump! Let’s do it for our kids. Let’s do it for the happy. Let’s make “jumping” the word for how we parent.

Let’s jump from fear to happy.

Let’s jump from fear to acceptance.

Let’s jump from fear to seeking.

Let’s jump blindly without a guarantee that everything will be okay. Let’s admit that everything is not okay in the system. Let’s take the helm and turn the ship because if we don’t who is going to? Let’s show our kids that seeking isn’t something to be afraid of, but something to aspire to.

We are talking about this and more on Get Grounded. Come connect with me and let’s further the conversation. www.facebook.com/groundedone/ and www.groundedblog.com

No, My Son Doesn’t Play Sports….Really, It’s Okay!

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A visit to the doctor, orthodontist, school function or anywhere really, will alert you to the fact that people don’t know how to talk to your son, if he doesn’t play sports.

Our society is programmed in a way, that a boy who doesn’t play sports is an anomaly. What can we possibly have to say to a boy, if we can’t ask him about football, basketball or soccer?

My son not only doesn’t play sports……he doesn’t watch them either. GASP!! I know, it’s a tragedy right?

My son has a deep abiding empathy for others.

My son is a critical thinker.

My son is constantly questioning the world.

My son is not a box checker.

My son has a thirst for knowledge about space that won’t quit.

But the world has no questions for him except for, “so….do you play basketball”?

REALLY? This thirteen year old boy, who could change the world has to constantly answer why he isn’t interested in sports. Can’t we do better than that?

Until age eleven, I watched my son pick grass on the baseball field. I watched him run half-heartedly down a basketball court and cheer for his teammates every single time they scored. Like a good American, we tried every single sport there was, encouraging him to get involved, and choose from the buffet our country offers.

The looks I get from other mothers when I say that I gave him the choice at age eleven whether to play sports or not…..is one of reprehension.

How dare I guide and support instead of mold him in the image that is expected for our boys.

I get it, I really do…our boys are to follow a plan set out for success right? We believe that you get them involved in sports, they play through high school, gaining popularity and acceptance along the way. This quells our fears. Society has instilled a fear in us that if our boy doesn’t play sports, than he is uninvolved. He is clearly sitting around doing nothing.

We ignore the statistics behind head trauma.

We ignore the statistics regarding how many of those boys actually play in college.

We ignore whether our children are enjoying themselves.

We ignore what their true passion might be.

We ignore that competitive sports keep them so busy, they have little time for much else.

I am not saying that sports don’t have absolute value. They do. Especially if your son or daughter loves the sport. They push themselves, they learn about themselves, they challenge themselves and meet those challenges. All really good things.

If your son or daughter doesn’t have passion for the sport, I mean real passion. Then what are we doing?

Why not look deeper? Why not look beyond societies expectations.

To what degree does your child’s involvement in sports have to do with YOU?

What if, we got to know our child? What if we asked them if they wanted to play sports or get involved in robotics, student government, forensics, or the like?

What if we said, who are you and what do you like?

What if we said, it’s okay to not like sports?

What if we said, whoever you are is enough?

What if we put our desires aside and opened the door for more?

The self-worth gained from a parent who says “you are enough” is valuable beyond measure. That parent opens the door to more. That parent learns more about their child and more about themselves than ever before.

We owe our boys more than funneling them into a system they don’t fit into. If your boy isn’t an athlete….guess what. It’s okay. They are going to be okay.

You are enough, and so are they.

The Triple Threat Solution to Your Workplace Woes.

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Our careers help to define who we are. We lead with “so what do you do?” and everyone just magically knows what this means, and answers accordingly. Often, we go to school for years and pay inordinate amounts of money, to ensure that our answer to this question of “what do you do” sounds the way we want it to, pays what we need it to, and delivers the adequate amount of career satisfaction that we believe our time and effort affords us.

So, what happens when reality hits? What happens when the career we have worked so hard for, prepared so long for, isn’t all that it’s cut out to be?

We all happily hop on the complain train. We begin to imagine that things would be different, everything would be better, “if only”.

If only I liked my boss.

If only they treated me with more respect.

If only I got paid more.

If only they would listen to my ideas.

If only they followed through.

If only thinking keeps us in a box. It makes us the victim. If only thinking puts the power outside of ourselves and hands it to situations, to other people, and to things out of our control.

Mindfulness is a word being thrown around quite often these days. Depending on your level of research into it, you might see it as a tool to calm down, a tool to clear your mind or a tool to induce a feeling of peace.

I challenge that narrow definition of mindfulness. Let’s harness the power created through mindfulness and use it to enhance our happiness at work. Let’s use it to propel us forward and increase our motivation and productivity.

 

Practicing mindfulness increases your self awareness, your accountability and your empathy, towards yourself and towards others. These three benefits can re-train our brains to stop standing in our own way on the path to happiness and success.

Self Awareness: The first step in being able to harness our personal power and quiet “if only” thinking is to raise our self awareness. Self awareness is this valuable window to our own behavior. If we are lacking that window, how can we view ourselves as others view us? How can we know our own strengths and weaknesses? How can we know our own power, what we are truly capable of and in which direction we want to point that power?

At Home: Each morning, build in 15 extra minutes to practice raising your self awareness. Find a comfortable place in your home, and create your space. Sit comfortably for 15 minutes and just notice. Notice the thoughts that are ruminating in your head. Label them as just a planning thought, or an anxiety thought, perhaps an anger thought. Then imagine letting the thought go, in whatever way feels right to you. This practice begins to raise your personal awareness of what is happening in your brain. It allows you to see your thoughts as separate from yourself. You are not required to participate in every thought you have. Freedom!

At work: Pause throughout the day, and just notice if you feel any tension in your body. Notice the thoughts in your head, and label them, letting them go one by one. Remember to breathe, fully exhaling, during each pause throughout your day. Use your pause to craft a response to triggers, instead of the old stand-by reaction.

Accountability: Now lets use the window we have created, to raise our personal accountability. For example, if you notice during your sitting practice, that you have an awful lot of anxiety thoughts, or anger thoughts. What behavior can you be accountable for related to these thoughts? If my thoughts are centered around anxiety, you can bet I have bitten someone’s head off, or responded in a less than helpful, smart-ass way to a coworker. Use accountability to create the environment you want.

At Home: At the end of your morning self awareness practice, build in 5 minutes to cultivate gratitude. Begin to bring into your awareness all that you have to be grateful for in your life. Be accountable for your place in that gratitude. What good are your responsible for bringing into your world? Sit in that place and breathe through your heart, enhancing the good feelings of positive accountability. You are powerful, you are worthy and you are enough.

At Work: Instead of “if only” thinking, change it to, what can I be accountable for? Some situations are truly out of our control, however, sometimes we miss how our behavior effects the outcome. Be accountable for less than forward thinking, missing the big picture, black and white thinking, or riding the complain train. Be accountable for the energy you bring with you each morning. You set the tone for your day, no one else…..just you.

Empathy: Don’t be so hard on yourself! When we raise our self awareness, and accountability, it’s easy to beat ourselves up for what we see. Don’t waste your time in this unhealthy cycle. Our minds natural tendency is to attach to the negative. Know this, and fight it with compassion.

At Home: In your morning practice, don’t beat yourself up for ruminating thoughts, or feelings of inadequacy. Simply let them go, and try again, with the understanding that this is hard. We are re-training our brains and it isn’t easy, show yourself the compassion you would show a friend who is struggling.

At Work:  When you catch yourself engaging in the complain train, or caught up in “if only” thinking, instead of beating yourself up, remind yourself of how easy it is to ride that train, and decide to choose a path of response instead of reaction. Use the empathy you have cultivated for yourself, and extend it to others. This sets them at ease and creates a path of understanding for you to work together, not against each other. Empathy creates an environment of teamwork.

What I am suggesting, isn’t easy, I know this.

I’m suggesting you take your happiness back.

I’m suggesting you take your time back.

I’m suggesting you take your mind back.

I’m suggesting you take your power back.

The real questions here are, have you had enough? Are you at your limit? Are you ready to move forward?

Life with Fur: A Way to Hold On.

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Dear Parker,

At age 19, I was given one of the best gifts I had ever and will ever receive. You were a shelter pup, dropped off from a farm in Indiana. Completely black with huge paws, and a resolve that challenged me. My life was never the same again. The next few years would be a series of chewed up underwear, stolen bones from the trash, ripped up flooring, and more love than I had ever experienced up to that point in my life. My life evolved as you grew. What was once just you and I, became a family. You made room for more love, you showed me how much I had inside of me. You loved my children as I loved you. For that, I am forever grateful.

You taught me many things in my youth.

You taught me you don’t give up on something just because it’s hard.

You taught me, true love is worth all the work.

You taught me there is more than one way to accomplish what you want.

You taught me well behaved doesn’t always end in success.

You taught me being needed can be beautiful.

You taught me what happiness looked like.

You taught me that life is what you make it.

You taught me love expands to exactly the size it needs to be.

In my thirties, I noticed you didn’t move so easily anymore. Your athletic build that carried your body through the  journey of all day swimming trips, car rides, frisbee throwing competitions, and camping, had begun to slow down. Your back legs would give out coming up the stairs, you would get lost in the woods behind our home where you once roamed so confidently. Your resolve had weakened. Day after day, regardless of how I tried to ignore it, your body and your spirit told me you were ready.

You taught me how to let go.

You taught me that the choice is never clear.

You taught me to listen to my intuition.

You taught me to love now.

You taught me that things change, and that’s okay.

You taught me, how to lose a friend like no other.

I said goodbye to my best friend, and I vowed to never forget how you smelled like home. I would never forget how your feet looked like giant rabbit feet, and you would snuggle up, tucking your head under my chin. I vowed to never forget, the funny space between your bottom teeth and the beautiful energy that you brought to my life, every single day.

I woke up one day in my forties, and realized, all of those things I vowed to never forget, were slipping from my memory. I cried for hours. It felt like a betrayal. I couldn’t smell your salty paws in my memory anymore. I couldn’t remember how your fur felt against my face. How could I? I immediately went to work beating myself up for all of the little things I could no longer remember about you my friend. From pain, comes growth, if you let it. You taught me this.

That day I vowed to hold on.

Hold onto the smells.

Hold onto the joy.

Hold onto the character.

Hold onto the fun times.

Hold onto the hard times.

Hold onto the little things.

I vowed to remember the idiosyncrasies of a life. A life we so often take for granted once the excitement wears off.

You sit by our side day after day. You exemplify how to live a mindful life, if we are paying attention. You bask in the day like no other being I’ve ever seen. You take each moment for what it is, not wishing it to be different.

Last year I lost a fur baby at too young of an age, and I watched another growing old gracefully. It reignited the old pain from when I lost you. It reminded me of what I will never get back. It sparked a resolve to hang on to what I can now so that tomorrow, when I need it, it will be there.

We create baby books for our children. We take photo after photo to hang onto the precious memories because our children grow too fast.  We do our best to create ideas around hanging on to what we can’t lose. The energy of a unique life.

You deserve nothing less.

You are here for such a short time. I want to soak in all that you are and all that you bring. I want to hold on to each memory and the things that differentiate you from each other. When I look back on your life, I don’t want to remember a life cut short. I want to remember a funny nose, or cute teeth. I want to remember the idiosyncrasies that make each friend unique. I want something close by, so when my memory ages and is no longer as sharp as it once was, I have something tangible to remind me.

You taught me well Parker. I can never repay you. Your legacy has enriched more fur babies since you passed. Your story goes on through them and many more in the future. I live mindfully now Parker. You were right, each day is a gift and we must receive it.

I love you Lou Lou Bear,

Mommy

 

A Way to Hold On:  An idea sparked on a snowy afternoon when my teenage son had the back door open for the dogs to go outside. Our exuberant Red Heeler pup ran out the back door so fast there was no question as to her intent. Our 12 year old Irish Wolfhound/Lab mix stood ambivalently deciding whether he would exit or not.  My son and I laughed about how Norman Foreman had always been ambivalent about going outside. This was one of the things that set him apart from any other dog we had ever had. I realized at that moment, that this was one of the memories I had to hold onto.

That day we created a memory jar for each fur friend. On slips of paper, we write funny, sad, frustrating or silly things that our fur friends do that we don’t want to forget. We hold on through our memories and the jar is a tangible way to do that.

When our fur friend passes, we have a celebration of life, during which we each take turns reading the slips of paper remembering a life, a soul.  We laugh, we sob, we sit in silence. It’s our way of holding on I guess. It’s our way of being mindful. It’s our way of honoring these amazing souls that are just gifts to us temporarily.

An idea from our family to yours. We hope it enhances your relationship with these beautiful beings.

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Fear or Intuition: A Personal Story

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On a college campus,  August 13,1986, an 18 year old girl slept in her messy room, with her bedroom door locked. She heard a loud sound, and when she awoke, she realized her door had been kicked in and she was being dragged by her hair to another room. This man held a knife to her throat, and forced himself inside her.

He took her violently.

He took her mentally.

He took her pride.

He took her voice.

He took her trust.

He took her dignity.

He took her peace.

He took her belief.

He took her intuition.

Intuition is fears kinder cousin. It is the voice that speaks within us, guiding us, to what it instinctively knows is right or wrong. Sometimes, it speaks to us in the moment. Sometimes it speaks to us ahead of time. It doesn’t worry, it doesn’t fear……it guides. It so resembles fear, that it is hard to know when to trust this cousin.

I was awakened by voices. I could hear my mom crying, and my dad speaking in low tones as he always did when it was serious. His cadence rhythmic. I rubbed my 14 year old eyes, and made my way to the bathroom. My sister was home! She was in the living room with my parents, and my brain began to register that she was wearing a hospital gown. The girl who was raped, was my sister.

I had hung out at her house  that particular day, showing her moves I had learned at cheer camp. You see, my sister had just recently escaped the chaos of our childhood home and was living with friends. I spent as much time as possible there, as it represented hope. Hope of more, hope of a way out of the chaos I was still living in. I begged to stay the night at her house that evening, but my Mom refused. She had always resented my sister and I being close, and I remember at every turn fighting to spend time with my only sister.

We were close in a way that you don’t see often.

We were close in a way that only kids from abusive homes can understand.

We were close in a way that nurtured my wings.

We were close in a way that I wanted to jump inside her and take her place, that very minute.

For weeks after the attack, I slept on the floor next to my sister, misguided in my feeling of protection for her. She moved back home, as quickly as she had moved out. There was much yelling that summer, as no one knew how to handle their emotions after the attack. My home was an example of how NOT to handle it. My Dad increased the amount of time he was away from us, further retreating, where his family couldn’t reach, but his underlying anger was palpable. My Mom, focused on how the attack effected her, and wondered why we weren’t all helping her through it. My brother must have remained silent in his own pain, because I barely remember his voice through this time. My sister, cried a lot, and wound up retreating with friends up to the lake for the remainder of the summer.

I was left wondering.

Wondering about safety.

Wondering about fear.

Wondering about intuition.

Wondering about healing.

Wondering about human nature.

Wondering about my sister.

As women, how do we differentiate between fear and intuition? I remember distinctly, my sister had her door locked that night for a reason. For weeks leading up to the attack, my sister mentioned several odd things happening at her house. A stolen home phone, a man standing on the sidewalk in front of her home snapping photos. In the moment things that just didn’t sit well with her. We all discounted these things, brushing them off as nothing.

I believe now, it wasn’t nothing, it was her intuition speaking to her, but she had never learned to understand it’s language. In a chaotic home, it’s hard to hear intuition. It’s hard to hear much, but anger and fear. We were all well versed in anger and fear. But intuition…..not so much.

My sister believed, that once she was free from our home, that she could do and be whatever she wanted.

She was right of course, but none of us get there scar free.

On our path to freedom, we must bear the pain of getting there. We must learn the difference between fear and intuition, because the perils of not, are too large.

If we let our story convince us that fear is the same as intuition, we lose.

We spend our lives in fear.

We operate through fear.

We are easily offended.

We are on guard.

We are waiting…..waiting for you to piss.us.off.

Fear is highly emotional. It reflects unhealed psychological wounds. Fear, when nurtured, turns into hate. Listening to our fear, turns into irrational thoughts, and dictates our behavior, towards ourselves and others.

Intuition is unemotional. It is rational, calm, kind, compassionate and soft spoken. It uses our past, and present to try and solve the situation at hand. Intuition, when nurtured, turns into love. Listening to our intuition is a form of self love.

Both are experienced as a gut feeling. It is important to understand the differences so that fear doesn’t drown intuition out.

If we operate from a place of love, a place of presence, I believe, we can better hear intuition. We create this warm and cozy space for intuition. We nurture it and speak to it, so we can understand each others language and begin a dialogue….that we can hear.  When we learn to trust intuition, there is no longer a need for fear. We will continue to have rational fear, the fight or flight kind of fear, as that is biological, but no need for irrational fears.

Of course, I am not saying that we could have stopped the attack. As most of us know, rape is about power, and power is greedy, hungry, and very often, angry. I am saying, that I believe my sister’s intuition was speaking and not one of us knew how to listen. Who knows what might have been different? I don’t spend time in that place, because regret is too painful and leads to fear. Get them before they get us, so we can rectify our past. No thank you.

My sister created her own place of love. She has two beautiful children, and is engaged to a beautiful soul. She has struggled to get to this place. I have watched her edges be polished in ways I wished I could have stopped at the time. I have seen her battle, since the attack with the difference between fear and intuition.  For it takes great faith to learn the language of the kinder cousin, intuition.

Mindfulness Tips:

Make a list of all of your fears. This brings self awareness and accountability to the table.

Close your eyes imagining how you feel with each fear. Go there…where do you feel it in your body?

Make a list of times when your intuition has been on point. Close your eyes and imagine the feeling you had when your intuition was speaking to you. Go there….. where do you feel it in your body?

During your sitting practice, spend time being present with the difference in the two feelings.

  • Where did you feel each in your body?
  • What was the thought attached to the feeling?
  • Where do you see fear present in your life?
  • When do you hear intuition the loudest?

A Letter To My Children

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My Children,

I know I’ve told you all these years, when something bad happens on television, to look for the helpers. There are always helpers, there are always people with good hearts there to reach out their hand and help a fellow human being. Looking for these people, helps our heart, it helps our minds understand the tragedy before us. It helps us to make sense of this carnage on our television screen, right? If we see helpers, it means our faith in humanity is still in tact.

Screw that. In light of this past month, and the numerous mass shootings we see everyday on television, it’s past time to look for the helpers…..you must BE a helper! You see, telling you to look for the helpers, was my way of feeling like I was doing something, feeling like I was helping you through this tragic world. But it’s not, and I’m not.

I am so sick of tiptoeing around this issue. I am so sick of pretending I’m doing something by telling you to “look for the helpers”. I’m sick of seeing it on Facebook, I’m sick of seeing blog posts about it, while we are doing NOTHING.

No, I have not lost hope in humanity. I have not lost hope in the helpers. I am mad. In fact, I am done. This is not what I hoped for you, and I am sorry I have not acted sooner. Sometimes the mindfulness I have instilled in you since you were young, creates passivity. Sometimes, those who are the most mindful, are too quiet. Sometimes our kindness is mistaken for weakness…..and we are anything but weak.

What I am going to tell you now is different my children. Instead of looking for the helpers, let’s look for something different.
Let’s look for those wishing to pray this away…..is it working?
Let’s look for those carrying guns to get the bad guy before he get’s them….is it working?
Let’s look for those complaining on Facebook…..is it working?
Let’s look for those who fear their right to guns being taken away…so much so that they will solely blame mental health for this carnage….is it working?
Let’s look for those people who assume that the bad guys usually have brown skin……is it working?
Let’s look for those willing to marginalize humans by the location they were born into…..is it working?
Let’s look for those operating through fear…..is it working? Not as a group, but individually, is it working?

Yep, even you, at your young age, can see that bigotry, racism, religion, fear and complaints won’t change a thing……not a thing.

Can we just say it out loud??? IT”S NOT WORKING!!! Let’s say it together. IT”S NOT WORKING!!!

This world isn’t going to change itself. There are people very motivated by money, by racism, by religion, and by fear that are willing to work for it. They are willing to do what it takes to create the change they want to see. The change that fit’s their agenda, and moves them further up the ladder of humanity in their minds.

We are going to change our direction now my children. Now, instead of looking for the helpers, we will be mindful of the areas WE can effect change. Look where YOU can be the helper. Let’s fine tune this and pinpoint the areas we can be of help. What are WE willing to work for?

I am going to treat you as the powerful humans you are my children. You. Have. Power. Don’t let all the rules of childhood confuse you. You are the people who will create change.

Use your power to decide where you stand on this issue, not just where Dad and I stand, but where YOU stand.
Use your power to dream about the change you will create.
Use your power to bring the other children with you.
Use your power to speak up about injustice…not tiptoe around it.
Use your power to speak out about skin color and the significance of it.
Use your power to unite the different cultures in support of collaboration not competition.
Use your power to elevate fellow humans in collaboration with each other, and for each other.
Use your power to be mindful of the feelings inside of you.
Use your power to be mindful of the change you are capable of.
Use your power to educate yourself, so that you can speak clearly, intelligently and powerfully.
Use your power to see the person behind the pain, because unless you see that, you are powerless.
Use your power to harness your feelings into something better for you and for our world.

Above all, use your power to be kind. Because, while we may disagree religiously, philosophically, and fundamentally, we are all humans.

I learn from you everyday, my children. Please continue to teach the adults about kindness, compassion, humanity and inclusion. We think we are so smart, we think we teach you about these things. We are misguided.

As your parent, I promise to be a model for change.
I promise to give you all the love, caring and guidance you can handle.
I promise to be do my best to understand other cultures, not fear them.
I promise to stop tip-toeing around real issues in fear of upsetting others.
I promise to show you how change is created, by learning what needs to be done, and doing it.
I promise to not keep my mouth shut.
I promise, no matter how hard….to keep trying.
I promise to stop telling you to look for the helpers, and to step up and be one.
I promise to create change, so that you will understand how powerful one person can be.
I promise to get started today.

Love,
Your Mom