Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Hurricane of Opportunity

I remember being a kid in maybe, fourth or fifth grade when Hurricane Gloria swept its way through my town. As a kid I remember looking outside at the huge winds bending the trees with its immense power and being absolutely in awe of Mother Nature. How was it possible to bend a huge oak tree? Or break it?

Having no power back then wasn't a big deal. I was 11. It was like camping but I got to sleep in my own bed every night. I don't remember how long we were out for but I do remember liking the feel of candlelight and the forced quiet that pervaded the house where the television usually filled in the silences. I liked having to interact with family members. Playing games with my siblings was a lot better than sitting in the dark. And fighting with them only got me in trouble so really, I was just better off being nice.

As an adult, having no power is exhausting, scary, and frustrating. I tend to hate it. A lot. But without times like these, when we are forced to interact with our loved ones instead of zoning out on Facebook, TV, and video games, when else do we find the time for basic human connection? It's a techie world and most of the time, that's really great. I love the ease keeping in touch with friends who live far away that Facebook provides me. I love playing games on the iPad and will totally admit my television addiction at any time. But when those things are gone, and you have to fill the hole they leave, you can either complain about it or make the most of it.

I'm a make the most of it type of gal. Not that I don't complain. I think we all know, I've turned complaining into an art form. But once I've gotten it out of my system I make myself step back and evaluate the situation from other angles besides my inconvenience and frustration. Looking over the past couple of days I can now count the number of blessings I have stumbled upon that I have been missing out on when they're right under my nose. I just couldn't hear or see them over the noise of the TV, laptop, iPad, and iPhone.

If I had power over the past few days I never would have spent extra time in meditation that I often totally skip in favor of The Real Housewives of Wherever when given the choice. I never would have seen my husband doing everything in his power to keep us safe and me calm. I never would have had the deep conversations we've shared over the past few days because we would have been too busy watching our shows. I wouldn't have gotten to connect with our neighbors who called to check on us during the storm. I wouldn't have started reading for pleasure but here I am, re-reading Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire because I didn't want to use the battery on the iPad during the day. And guess what, it's even better than I remember it.

I have been forced to communicate with family members and keep in touch with friends and loved ones to make sure they're okay. I have been given this opportunity and though I wouldn't call this terrible storm a blessing, I will say you find blessings when you're forced to look for them. Make the most of this chance to reach out to a neighbor, help a family member, or accept help from someone who cares. Let this force of nature bring to you a heightened sense of how fortunate you truly are, how loved you are, and how loving you are capable of being. Find the good. It's easy once you know where to look.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Dear Sandy...

Dear Hurricane Sandy,

I'm sorry if I was a little harsh before. I was really full of piss and vinegar on that one!

Anywho, at this point, I'm a little scared of you. Did you know they're calling you Frankenstorm now? I've done all I can do to prepare. Thank God I made it to the supermarket in time to get the required eggs, milk, and bread. Phew. Just to be on the safe side, I also bought 2 back-up loaves, 4 six-packs of Parmalot (scary milk in boxes that requires no refrigeration), approximately 10 gallons of distilled water in jugs, and as much canned tuna and Cap'n Crunch that I could find left on the shelves.

In preparation for what I can only assume will commence the start of the zombie apocalypse, I have been secretly training in Mixed Martial Arts and target shooting. I have also been practicing my swing with the old machete. No need to fear folks, I am ready to chop/shoot/crush all zombies who try and mess with me. As well as anyone we suspect might be a zombie. (*Note: if you get bitten by a zombie all friendships are off. Sorry. And - You're Welcome.)

Anyway, if you could maybe try and not drop an RV on my house, that would be super. I say this because seriously? I live next to an RV storage facility. So, really, don't drop that shit on my house. I don't have RV Smash insurance coverage.

Thanks a bunch,
xoxo - erin
Kitten says: Be gentle, Sandy!

Suck It Sandy

Dear Hurricane Sandy,

Thank you for making me feel like a sitting duck in my own living room. As I await your undoubtedly messy and horrible arrival I look back upon this time last year. When there was another storm of this magnitude headed towards us. I didn't take that last storm very seriously. When the power flickered and turned off before that storm even really started, I didn't worry. I knew things would be back to normal in a day.

I was WRONG.

No power for a week. Longer for many. Lots of outrage and complaining. People stuck in shelters, some unable to leave their street because of the trees falling and blocking their escape.

Total. Bullshit. Chaos.

Not this time Mother Nature. Not this time.

Today I will fill my bathtub with water so I can flush the toilet. I have a well, that makes this necessary. I will not live in a house where poo remains in the toilet for longer than absolutely necessary.

Today I will do enough laundry to last a freaking month. I will run the dishwasher, dryer, washer, vacuum and any other thing that requires electricity. Today I will earn that electric bill like it's my last chance to ever make a Panini on the sandwich press. The Magic Bullet will make me smoothies and the George Foreman Grill will make me whatever I can find and fit on it.

I will have the television on all day. I will use my glorious wireless internet to do absolutely nothing of value.

If I had an electric can opener no can would be safe.

Today I will use as much electricity as possible.

Because I have no idea when my next chance will be to microwave my leftovers.

Be safe kids. Batten down the hatches. Find your flashlights, candles, tiny lanterns, and radios. Charge the cell phones, iPads, Kindles, whatever. Eat anything in your fridge you think is too expensive to let spoil. Eat your ice cream. And your Popsicles.

Hurricane Sandy is coming. And word on the street is, she's a bitch.


Saturday, October 27, 2012


Actual conversation last night:

Me: Jacob. Jacob. Jacob. There's a really really big spider over there. I'm gonna need you to kill it.

Jacob: No. Hand me my candy.

Me: No. You'll get no candy until you've taken care of that monster.

Jacob: Stop it. You're being ridiculous.

Me: Hun, you don't understand. It's really big and it's coming towards me. It's moving! Seriously! Just squish it for me? It's looking at me. It can see me. I'm seeing it see me and it's totally creeping me out. Please squish it!

Jacob: No. Stop being silly. You kill it. It's fine. Spray water at it.

Me: Oh good. Anger it with water. No. You get up and you kill it or I will not give you any candy (Munson's chocolate - the good stuff btw.)

Jacob: No. What makes you think I want to do that??

Me: You're being a really bad friend right now. Seriously. Bad. Friend. Not cool. This isn't what friends do. Friends help each other in times of need.

Jacob: You are out of your mind! (FINALLY gets up and looks over at the beast.) Jesus Christ! That is a big spider! I'm not squishing that thing! That'll be icky! No way! (Note: "icky" is a direct quote)

Me: It's coming closer! It's coming at me! Bad friend! Bad friend!

Real love means never having to squish spiders.
This was followed by Jacob walking a wide arc around Spidey and returning with a can of Raid Ant Spray. Then proceeding to spray the crap out of the it. Not surprisingly, Mr. Spider beat a hasty retreat only to be pounced upon by Jacob. With ninjaesque quickness and lots of swearing, Jacob scooped Spidey up using my super cool lap desk as he tried to climb it in an attempt to escape. He then threw the entire combo outside. The lap desk is still out there. It smells all Raid-ey now. Deal breaker.

And that's what we call "Friday Night".

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Stress: The Final Inappropriate Frontier

Stress is a funny thing. Half the time I have no idea how stressed I actually am because I try not to pay attention to such minor details. I lecture my clients about it all the time but when it comes to myself, um...let's just say I suck at taking my own brilliant advice.

I have a lot of things going on and work is something I've learned that cycles from slow and quiet to Crisis Town. It only really takes one client in crisis to turn things on their head because I am the kind of person who can't do things half-assed. I make myself available to the client and their family as much as possible, I will even leave the comfy confines of my office and attend school meetings to determine what accommodations need to be put into place so the kid has a fair shot at graduating before they're thirty. I recently went to a doctor's appointment with a client to ensure the doctor really had the full story and took things as seriously as I needed her to.

So these things, they may seem small, but in my profession they fly in the face of traditional psychotherapy. Nonetheless, I do them because they are important and my bottom line is that I give good service and nobody is going to fall through the cracks. Not on my watch.

However, there is a cost to me for this level of care. It takes a lot of time and energy and I still have a full case load to take care of so my brain is often working on several projects at once. You would think I'd be used to this by now. Alas, that is not the case. I still let stress get to me and it can absolutely cause me to forget things and make mistakes. Inevitably, that ends up with me being upset or frustrated.

Or, in this case, kind of embarrassed but mostly amused. This story is about to get real folks and if you don't handle blunt talk of lady business items I strongly suggest you get the hell out of here for the next paragraph or so.

You have been warned.

In the midst of clients being in crisis (crisis meaning: suicidal, self-harming, or using) I found myself blessed with a visit from the Uterus Fairy. No big deal, I'm 34-years old. Nothing about this is new to me. I've had my period since I was 12. Let's be real, it's not rocket science.

Yet...With my brain full of To Do lists and phone calls and treatment planning, crisis management and client support...things can fall through the cracks. Personal things like returning calls to friends and putting the clothes in the dryer within 24 hours of washing them. And when Mother Nature throws her hat in the ring, a lot can happen. Sometimes...we can forget things or get confused about if I did or did not do something. Or, in this case, if I did or did not remove something.

Yes folks. Tampon Gate 2012 just got real.

At some point over the weekend I was frantically trying to get out the door and running late and Shamus kept trying to chew my underwear while I was atop the throne attending to lady issues and...something got lost in the shuffle. I could have sworn I put one in there. I am a fan of full and tidy protection during that special time of the month. Constant vigilance! (Yes - a Harry Potter reference. Don't judge me.)

So when I went to remove said tampon, there was nothing there. I proceeded to give myself as thorough an examination as humanly possible which, frankly, was not a picnic. I've had the Nuva Ring before, I know how about spelunking a la vajayjay.

Naturally, I assumed I was going to develop Toxic Shock Syndrome and die an embarrassing and painful death. I gave it some time. I thought gravity would kick in. I jumped a lot and did several series of squats and stretches but to no avail. I took a yoga class. Nothing. After a couple of days I couldn't take it anymore. I sucked it up and called my doctor even though I don't currently have health insurance. I was able to get an appointment quickly and this morning headed out bright and early to hop into the old stirrups.

I don't know what's worse really, the embarrassment of having to explain my predicament or subjecting myself to the speculum. It's a tough call. The doctor was awesome though and insisted these things happen all the time. I find that hard to believe but I'm choosing to run with it because being the only idiot who's found herself in that situation is far too mortifying.

In what can only be called Erin's Law, as it turns out, there was nothing there.


The doctor and I had a good laugh about that one.

She had an even better laugh as I forgot my jacket in the exam room and had to go back and get it.
"Never trust my memory!" I sang out as she giggled. I'm glad I could give her a smile. I'm sure looking at lady bits all day must get a little boring after a while. It's not like they do tricks or anything.

And just in case you're wondering what it cost me, an uninsured regular person going to a large, busy medical office I have to say, I will never leave my doctor's office. They are awesome.

Breakdown: Cost of Tampons: $9.99
                    Cost of Tampon check at gynecologist: $66.40
                    Knowing I won't be on the news for dying of Toxic Shock Syndrome: Priceless.

Trust me, you don't wanna be in here anyway.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Conformity Drop Out

I have not attended church on Sunday for at least a decade. Much longer if Easter Sunday doesn't count.

Random fact:  I have not celebrated Easter for about the past 5 years. I've never liked the holiday really. No offense family but I just saw you people like, 4 months ago. I haven't done anything interesting since then and you probably haven't either. Don't worry, we're cool and everything. I just wanna stay home. I'm tired.
(As far as the religious significance, I am all for it. Go Jesus Go! Way to come back from the dead only to be even more awesome!)
Anyway, as a kid I kind of liked to go to church sometimes even though I had no idea what it was actually about. (Clearly as evidenced above.) I just liked the way it smelled in there. And singing. And taking communion because that meant you were at least 85% done and that much closer to donuts after church!

As I grew older and the value of donuts decreased on my priority list (slightly) the allure of church kind of faded. Not to mention I had finally cottoned on to the fact that the Church and I deeply disagreed on all sorts of issues. And that I hated CCD (our version of bible study) and had no desire to make my confirmation. Which would declare me official and allowed to get married in the church. Guess what? Fifteen-year old me was absolutely right! Thank God (pun not intended) I didn't go through that. I'm pretty sure you can't un-ring that bell.

Anyway, I stood in a church today by my own choice. Something inside me, however, stopped me from participating fully. My introvert self just froze right up when confronted with completely new circumstances and expectations. I actually found myself kind of missing the pomp and circumstance of the Catholic mass. Not for anything spiritual, purely for the comfort of something familiar.

It amazes me every time I am confronted by the truth of my human nature. I, just like everybody else in the world, prefer comfort over whatever new thing I am being met with. The comfort of ritual is something I can't deny. At the same time, it totally icks me out. People acting en masse is something I only really enjoy while watching flash mob videos on YouTube. Other than that, large groups of people making identical gestures and speaking in unison make me think of the military. Which immediately flashes me PTSD-style to my ex-husband's graduation from Air Force basic training. It was beyond hot. San Antonio in May is stifling, I had no idea Texas could be so humid. I remember being hot and being totally uncomfortable on base. The graduation ceremony itself was huge - easily 500 graduates. All moving in perfect unison, in line, dress blues, black dress shoes gleaming and creating perfect line after line of identical soldiers.

I also flash to every WWII movie I have ever seen involving shots of Nazi soldiers organizing.

Creepy. Threatening even. That's how those displays make me feel. It's not my fault I suck at conforming or working in groups. I clearly fail at conformity. Even when it's warm and fuzzy and everybody's really nice. I think this is part of being an introvert. We can acknowledge that life may be enriched by involvement in something bigger than ourselves, but find it totally uncomfortable to actively display outward shows of spirituality or personal revelation. At least, in front of other people. Once we're home and neatly tucked away into sweatpants and back behind our front doors, we (well, me at least) are free to think, feel, and react authentically.
Yeah, yeah I know...

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Unconditional Nothing

I like to believe in the idea of unconditional love. It's a beautiful idea and I usually think of the love that exists between parent and child as the ultimate example of it. At least, that's what it's supposed to be. Growing up on Disney movies I was taught that anyone can find unconditional love. As long as they were a princess and had some sort of horrible kidnapping/dragon-napping issue. Living in a tower was optional but preferred.

Apparently, kind of a liar. I mean, they're great movies and I must admit, the music isn't half bad either (Under the Sea anyone? Just saying...)

The thing is, as I grow older and see more and more the things people do to each other, and themselves, in the name of love the less patience I have with bad decisions and selfishness. You see, people seem to think that just because they have contributed DNA to the life of a child, they are automatically entitled to that child's unconditional love.

I'm here to tell you, that is a crock. Don't believe the hype. Nobody deserves or receives unconditional love if they haven't held up their end of the bargain. Unconditional love cannot exist in a vacuum. If you don't feed and care for your relationship the way you would with a rose bush, you're not going to get the love you want.  If you're not aware of that you have definitely missed a memo.

What I have learned, through my practice and my life experiences is that there really is no such thing as a free lunch.

Relationships are a PRIVILEGE. They are not a right. You are not entitled to have a relationship with anyone, your children included. If you play games with the love your children have for you, they will one day wake up and see you for the selfish fraud that you are. They will be furious with you and ultimately, reject you. If your children are young and they see and hear things from you that are cruel, neglectful, abusive, or otherwise inappropriate, they aren't going to want to be around you. If you threaten your children, your spouse, or you ex-spouse with ridiculous court battles, or refuse to pay child support or follow court orders, they will not want anything to do with you. If you can't be consistent and call or visit when you are supposed to, if you make promises and don't keep them, they will resent you deeply.

And the worst - if you play the victim and refuse to treat your children with compassion, refuse to put their needs ahead of your own, and blame the whole world - them included - for your unhappiness and bad decisions, you don't deserve a relationship with them. You are doing nothing but destroy their childhoods and ensure I will never run out of clients.

Like all privileges, you can and will lose them based on your performance. Once those children (or friends or family members, work colleagues, confidantes, etc.) realize that you are not equal partners in your relationship and that you don't value them above your own selfishness, your privileges will be revoked. And good luck getting them back. Once a door is closed, it takes ten times the effort to crack it back open.

And let's face it, your track record? Sucks.

Nuff' said.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

You're Not the Boss of Me

Random light bulb moment: 12th bday party with group of girls I'd been surrounded with forever.
Popular girl #1 "Why'd you invite us? Why didn't you invite your real friends?"

Mean girls (aka: bullies, "frenemies," or meanie pantsies) are at the top of my list of People Who Suck. Not that that girl was a mean girl. She wasn't really. She was just blunt as shit.

When it comes to growth and change, most parts of that journey are intolerable at first. When you've spent your life a natural people pleaser, being disliked is baffling, painful, and, scary. Not being liked by or friends with people I'd grown up with was as puzzling as it was painful. When I took the time to connect with who I was at that party, I finally saw my younger self didn't know there was another option besides just continuing to be nice and trying ignore the feeling of being not quite accepted. When I evaluated those relationships objectively and even talked to my therapist about it as an adult, the message received from all those relationships came through as "Look and act the part we want you to or you're out."

That shit still hasn't gone away completely and it probably never will. It's inevitable at some point in life, everyone will get this message. It preys on our deepest insecurities and fears and can render anyone mute. It works wonders to keep us frozen in place. It also guarantees we will resist cutting people out of our lives who aren't good for us, maybe they're even toxic. We fear if we hurt someone they will hurt us back, maybe they'll even stop loving/liking us. Maybe they'll even leave.

Learning that some things are worse than someone leaving you is the path to freedom. I have been guilty on so many occasions of keeping people in my life who were only there conditionally. As long as our relationship was all about them, we were besties. The moment I crossed them, however, or stopped doing things the way they liked them, relationship over.

The pisser is, I would feel guilty and hurt when these friends would not return phone calls or always have more important drama to attend to. I actually cared more about how they were feeling and what they were thinking than what I did. Inevitably, this led to certain friendships continuing long past their expiration date. Not everyone is meant to be friends forever. It's a great concept but when put into practice it seldom works out. Letting things stew for years, however, guaranteed that when those friendships ended they went down in flames instead of quiet dignity. I regret that part of things but I am grateful for not turning back around and trying to fix things, to mold myself back into whatever they wanted me to be.

A huge part of why I'm good at what I do is my ability to sense what people need me to be. Some folks need a cheerleader, others a parent, still others an antagonist. The lesson I learned in school of "Meet people from wherever they are at" resonated deeply with me then and still does to this day. When it comes to my work life, that is completely acceptable. Outside of the office, however, being what people want me to be can be exhausting. Not to mention much, much, too hard. Somewhere along the line, after the end of some particularly old friendships, I had to accept that all things have a start point and an end point. That although it was painful initially to end those relationships I was truly better off. These were people who'd long since stopped making me feel good about myself or around them.

Who needs people when I have a Paulie dog?

Opening myself up to the idea that I'm fine has been really new for me. I've stopped viewing myself as a failure over relationships that have ended badly and instead, try to stay focused and in the moment - no more ignoring or drifting off needed. Thoughts and feelings can hurt like hell at times but the good news is I'm the boss of them.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Something Terrible Happened

I love ice cream. Love it. And after a long, stressful day I would rather hang out with Ben&Jerry than pretty much anyone else.

So the other night, I was in the kitchen and had retrieved my Chocolate Therapy (actual flavor name) from the freezer and was about to grab a spoon from the drawer but, alas, there were no spoons to be had. Being a thinker, I turned to the obvious place for clean dishes - the dishwasher. I was like, mostly almost 100% sure the dishes in there were clean. I mean, there was no smell and things looked shiny so that was good enough for me.
I settled into my chair and commenced ice cream yummy time.

Upon my return to the kitchen to put the Chocolate Therapy away before I housed the entire thing without thinking about it, I felt a question tingle in the back of my mind.
When did I run the dishwasher? Why don't I remember? Hmm....
So, I opened it up and pulled out some other stuff.
The other stuff...wasn't clean. Or shiny.

But my spoon was could that be?

Oh right. I usually let the dogs lick my spoon after using it. They're very thorough.

OH. My. EW.
If anyone needs me, I'll be in my chair.
With my Listerine bottle close by.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Step Parents! It's Your Turn!

Dear Step Moms and Dads,

You people may just be the bravest, most optimistic, openhearted individuals EVER. Seriously. You met someone with kids from a previous relationship and managed to fall in love not only with your partner, but with their children. That is beautiful.

Unfortunately, however, it's no shocker blended families have it rough. Marriage is hard on its own, add in some less than thrilled kids and you have quite the combo. And what if you have children of your own you're bringing into the marriage? Where do they fit in? What if they don't get along with your partners children? What if your parenting styles are totally different? What if your kids hate your partner? What if your partner's kids hate you?? How do you handle baby mama/daddy drama - your own and/or your spouses?

So. Many. Variables.

You don't need me to tell you that kids hate divorce. You probably know that kids can view new relationships as the reason their parents broke up - it's a lot less painful to think that than it is to think it was their fault. Not to mention, when one parent moves on and develops a new relationship and the other doesn't, the kids worry about the parent who is alone.

I cannot stress enough how much kids worry about their parents. You may never hear them say it and you may not even believe me when I tell you this but it is the truth. Kids feel an obligation to save a parent they feel is weak or has been unfairly treated. Unfortunately, to save the one parent, they must display loyalty to the injured party.

It takes someone really special to go through step-parent hazing. Especially since there is no guarantee of a long-term solution. There is no one-size-fits-all for families bringing step-parents into the mix.

For the step-parents out there who are doing their best to form relationships with kids who hold a grudge against you or blame you for the break-down of their family I must say KUDOS. Way to hang in there Champ! The most important basics to remember for the step-parent are as follows.

1) Never, never, never say anything negative about their other parent. Rise above, people. Rise above.

2) Don't get involved in the discipline. Let their bio-parent handle that and if they don't, MAKE THEM. By putting you in the power position they have set you up to fail. They are not doing their job as a parent if you become primary caretaker and decision maker.

3) Stop trying so hard. Step back and remove yourself from the equation, especially if things are getting sticky. Should you build a relationship with your step-kids? Sure! Remember, Rome wasn't a built in a day, relationships aren't either. Don't fall into the trap of "It's been "XYZ" amount of time! Shouldn't everything be all set by now??" Let things happen organically. Don't rush them.

4) Put your marriage first. Pour your energy into your relationship where it is actually appreciated. If the kids see their parent is happy they will eventually fall in line like fuzzy little ducklings. They just need a leader. And that leader must be their parent.

5) Do your absolute best to enjoy the kids. Don't worry about teaching them lessons or get caught up in power struggles. You get to be the fun one here! It's not your job to teach them about "respect" for God's sake. Please, please do not even go there. They don't even know you. They don't hate you, but they may hate the idea of you. This comes from their fear of being replaced, forgotten about, overlooked, or just simply not good enough. Kids who've been through a divorce have already had their self esteem squished. Do everything in your power to prove them wrong. You are an adult, therefore the responsibility of acting that way is on you.

Last but not least - Marriage and Family Therapists are trained to help you deal with this stuff! Go find one! Go now! (

Read this. Commit it to memory. Repeat.

Monday, October 8, 2012

For the Family - Alienation Red Flags

Dear Parents,

I know I took last week off from reaching out to you. What can I say? I needed the break and maybe you did too. I don't want to overwhelm anybody.

I'd like to talk a little more about Parental Alienation. This subject is close to my heart because of my job and what I see happening under the appearances people try to put out as truth. As a member of your community I truly hope if you hear someone blasting their Ex at a little league game you do your best to either soothe the person into stopping their tirade or you walk away and display your discomfort with what they're doing non-verbally. Especially if the kids are in earshot.

More importantly, know the signs that you may be unknowingly participating in Parental Alienation.

The top 2 signs that I have seen are:

1) You used to be friends with both mother and father but since their break-up you have chosen sides because you feel disgusted, angry, or confused by someone's actions towards their spouse. Chances are, you've chosen the side of whoever looks like the injured party. You found out someone had an affair or did something you don't approve of and now you're not speaking to them even though your children are friends with their children.

2) You are extended family and you used to have close relationships with the kids but since the divorce you have backed away and stopped engaging. Maybe you're related to the non-custodial parent and you're angry. You feel victimized. You never liked that other parent anyway and now when you see the kids you feel the need to tell them how much they've hurt your family member and, by proxy, you.
OR - You are the extended family of the custodial parent and you dislike the Ex. You spend a lot of time helping out your family member and maybe you even live together because after the divorce they couldn't afford their own place. Maybe you feel like your relative is the victim and the Ex is a scum bag. Maybe they don't even pay their child support on time if at all.

**This? Is not your business. You have zero place telling kids no matter the age that they are awful or mean to their parent. You can certainly address issues of blatant nastiness or issues that come up if you are care-taking but that's where it ends. Statements such as "UGH! You're just like your father/mother!" Are not okay. Nor is "You know you really hurt your mom when you didn't come see her." Or, "You don't deserve how good your dad is to you." Any combination of the above statements is harmful to the kids. It creates a toxic environment for them where they feel unheard, disappointing, guilty, confused, and hurt.

The absolute best thing you can do for kids caught between two warring parents is create a safe zone where they can be supported and listened to. They can say whatever they need to say about either parent but your job is to teach them how to deal with those feelings. Don't teach them to blame and hold grudges.

Mentally prepare yourself to hear things you won't like. Divorce creates new situations that nobody is prepared for. When kids go back and forth between homes, inevitably, things are going to happen. One parent may let them stay up late playing video games, the other parent may be Captain Structure with every moment of the day planned out. Remember that when kids come to you with questions, they are looking to you for lessons on how to deal with things. They don't know what to do so they are looking to you to show them. They may even say they want you to intervene, take the reins, and make it go away. Don't fall for it.

Teach them how to deal with conflict. Teach them that you see what they're going through is hard but that there are ways to deal with it without losing a parent or an entire half of their family. Imagine if you were in their shoes how confusing and scary it would be to be taught they are powerless and everything they are going through is the fault of someone they love. Teach them that people are not perfect and disappointment and heart break are a part of life.

Teach them to deal with their feelings and the situation from an empowered place - from their higher selves - and give them the best possible chance to grow up into healthy, balanced adults.


Saturday, October 6, 2012

It Just Got Real

There's a new sheriff in town. That's right naughty Shamus who drives everyone crazy with your antics. That's right Mojo kitty who loves to escape to the great outdoors only to spend hours meowing in the woods. It just got real ya'll.

Diva Squirt Bottle insisted upon a Glamour Shot.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Communication - Gotta love it!

I always like to ask people, what made you pick up the phone and call me? Not surprisingly, Communication is the #1 reason people give me. Be it trouble communicating with a spouse, parent, child, or even sibling, not feeling understood by a loved one is incredibly painful and frustrating.

Here's the big secret about communication: You are always communicating. In fact, it is virtually impossible to NOT communicate. We communicate through words, body language, facial expressions, lack of facial expression, tone of voice, eye contact, how we sit, stand, lie down. We send vibes without even doing so consciously. This is the human condition. Our ability to send and receive important messages to each other in times of danger or stress is what has allowed the human race to evolve into the Facebook and Pinterest addicts (guilty!) we are today.

Me with my sister in 2009 atop the Pyramid of the Sun. Look how tiny!

Prime example - earlier this week I may have had a bit of an emotional breakdown. I may have freaked out at my husband for the 900th time about the issue of weight. I used to be this tiny little twig of a thing without even having to try. Unfortunately, I got old and my metabolism slowed down. The addition of medication for my awesome panic disorder sealed the deal. Weight gain was unavoidable. And here I am today. There were some other issues I was holding onto besides weight but that's the one that usually gets me where it hurts. 
Your mission, if you choose to accept it, is to listen more, talk less. If the person you are trying to communicate with is a loved one, give them a break and assume they are not trying to hurt you. I know, it's incredibly hard to do. I get that you don't want to be hurt but shutting down or flipping out guarantees you will be hurt. Lashing out at your spouse when they're trying to give you feedback may allow you to avoid what they have to say for a little while but it's not going to make it go away. Even if your spouse decides not to push the issue with you and lets it go for the moment, they are still carrying that hurt or concern inside of them. This wears them down and eventually they will lash out at you for making them swallow their feelings.
When you shut your partner down, you get to avoid the icky thing you didn't want to deal with but you're also shutting down the good, loving messages your spouse is actually trying to send you. If I had let myself go down into my shame spiral the other day instead of sticking it out to hear what Jacob had to say, I would have missed the meat of his message. I would have missed the main point of his argument which was actually, very loving and a reality check to boot.
Me: "I hate my body, I look at old pictures of myself and I want to die. I was so tiny and I didn't even appreciate it when I had it! I want to be that girl in the pictures again!"
Jacob: "Hun, remember who you were in those pictures? Were you happy? Would you want to go back and re-live that part of your life? When you had little to no control over your anxiety and panic disorder? And you were married to a guy you didn't even like? Did you have what you have now? A healthy solo private practice, financial security, real friends? No? Then that's what you need to remember when you look at those pictures."

Sigh. I hate when he's right.

The real trick to communicating isn't in the sending. It's in the receiving. The ability to listen without adding our own emotional baggage to the message. Emotions are powerful things and sometimes they can get in the way of really hearing someone. We can be triggered emotionally without even knowing it consciously and before we know it, find ourselves defensive and shut down. It isn't until we take a step back and really look at our response can we see where we were really reacting from.
We are adorkable!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Why do we even have to have this talk?

The above video is AWESOME. This is how to call out a bully guys. Watch and learn.

Today, I am talking to all adults who have interaction with children, be they parents or otherwise. Because we have a job to do and clearly, a lot of you out there are failing.

Yes. I said it. You are failing.

And don't get all high and mighty on me because I don't have kids. Get that notion out of your head because it's an excuse not to listen to things that you don't like or that hurt your feelings. Nobody likes to hear they're failing their kids. I get that. But wouldn't you want someone to tell you? Would you really prefer to keep your head down and dig that hole deeper and deeper?

Thank you for being brave enough to continue reading this far if you haven't run screaming. You rock.

Bullying is bullshit folks. It's not okay, it's gone too far. It's long past time we - and I do mean all adults who influence or love children including teachers, coaches, aunts, uncles, grandparents, cousins etc. - have a responsibility to stop it.
How many people does it take to stop it?
As many as it takes.
Every individual has the right to speak for themselves. When a message is repeated often enough, it eventually folds its way in until we can't see where the lines were drawn anymore. It becomes a permanent part of the fabric of our society.

If you want to stop bullying, start at home. I cannot stress this enough - whatever your kids see you do, they are going to assume it is okay for them to do. They will use your words to hurt others. Others who may not be able to handle it. Because they have been taught by the adults in their lives how to go for the jugular.

GONE are the days of "kids will be kids". Sorry ya'll, our society has reduced the length and depth of childhood to a charred shell of what it once was. Kids are no longer innocent. We have taken that away from them by exposing them to a world of social media they cannot handle responsibly without actual, intense guidance and proper modeling behavior from you. It has become simply too easy for a child to hold onto something that bothered them during the day and turn it into Cyber Bullying at night.

Remember back in the olden days when we would go to school and then go home and be with our families until we would wake again the next day and go see our classmates? When weekends belonged to the family or particular friends we wanted to spend time with the most? When home was a safe place? When if you were the object of bullying you were able to escape?

By the addition of Face Book and Twitter and Tumblr and the whole internet in general, we have removed the boundary between work/school life and everything else. As a kid who was shy and introverted, school was a challenge for me every day. Going home at the end of the day was a rewarding escape from school - where recess was the thing I hated the most. Being away from girls who were fake friends or boys who were simply baffling was what kept me sane. I dealt with those people all day, going home to go to my piano lesson and watching some TV with the fam was private, uninterrupted time. I didn't have to worry about someone texting me cruel messages or putting up horrible things on Facebook about me. It was a truly separate existence.

There is no escape anymore. Your home has become an extension of the blacktop battleground and the bullies are just a mouse click away. An incident that was annoying at school no longer has the opportunity of fading organically and being let go. Instead it becomes the topic of the day and everybody weighs in - bullies first and foremost. Let's say Little Johnny has a tough day at school, he's shy and although he has friends, he is quiet and focused on his school work. One day he is staring off into space when another student, Meanie Pants, notices and points him out. "Ooh! Johnny stop staring at Jack that way! You're gaaaayyyy!!!"

Um, where did that kid learn that from? Other kids? Maybe. But where did he learn to ruthlessly ridicule a peer that way? Why is the word "gay" the first thing he goes for? Sorry folks, you are caught out. He learned it while in your care. By the way, thanks for getting him that smart phone. Now he can make "Johnny is gaaaay!" his Facebook status in a nanosecond. Next nanosecond, Meanie Pants has texted his entire contact list about Johnny being gaaay. And Little Johnny has no idea what to do with that. In the space of six seconds his life has been ruined. His friends are afraid to be seen with him lest they be the target next time.

Here's an idea. Adults - stop playing with your phone and pay attention to your kids. Teach them how to have a conversation that includes eye contact. That the world does not and should not revolve around them. Teach them it is vitally important to THINK before they speak, or post. Teach them that their words matter and when they are used to hurt another person, there are consequences.

Your kid should not be using a cell phone while in school. The excuse of, "What if I need to get a hold of them?" Makes me want to punch you.  I went through my entire life without my mommy texting me while I was at school and that includes college and grad school. I was picked on, bad things happened, my feelings were hurt and it was awful sometimes. But I dealt with it.

That's right folks, I DEALT WITH IT. On my own. So when I sit down at the computer I have a lifetime of life lessons to keep me grounded. Your kids are not developing this resource inside themselves. They are learning to lash out first, ask questions later.

They are learning this from you - the adults in their lives. If you are in a position of any power kids are watching and learning from you. If you call someone "fat" or "gay" or any other choice name, your kids will think that is okay. They won't admit that to you, but that's what they believe. You can tell them until you're blue in the face not to do that. But...if you're doing are they. It no longer becomes a conscious decision for them, you have taken the decision out of their hands. You have taught them this is how we react to people if we don't like what they have to say or if we just don't like them.

Your words matter but your actions matter more. Here's a crazy idea, talk to your kids about the critical importance of kindness. Teach them by showing them how to do it. Say "Thank You" to all retail service people. The cashiers, waitresses, dude who showed you where the lightbulbs are, whatever. Model for your children that no one is better than anyone else. That all people regardless of looks, smarts, charisma, or money must be treated with respect up front. There is no power struggle when the expectation is clearly demonstrated each and every time. If the cashier is rude, even better. Model for your children how to deal with rudeness without becoming cruel. I was taught to kill them with kindness. This means I smile through it while my blood is boiling. When I would like nothing better than to tell the rude cashier to suck it, I remind myself that I am better than that.

You and your kids are better than that too. Step it up folks. Get tough. Don't give in when the kids have a fit about you going through their phone or having their Facebook pass words. You are doing your job and secretly, your kids are relieved.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Goose parade

Welcome October! As a special gift I present you with, the best 35 seconds of your day!