Thursday, May 30, 2013

Living the Dream

I have a few friends who are recently engaged and a few with first babies on the way.  Which brought me back to some of the feelings I had when I was a new parent.  Also my youngest is about to finish his last week of pre-school, of course making me sentimental...

I love to go through magazines and tear out pages that speak to me, and I found a black and white picture of two small kids sleeping in their parent's bed.  I loved the image, but then after reading the caption, I loved it even more.  A mother's second child was born with Downs Syndrome that hadn't been detected before birth.  She was the first to notice even before the doctors, she saw her daughter's features and she knew.  In the days following the birth she grieved for the child she didn't have, the one she had dreams for that were no longer possible.  But as time passed, she learned about her daughter by what the child revealed, not what the condition presented.  To her parents, she wasn't "the girl with Downs", rather she was the girl who loved her teddy bear, who builds with blocks, who asks a million questions and is always smiling.  While the world started as two distinct periods - life before her birth, and after with the challenges, over time the line has faded.  She realized she could do it all along - she had enough love and strength to be this little girl's mother, she just didn't know it.

Everyone goes through tests.  A friend hurts you and you can't go back to how close you once were.  A marriage comes to an end and you mourn the future that will never happen.   Your dream career hasn't taken you where you expected and you can't see a way out.  But with all of these challenges, we need to shift our paradigm of how we see ourselves in those roles.  Eventually the gap between then and now becomes less severe.  You start to feel like yourself again, maybe with the contentment of who you are, having weathered a storm and found yourself still standing.  And to read a story about someone like this mother can embolden us on our way.

If things aren't quite how you might like, set a goal and work your way back to where you are.  What do you need to be closer to that definition of success?  Is it a monetary amount that would make you feel secure?  Do you need to have a conversation with someone to express your hurt or expectations of them?  When you have a clear idea of where you want to be and not a vague idea or feeling, you can take sure steps in the right direction.  Much less frustrating than wandering around and complaining.

You might be living your dream already, but haven't been awake enough to see, you're already there.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Love Languages

We all know that people are different; motivated by different things, an array of likes & dislikes.  Some people are easier for us to relate to & others are so very foreign.   

What really helps when you're trying to understand someone is to get out of your head & stop defending yourself.  Stop thinking about what you're going to say next, or why they are wrong, and try to hear the words (or emotion) like they are coming from you.   You may have to step away from the direct interaction & give it some quiet reflection, but once you know where they start their thought process, it gives their words a little different weight.

A fun place to start is to read about Love Languages. There are 5 basic ways people express love to others and how they receive love themselves:  

1. Words of Affirmation
2. Quality Time
3. Receiving Gifts
4. Acts of Service
5. Physical Touch

For example, my mother. We can all relate - sometimes she says the most irritating things. (no worries mom, this ends well) but really everything she says to me comes from a place of caring.  Sometimes I'll think her tone is judging, but really I'm reading that into it - based on how I'm feeling about that particular topic (past or present) or whatever mood I'm in. If the conversation comes back up in my head later, I try to hear it without my perception on it - what did she really say to me?  She said she was concerned, that she wanted to make sure I'd thought of an option that maybe I hadn't considered.  Or she needed to know that I had a plan and if I wanted her help.  She's trying to support me.  My mom is an Acts of Service kind of love.  She cleans my house & watches my kids, takes care of my dog and does errands for me.  She tells me she loves me, but she shows it all the time.

Thanks mom!

Some of us need to be reassured with words, others really feel the love when reminded with gifts.   If you give each area some consideration, you can see where different people just hear things a little differently than you might.  It just gives a little clarity as to why one of your kids might really love some cuddling while the other needs to show you everything they do.  

Now run out there & share the LOVE!!

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Ashtanga, a yoga practice

Yoga creates the struggle, you breathe through it.

Ashtanga is a yoga practice of which the main focus is the breath. Each pose is done to the flow of your breath and then held for 5 counts (hold the pose, not the breath :)  We follow the same 48 poses in the same order every time.

We begin with two sun salutations repeated 5 times, which by the end becomes easy to remember.  Each time you practice after that, you learn the next pose.  As you can remember the new pose in order of the sequence, you learn the next pose.  Then then next.  Sometimes a few practices can pass before you add on another pose.

The Mysore practice is an open one, named for Mysore, India where it was started by Guruji.  When you attend a Mysore practice, every person there starts when they arrive, so no one is working in unison.  You work on your mat on your practice.  You remember your next pose and your breath.  There are teachers there to help you should you forget what comes next, to adjust your pose or help you get into a posture.  They also give you that next pose when you are ready to add onto your practice.

I love it for so many reasons.

-Having to rely on myself to remember the postures keeps me focused.  I can't let my mind wander, I think only about the pose I'm in, keeping my breath even, pulling in my bandahs and then the next pose.  Extremely mentally relaxing while physically challenging.
-It makes me feel strong & graceful.
-It teaches me to stay in the moment when I'm off the mat & into my day.
-No one is paying any attention to me, not at all.
-I never have to rush to make it to a class on time since it's open practice.
-I can take my practice with me and do it anywhere!  (you know, since I'm such a world traveler these days).

Yoga creates the struggle, you breathe through it. 

Replace 'Yoga' with 'traffic', 'baby', 'dinner', 'boss', 'teacher', 'weather'... and what do you do?
You breathe through it  :)

I first learned about Ashtanga when I lived in NYC, and was thrilled when Greenwich was given a dedicated place to practice at Jois.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Mother of the Year

I am not.  I've never been nominated.

Please believe my eyes are wide open to my flaws.
Please do not look to my children to be perfect examples of some of these topics.

My kids were made from the same stuff and long before they were even 6 months old we could see the difference in their personalities.  Each of them speaks a different love language and has different needs for success.  On top of that, they have totally different definitions of success.

As a counselor, I know I can't make decisions for someone.  I can listen and validate how they are feeling.  I can help uncover underlying issues and present a few options for coping or moving forward.  We can revisit goals to see what's working or if another option might be a better fit.

As a mother, I know I love them.  I guide them as best I can without telling them what to do or fixing everything for them.  I try not say "because I said so" when I can't explain what is so clearly obvious. My best friend calls it "the gift of struggle" and it works both ways.  We watch them make mistakes so they can learn from them.  In the end, we both learn something.

But at some point, I have to pray that I've done right by them and let them go. That I did the best I could with what I had - the experiences, resources, time, the waning patience.  They need to grow into themselves, and my job is to get them there safely, not to do it for them or tell them who they should be.

So much easier said than done  :)

Monday, February 25, 2013

The Present Is the Best Gift

My husband & I were living in NYC in 1100 sq ft.  Our first baby was born in Sept 2006 and when she was 3 months old, we found out we were pregnant with #2, due August 2007.  'Irish Twins' 11 months apart almost to the day, not the lovely 3 years I had planned for.

It was Christmas morning - I had felt sick the few days prior, so I went to the drug store, came home & took the test, then laid on the floor and cried while my husband congratulated himself.  After phoning my Dr, I returned to the pharmacist to pick up my anti-vomit meds; he read my face & said "not the Christmas gift you were hoping for?"  I was scared to tell anyone because I didn't want to ruin my  daughter's first Christmas.

So fast forward to all of us in our apartment, me pushing 2 small babies around the city & carrying all of their various accouterments literally strapped to my back. There were days when I felt like I was going to lose my mind & the days when I actually did.  I left one of them at Starbucks  - she'd climbed out of that Phil & Teds double stroller without me seeing, I didn't notice until I was 2 blocks away (a story I couldn't bear to repeat until about a year later). My family lives far away and my husband travels alot for work; I had plenty of opportunities to feel sorry for myself & dwell on being overwhelmed.

It took me awhile to learn my parameters of joy & meltdowns.  I had to decide what I wanted my days to look like, the impressions I wanted to make on the kids & myself.  I knew it was all going quickly & didn't want to miss it, but I was also a bit foggy in my own head if that makes sense.  I began practicing - I take many deep breaths a day.  I have to intentionally slow down my mind so that I can be very present with my kids.  I chose to stay home with them so I could be a positive person in their lives, to keep them safe & happy.  The best way to teach that is to show it.

So I've let go of Super Mom - which is hard to do & you know it.  Here are some ways this looks at our house - (and this is just what works for me - today)

-We keep the common areas picked up, but their rooms can get pretty bad.  I let them leave out what they're building.  Today we have a large fort of blocks & an animal clinic.

-I volunteer where they'll see me.  In the art class, lunch duty and reading.  The other things I do, I limit to what I really want to see done or help in our community (a library at our school, security issues at school board meetings).

-We do one extra activity at a time.  We did skiing a little earlier this winter, now we are swimming twice a week.  We need downtime & 7:30 bed, they are wiped out by Friday as it is.

I had to forgive myself for being the worst mother ever (having my own tantrums) and make a new and very loose definition of success for my little team.  Each day I want to be able to get my house in order (picked up, laundry/dishes) my head in order (laugh with a friend, hit the gym) share a pleasant exchange with my husband (even a fun email or tv on the couch). and for my kids, I want them to SEE me listening to them.  Maybe our project today is making dinner and working in that animal clinic in her room.  I also expect them to wait (I don't drop everything for them) and entertain them selves (self-soothing at the next level :)

So today - do less.  Take a breath & see what you're doing in the moment you're getting breakfast together & sending them off to school.  Look at them when you greet them & hear what they say.  How would they tell the story about today?  How did you experience it - what's the emotional tone you're setting?  I can do my 'best' each day - and maybe that's about 80% of being Super Mom (they still watch TV around here).

p.s. - We were meant to have them close together; it works for us and continues to only get better.  I adore them both, I love our family dynamic and though I would have NEVER planned it the way it all went down, I would totally recommend it to a younger me.  They way I would tell these stories now is with ALOT of laughter.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Putting the Octopus to Bed

Here's a funny analogy, but gives a very good mental picture.

I'm sure everyone at some point has had that feeling of being overwhelmed just by life. 

So picture your pet octopus.  Give him a cute name so you can feel good about him, you care about him.  Each of his 8 arms represents an area of your life to which you have a commitment.  Some might include: Kids, Yourself, Finance, a Spouse, Friends, a job.... 

So you're trying to put little Olllie to bed, and you tuck in the arms you're feeling good about.  Check book is balanced - his little Finance arm gets tucked in.  Call home to mom - you tuck in your Family arm.  You went to the gym (good for you!!) - you get to tuck in the Self arm.  And then you see those other arms sticking out on the other side.  That's OK, you have them on your list for tomorrow.  And so tomorrow you can tuck in a few more arms.  But you didn't get to the gym, so that little Self arm on the other side pops back out.  Are you starting to see the pattern? 

And what would you do if you were able to get all those arms tucked in at night?  How about every night for a week? A month?  Well, then you'd probably go buy another pet octopus.

I have to remind myself of this OFTEN.   I can get some things done, and done well.  Other things get kinda done, but then pop back out. I try to do the best I can each day, and some days that is more than other days.  It's so easy to get excited and bite off more than we can chew & then beat ourselves up about not being good enough.  Some of the people I see out there appear to have more time/energy/mental stamina than I could ever imagine.  But that is their day, and I know being spread thin does not work for me in the long term.  So I have to admire them & move on without comparing myself.

But again, CONSTANT reminding  :)

Saturday, June 9, 2012

My Mama's Boy

Or really mothers & their boys ... So as this is written, my daughter is 5 1/2 & my son 4 1/2.

My new obsession is looking for men that have good relationships with their mothers.  They respect her, like to call her & spend time with her.  Mostly I see men who love their mothers, but live far away, check in infrequently & or kinda forget about her...

Which brings me to - I'm terrified of 'losing' my son.  He is sweet, kind, cuddly, sincere. He brings me a present every day - usually a leaf.  My daughter has always been strong, spirited & independent, which I can relate to better than this softer little boy.  So as I work with her, do things with her, spend time with her, him I hold, I kiss, I stare at.

Based on my relationship with my mother, my friends with their mothers, I'm hoping that my daughter & I will always have a strong & mostly positive relationship.  I understand it will change, she will at some point think I'm crazy, then come back to me.   We will plan her wedding, we'll discuss every aspect of her first pregnancy & commiserate how long the second one seems to last.  We'll shop, cook, garden & drink wine. 

But my son... I know he's going to leave me.  He will at some point need to pull away, or he'll be the dreaded "MAMA'S BOY".   My friend's mother made a good point, that he will go through things in those middle & high school years that make me want to let him go.  He won't be this cute little boy; he'll be a big dirty boy that does gross things.  That comforts me a bit, maybe it'll be a little easier ... but it's still looming.

So I've decided to enjoy him and follow his lead.  I'll show him I'm constant in his life, be at his sporting things or concerts.  We'll laugh, get ice cream & go for bike rides.  I'll remind my husband to call his mother so that my son learns by example.  This will work, right?? and then when he's all grown up, his wife will love me & they'll move in down the street.

But for now, he's still falling asleep in my bed & sitting in my lap, no matter how much harassment I get from my husband.