Mental Health

I screw up. You screw up.

Change starts with one person at a time. Steve Harvey did a fantastic job of owning his mistake and apologizing recently at the Miss Universe pageant. He even made millions of people laugh when he showed he can laugh at himself.  And his wife did a great job of showing her unconditional support. If the ripple effect takes control, then before you know it, we can all live in a better world where we support each other instead of killing each other emotionally.

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On Christmas he posted this pic with the caption “Merry Easter y’all”  on his facebook and twitter. Class act!

Steve Harvey screws up. I screw up. You screw up. Everyone screws up. The screw up doesn’t matter as much as if we are able to identify it, apologize, and better ourselves.

The following is my Christmas story this year.

Here’s a screw up of mine at FedEx a few weeks back.

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You see, the clerk didn’t have the best customer service skills, and I reacted harshly when she told me I was forced to pay $5 for a shipping box because the one I brought didn’t have the FedEx logo on it. I was trying to ship back a textbook I had rented, and there was no way I was paying $5 for a box when mine would work perfectly fine. I insolently told her how I felt: I would go to UPS because I wasn’t paying $5 for a box!  Then I stormed out.

I drove home to print the shipping label as I realized after-the-initial-trip that with the preprinted label the textbook company would foot for the shipping cost. As I drove home with full intentions of taking my business to UPS I evaluated my impatience and realized what I needed to do to make it right. Maybe because I was so abrupt I didn’t allow her to explain correctly? Maybe it would actually cost $5 for the box and the shipping? I printed the label and stopped at Chickfila and bought a $5 giftcard.

When I got back to FedEx the original clerk was busy with another customer. Another employee came to help. I showed him the box and the label. He explained that FedEx could ship my shoebox, but it couldn’t guarantee its safe arrival. It did indeed cost $5 to buy the box and have it packaged by them for total assurance. I explained I didn’t want to spend $5 on a box and we evaluated my other options. I decided to go home and get a box other than a shoebox. But, yes, the first clerk had been wrong about the FedEx logo necessity. Maybe if I would have let her properly explain I would have saved myself a trip. Or maybe not because she seemed to be learning this for the first time as I did.

Before I left I went up to the original clerk and apologized explaining, “I was rude to you, I’m sorry. I got this for you, so you will know of my remorse for acting impolitely.” She said, “It was fine.” I continued, “It wasn’t fine. I jumped to conclusions and was aggressive and these are things I am trying to work on personally, so I thought if I bought you lunch it would help me remember how I should act next time.” She took the giftcard and thanked me. All three Fedex employees were staring at me in disbelief.

I went home for the right kind of box, and returned to FedEx towing along for the third time my 37 pound one-year-old who was now ready for a nap. I grabbed a bag of Reese’s Peanut Butter cups at home for the second customer service rep. that was truly helpful, and thanked him profusely for his patience and competance as I handed him the candy and the correctly packaged book with the shipping label. While he handed me back my tracking information I realized that it had taken me all morning, but I ended up not spending a dime at FedEx.

Unless, of course, you count the gallon of gas, the $5 giftcard, and the bag of Reese’s Cups.

Lesson learned. I laughed at myself the remainder of the day, and when my husband got home from work and I told him of my whole morning spent going back and forth to FedEx he laughed too.

The thing is this….we’ve learned a lot in therapy. He gets what I was trying to do. Be a better person. He  knows that I’ve learned that I am aggressive. I’ve learned that I am abrupt, and that those behaviors are keeping me from having the relationships I want with others. I am actively trying to change my bad behaviors.  It’s hard to do. Old dogs like old bones, not new tricks.

However, we both understand, also, that no one is perfect. All we can hope for is improvement. All we can give is effort. We should be patient with ourselves and others. When we openly work on our stuff (like I did at FedEx) other people might be inspired to openly work on theirs. They may not work on their stuff because “working on stuff” has never been demonstrated. They may have never “worked  on their stuff” because everyone around them is either in denial of their own stuff or critical and not allowing room for work.

So, even though I have a great desire for altruistic behavior all of the time, my actions fall short. Often. I am no saint. But, I still can be someone else’s inspiration when I say I’m sorry. I screwed up. And so can you.

And change is a beautiful message to ponder this Christmas season.

What screw up are you ready and willing to fix?

start here

startMy hubby and I have interviews with our kids once a month. We take about an half an hour to meet with each child privately and talk to them about their personal and family concerns. We take time to express our love, remind them of their strengths, and set goals for improvement.

It’s really just our way of implementing “therapy” into their lives. We hope by working with our kids on emotional well-being now, we can give them the tools that we’ve paid a generous amount of money to professionals to teach us as adults. Hopefully this habit will also save them from repeating a lot of our heartaches. Doing this also helps us as parents to know how we need to improve. Each time the kids leave with one goal and we do too.

Besides teaching them the importace of faith and how to do their own laundry, I think this little practice is the most effective thing I’m doing as a mother. I highly recommend its implementation. I wonder if so many senseless tragedies could be avoided if all parents would invest just a little time to talk to their kids about emotional, physical, spiritual, and psychological nitty-gritties. We have noticed a huge difference in our relationship with our kids after our consistent first Sunday of the month interviews.

If anything it gives the kids the chance to be acountable to themselves for self-improvement.

So, yesterday we had a pretty intense interview with one of our girls. She does not want to discuss a sensitive subject that is causing her a lot of heartache. She just totally shuts off and tunes the whole experience out. Her tender little heart can’t deal with its vulnerabilities and broken parts. After trying repeatedly to coax her out unsuccesfully we ended up just cutting the session early and encouraging her to think about things on her own so we can readdress next month.

As she exited and closed the door behind her, with discouragement and feelings of utter parent failure, I turned to my husband and said, “I think that we might have to do this every time until she realizes what closing herself off is depriving her of.” He agreed, but more than anything, we wish we could help her be strong and face herself because we know it’s essential for her peace and happiness.

This morning I read this and was reminded of my own journey in self-awareness. It’s a lot easier to address our weaknesses if we first start with the foundation that we are divine beings with divine potential.

“Satan uses our weaknesses to the point that we are discouraged from even trying…We don’t need to be “more” of anything to start to become the person God intended us to become. God will take you as you are at this very moment and begin to work with you…If we look at ourselves only through our mortal eyes, we may not see ourselves as good enough but our Heavenly Father sees us as who we truly are and who we can become.”

The moral of the story, kick those fear-based lies in the butt, and start where you are. Don’t be afraid. You are not supposed to  be perfect. Yet. But, if you aren’t willing to take a honest look, you never will be.

One is the loneliest number

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Even though I have a large family and many friends I often feel terribly lonely. I am trying to figure out why that is, so that I can fix it. I really don’t like feeling lonely. So far I’ve come up with two culprits.

One, I’m hypersensitive. Two days ago I commented on an old mission friend’s facebook post. He linked an article that’s title hinted at planned parenthood and Jason Chaffetz. This friend lives in Virginia and he said something like, “Jason Chaffetz is dishonest.” I didn’t take time to read the article because I really didn’t care, but being the social girl that I am, I still commented, “I actually know Jason personally, and I think he is pretty honest. Planned parenthood should be de-funded as all other non-essentials (let capitalism do its thing), and all politicians are crooks.” That may not be exactly what I said, but it is pretty darn close.

So, this friend was really upset I hadn’t read the article. After being questioned, I admitted to not reading it. He then went off!  I don’t understand why it bothered him so much, but it obviously did as he then personally attacked me. He berated me for being an idiot. He questioned, “how dare I comment without being well-informed?” I told him that I didn’t think it was a requirement to read every article in order to have an opinion, and I also didn’t appreciate his cruelty. I also gave him a few suggestions on how he could have been more validating to me. He and many of his friends then called me a looney-toon repeatedly over the next four hours. Not one person on his thread even tried to understand what I was trying to say in my own defense. I unfriended him, yet I still stewed about it in the confines of my own head for a significant amount of time. Eventually I turned off the repeated notifications I was getting, and washed my hands clean of it. I concluded that I really didn’t communicate effectively, and that I needed to be more careful next time. I also decided that anyone who was willing to act that way towards me was never really a true friend. I also talked myself off the ledge by reminding myself that one little facebook thread really didn’t matter. Nonetheless I felt alone. Very alone. I felt totally invalid, small, and stupid. I know I’m sensitive, and I therapized myself to let it go.

I also sent my husband an e-mail telling him that I was officially grateful I married him instead of this other missionary who I used to think was a great guy. At one point I thought I might like to date that other guy. Boy, that would have been a disaster.

Two, the world is cruel. Yesterday I was over life. I went to volunteer at the school for two hours, and then had to run to library to borrow a book for class. The copy I ordered has taken over a month to be delivered, and I couldn’t wait on it to get started for class on Monday. All the while I was lugging around a 30-pound baby that cries, whines, and poops at all given intervals. I decided to treat myself to a burger at one of my favorite local joints. I’d go home, lay the baby down for his nap, and get a few minutes to myself before digging in to my housework and homework. By catching a break in the middle of the day, I hoped to well up some energy to wrestle the baby on the soccer sidelines for four hours followed by the evening homework marathon.

As I pulled around the backside of the building in the drive-thru line there was a truck in the parking lot that was apparently trying to also approach the ordering position. I was pretty sure he was there first so I pulled out of the line to allow him room to get in. I pulled up alongside the parked cars in order to just follow him in. Meanwhile, the line was really backed up and we waited forever. At one point an orange car came around just as I had done, and seeing the situation drove all the way around the parking lot to line herself up behind the truck. As the truck pulled in she followed within 6 inches of his bumper to not allow me in. I rolled my window down. She rolled hers down, and screamed that she was there first. She knew she was lying. I knew she was lying. Why else would she have followed the truck so closely? How else would she have known to roll her window down in response to me rolling mine down? I was over it and baby Max was tired. There was now another car following behind her, and assuredly its driver would also claim preference. I asked her to pull up so I could just leave. She now uncharacteristically felt bad, and told me to go in front of her. I told her it was fine, and explained I couldn’t wait any longer. Then I left.

I was already exhausted and in a bad mood, so being denied a little essential happiness in the form of food therapy brought me to tears. I wondered why in life it is so common for other people to not give me the courtesy that I try so hard to give others. All I could determine is “the world is cruel”.

Then last night, I stumbled on this Ted talk. It convinced me that even after years and years of therapy, I still need to do a better job with my emotional well-being.

I plan to combat my loneliness by implementing Guy Winch’s inspired suggestions:

I will take action when I am lonely.
I will change my response to failure.
I will protect my self-esteem.
I will battle negative thinking.

I guess if I am focusing on these things for myself, I really won’t have to time to worry about the jerks in Virginia or the other ones in the drive-thrus.

Lessons from the trail: that dude on the bike

Fotor_144077863385631I’m walking down the trail yesterday with my baby in a stroller and my dog darting about.  My trail is asphalt, but there is a great surrounding riparian area where my dog loves to explore. She chases birds, sniffs for treasures, drinks from puddles. I imagine her trail-time is much like mine: she feels free and at ease with her instincts.

So, at one point this cyclist comes roaring around a curve, and almost runs over my dog. Not really slowing down, the cyclist shouted at me over his shoulder: “Please keep your dog on a leash so she won’t run in front of the bikers.”

What he had no way of knowing is that like the guy suggested and the law commands, I used to keep my dog on the leash.  However, I found that the outstretched leash was a big problem for the cyclists. They would have to come to a complete stop behind oblivious me in my headphones, my wide stroller, the leash of death off to my left, and my dog trying to sniff the other side of the trail.

So, over a period of about three years I’ve learned to just let the dog run, and hope for the best. Whenever there is another dog approaching I quickly apply the leash.  Lately though I’ve been searching for the right solution as there are a lot more cyclists during the earlier time that I’ve been using the trail. Sometimes Olive has obliviously jet out in front of them and I realize that’s a problem.

For the rest of my walk, I was considering this cyclist. I started out angry with the overpowering thought of, “how dare he?” “What makes him think he’s the king of the trail?” I silently deliberated on how aggressive he would have been had my dog been on a leash and he didn’t just have to slow down but stop altogether. I thought about all who share the trail and wondered if in ignorance I hadn’t been being considerate enough. Eventually my heart softened and I allowed the idea that perhaps I was the arrogant one and he was right to reprimand me.

Fast forward 6 hours to my daughter’s high-school soccer game.  The opposing school’s soccer field is less than ideally situated. The sun blares down on it and on one whole sideline there is nowhere for spectators to sit at all.  The school always posts signage telling the opposing team to sit west of the 50 in hot and sunny and the home team to sit east of the 50 where it is partially shaded. However above the sideline up a small hill is an adjacent park almost totally shaded by towering trees. Having hauled four of my children, a picnic dinner, and five camping chairs from the distant parking lot, and worrying over the baby getting too much sun exposure, we situated ourselves in the shade of the park. We expected to be there for two whole games (about four hours) as my daughter is rostered on Varsity but usually only plays on JV. Technically we were over the line in the opposing side’s territory, but we were so far back I hardly thought it mattered.

Fast forward to fifteen minutes into the second half of the varsity game. My friend Jen had showed up just after I did and was sitting next to me with her kids. West of her about 5 feet was an elderly gentleman in his chair. At some point, a gentlemen stood talking to friends directly in front of the elderly man at a coupling of chairs closer to the field at the top of the hill. The elderly man kindly raised his voice, “Down in front, sir.”  The dude turned around and glared at the man and then turned back to the game. The elderly man did not relent. Again, “Down in front, sir.” At this point the man turned around and with the angriest face and beaming eyes said, “I’m having a conversation.” The old man: “I’m trying to watch the game.” The ball-capped late-40 angry dude:  “Well, why can’t you stand?” The old dude:  “Because I am sitting.”  The ball cap man was ticked off and seemed to think that the old guy was being completely unreasonable. He failed to see the “share the trail” mentality.

In defense of the old man, twice I said loud enough for the man to hear, “It’s just soccer etiquette, sir.”  It didn’t take long for him to turn on me. He walked in my direction and screamed, “Why do you think you have anything to say to me?” If you know me, you know I rarely back down. I said, “Because you were just really rude to this man, and I was defending him in the soccer etiquette.” Boy, did that make him even more mad. He still kept coming at me physically and vocally. “You want to talk about soccer etiquette, do you? What team are you from?” I honestly answered the name splattered across my t-shirt. He said, “You aren’t even supposed to be sitting here.” I silently realized four things: 1- This guy liked to deflect his bad behavior on to others 2- he was probably the one who always posted the less-than-inviting signs, 3- he was in a foul mood because our team was spanking his, and 4- there was a reason his team played so physically and aggressive.

Unsettled that my husband wasn’t there to gently lay his magic hand of mouth-control on my forearm, I quickly mulled over my options. One of which was him baling me out of jail at a later time. Lucky for my husband, I had small children to tend to and didn’t completely trust myself, so I knew I needed to stop him from coming at me. Loudly I declared, “Listen sir, I am crazy. Certifiably crazy. Papers and medication and everything. You really don’t want to mess with me. I am probably the last person here you want to pick a fight with.” He instantly retreated from me as if I would whip out a gun at any second and subsequently was finally out of the view of the old man. My friend Jen busted a gut. I busted a gut. The old man looked satisfied. Although with a lot less confidence, the mean guy was still mouthing off from a distance, I shut him out by suggesting that maybe he should get some medication too. We never heard any more from him.

Jen said, “What kind of man treats an old man and two mothers like that?” I answer her here, “the kind that thinks he doesn’t have to share the trail.”

The old guy turned to us and said, I’m actually here to watch his team, but I wasn’t about to say it.”

Work through your Suckiness

My friend Donna is super amazing. She’s a great cook. She’s got it all going on in home decor/fashion. She’s insightful. She’s pee-your-pants-hilarious. She also takes gorgeous photos in NYC. You can follow her instagram feed here.

[Note to self: next time when you blindly type in /donnashoots at the instagram url close your eyes. If you miss that essential underscore between donna and shoots, you get some eclectic-fine-art-nude-photographer.]

Anyhow, I’ve always had a huge respect for Donna. She’s brave. She always follows her heart. She knows herself and goes after what she loves. I have enjoyed watching her photography evolve and improve.  I’m sure Donna is going to love being mentioned in this post entitled “work through your suckiness.” For the record, Donna, you have never sucked, at anything, but your photography gets better every day and I loved it from the get-go.suck

A while back Donna shared this youtube video which shares Ira Glass‘s (yes, I just had to look him up.) idea of working through that gap between the beginnings of your creativity (which always kind of sucks) and what you know as good art (which you will never quite reach if you give up because you suck.) <<<<< Longest sentence ever. Pretty sure that is a run-on.  Let’s just chalk that up to my beginnings of suckiness.

The video is well worth the watch.

I’ve been pondering on this video for weeks. I have this big dream of being a “real” writer. I’ve been working on a book for years and have only completed three really crappy chapters. Months ago after a gruesome hour-long writing session where I finished a few sentences and edited the crap out of everything else, I decided that I should never even expect myself to be good enough. I should just let go of the dream and teach English instead. “Let’s face it: I’m never going to be JK Rowling,” I said to myself, “Shoot, I can’t even hope to be Rick Riordan.” (Don’t get me wrong. teaching English is also a life-long dream, and I will be amazing at it, but I just never want to be one of those teachers that teaches because they can’t do. You know what I mean?)

Then I watched this video and realized that the only difference between the great writers and myself is time, patience, and practice….well, and 5 kids (they are pretty opposing to most of my goals.) I’m always grateful for any encouraging and inspiring messages I get in my life. I need them. I think most people do. That’s why I’m sharing this with you today.

This “work through your suckiness” theory is applicable to everyone in whatever they are doing. Every day I am tempted to quit at so many things, but especially as a mother. However, I always keep working at it. I’ve evolved. I’m a much better mother now than I ever was 15 years ago. (There’s a special place in heaven for oldest children.)

So, keep at it, my friends. Do what you love, even if you suck. Eventually you won’t suck as bad.

And that’s your most sucky message of the day. Just keep singing, y’all. Even if you embarrass yourself on your American Idol audition.

Life is always worthwhile when you cry or smile.

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When I die the most important thing I would want to say to my family is “I love you and I’ll see you on the other side.” If I was allowed more than one sentence I would probably elaborate on my wishes for them to live good authentic lives.

I would tell them how I hope for their happiness, and I would tell them I would regret not being able to be there for them physically in their times of sadness. I would want them to know that if I can negotiate something with God, I will and I will always be right by their sides watching over them until we are reunited.

The song “Smile” from Charlie Chaplin’s 1936 movie Modern Times is one of my favorite songs. (Did you know the lyrics were added later based from themes and scenes from the original film?) This song brings back a lot of good memories for me. LG gave me some Happy by Clinique perfume for one of our first Christmases together. It came with a CD full of happy songs. We used to lay in bed together listening to the CD. When “Smile” came on it always seemed so appropriate. Those were really happy times, some of my favorite from my entire life.

However while re-listening to this song recently I discovered how the message of smiling when you are in pain is just kind of screwed up. I thought about Michael Jackson and Judy Garland (both have beautiful renditions of this song – go ahead – hit their links) and how their lives came to tragic ends way too soon. I thought about how they both may have lacked the emotional intelligence and/or support they needed. Maybe nobody ever told them it was o.k. to cry? I wish I could have helped them somehow and see them die in happiness, not out of their desperate attempts to escape.

Crying is an important part of life. Without times of sadness we wouldn’t know how much to treasure the times of happiness. We don’t have to run away from sadness. In fact I’ve found trying to run from it makes things much worse. Sometimes we just need to take time to process our emotions. We need permission to cry in our pain. Everyone should have someone in their lives that will just hold them while they cry.

I’m thinking about the pains I’ve experienced in life. They have been my very best tutors. Not all my days have been spent smiling while laying in my bed with my husband. In fact, I would say that I’ve probably had a close equal amount of time laying in my bed alone crying over life’s sadness. (If you read my blog regularly, you know this. I often use this as a place to process a lot of my emotions.)

So, in short, what I am trying to say is. It’s o.k. to cry. In fact it’s as necessary as smiling is for your emotional health. So do both. When you are in the middle of either happy or sad, most of all, know that your life is worthwhile.

I changed the words of the song to reflect the healthier message.
I am not voice-trained so feel free to skip the video, I made it for my family. I love you guys.

 

Mom’s new year seems so old.

Two things are pressing on my mind today.

1- I need to make my new year resolutions.
2- How am I going to stay sane this year?

Maybe they can be related? Yesterday in church there were a bunch of new ladies. We were to go around the room and tell a few things about ourselves. Our name. Where we live. Our favorite treat. Our job. Our hobby.

I was all prepped to give me answers. I’m Alice Gold. I live within walking distance from the rest of you. In a two bedroom condo. With 5 kids. And a dog. I’m still blessed beyond measure. My favorite treat is whenever I don’t have to cook. (Who said treats have to be sugary anyway?) My jobs are to stay sane and to be kind, both which are greatly challenging and fulfilling. My hobbies are all in trouble this year because I have a newborn.

And then I had to leave the room to change the baby’s stinkiest diaper of all time. I decided I would change my hobby to figuring out if it is possible to change a boy diaper in under 10 baby wipes. By the time I got back to the room, they had changed the game to just telling everyone your name. (They were running out of time.) psh.

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I don’t even think I made resolutions last year. I was pregnant. Totally off the hook. My goal last year was to grow a baby. I did it. I’m amazing.

My other goal was to give birth all-natural. I failed. I tried and tried. I labored for what seemed like forever and I thought I would die. I wanted to push the baby out. The doctor said I was only at a 7 and wasn’t allowed to push, yet. I felt destroyed and figured I experienced enough all-natural and that the actors in movies really don’t exaggerate. I was not being kind or staying sane. I begged my husband for the epidural and cussed out the anesthesiologist enough when he got there that he gave me the spinal dose. (You mean you didn’t give me the spinal dose on my other 4 kids? What the heck?) One contraction later…literally…the doctor examined me and said the baby was crowning. I’m blaming the lack of all-natural delivery on him, but we all know it is really my inability to relax without almost lethal doses of drugs.

I’m not gonna lie. I’ve pondered how much easier life would be to live on a constant dose of lethal drugs, or laughing gas…or marijuana. Lucky for me, I’ve never crossed that ponder to action or else I would be a drug addict, in rehab, or dead. Life was meant to hurt. Drugs rob us of the very essence of mortality…except in labor…those drugs are legit. (This paragraph is a total sidenote that I can’t bring myself to omit.)

So, this morning the high of having a newborn wore off. I almost made it 4 months. That’s pretty good if you ask me. When everyone else in the family took off to work and school, I enjoyed the silence for 5 minutes until the baby started crying out of hunger. I looked down at him and felt a little resentment. I’m 41 and still waiting for “my turn”. What I really want is to pursue my own goals, yet for the past 15 years it feels like all I’ve done is take care of babies…I stared at baby Max in the eyes and committed to continued sacrifice. I’ll get my turn eventually.

[I don’t want to turn this in to a stay-home mom vs. working mom debate as I think the choice is personal. I did however laugh a while back when I asked one of my working mom friends which would be better to take a trip to Hawaii with or without children (if you could only go once in a lifetime). She answered, “With kids. We would never go without the kids, we would just miss them too much.” I was like, “yea right, I might get that if I hadn’t committed every waking hour to my kids for 15 years. I would miss my kids after about 5 days and then I would get over it for a few more.” It’s a lot harder to miss your kids when you are always with them.]

Anyhow, the older I have gotten, the more I realize that I can be a mom and pursue my goals. I just can’t pursue them in an all-out fashion like I would prefer. I have to balance my time for me with my time for them. I tend to give them a lot more than I give me, and I hope someday I will look back on that decision with no regrets. Let’s face it, I’m not taking any career with me to the next life, but I do think God will sit me down and one of his first questions will be, “How are your kids? How is your relationship with your kids?”

So this very long post has helped me to process my two things “to do” today. Thanks for riding along. I’m going to stay sane one day at a time and not expect too much out of myself or even for myself. I’ve done it 15 years. What is five more? And, really, is it the end of the world that I’ve been writing this all day instead of doing Caroline’s homework, working on the budget, or cleaning out the stove? Nah.

My answer #2.
Here are some simple goals.

1. Don’t have another baby. Ever. Check. This should be easy. See last post entitled “I’ve been fixed.” But gosh dangit as soon as I heal up from surgery LG and I plan to die trying. 12 weeks of celibacy in a 4 month period of time is rough.
2. Write. When I can and/or feel like it. Maybe join a writing group or class?
3. Take care of myself. This will hopefully include getting back to my running upon doctor’s approval, biking some, eating healthier, and getting back down to pre-baby weight before Maximus’s first birthday. (the occasional pedicure too)
4. Take pictures. When I can and/or feel like it. Read my camera manual if I get around to it.
5. Camp and hike.
6. Love. My husband and kids, mostly.
7. Self-improve. Focusing on being kind and gracious, letting go of control, living in the moment, and being happy.
8. Self-discipline. Focusing on not wasting as much time on FB and being a better morning person, which really means getting to bed earlier.
9. Give more to God. Having daily quiet time. Look for ways to serve my fellowman.
10. Read. (I’m not making a reading goal ever again as per the advice of my therapist.)
11. Save at least $10,000 towards purchasing a home. Sacrifice.
12. Overcome my fear of physics. Watch some smart youtube videos.
13. Remember!!! My family is my greatest blessing. Ever. Make sure they know that I know.

What’s not to love?

7 things I learned in marriage counseling.

Eighteen years we’ve been married. Time has dragged on forever on a lot of days, but just as many have flown by as fast as the family-pack is devoured by our hungry children on Taco Tuesdays. It’s been the best of times. It’s been the worst of times. As a wife, I gave myself an A+ for over a decade….I was oblivious to my own short-comings and blamed my man for most all things wrong in our family. When things started getting more complicated we started marriage counseling and my perfect oblivion was brought to a screeching stop. Those darn psychologists always have a magical way of making people see the truth. And my magical mirror is harsh!! It took the best of professionals (and multiple ones, at that) to help me see the many ways that I had failed and continue to fail in my marriage, but I’m the better for it.

stuck

I read a poignant article  the other day entitled “What Your Husband Really Wants” and it had my mind racing in and out of the many ways I’ve learned to give my husband what he wants. And just like kindergarten, everything I need to know I learned in marriage counseling.

Number 1 – He wants to be your hero. My husband wasn’t able to be my hero because my fierce independence and “I can do it myself” attitude never allowed him to be. Much of the time I would be running around the house like a tornado on its way to Oz all upset that once again he was sitting on the couch while I so desperately needed a break. How could he be so oblivious? Unbeknownst to me he was sitting on the couch because after many years of trial and error the genius of a man knew it was the safest place. He thought he was being my hero by getting out of my way when I really needed a hero to switch me places and take some of the responsibility off my spiraling shoulders. Well, in marriage counseling I’ve learned the hard way that if the queen wants a knight in shining armor, she has to let him be the king. If every time he tried to help, I bit his face off for something then he figured I would be happier if he was out of the way.

2 – He wants to be your lover. I feel like this is the area where I probably struggle the most. I don’t want to get into too much detail as I have to remember that this very post may be accessed by future employers and/or my mother-in-law. Let’s just say that it takes two to tango. I have learned that I am equally as bad at receiving as I am at giving undivided attention. Sure I can go through the motions and I have A LOT (ha!), but if my heart isn’t there then it is just as damaging to my husband as leaving him exiled on the couch. At one point our therapist gave us a “touching” exercise. We were to take 30 minutes each where the other would just touch us all over. We weren’t allowed to talk; we had to be naked. It totally wigged me out. It took this exercise for me to get in touch with a lot of real hang-ups I have….seventeen years later. My poor poor lover was constantly being rejected. This area is a real battle for me. I have learned that sex isn’t meant to be just physical but is best and healthiest when it’s emotional. It takes vulnerability to create true intimacy.

3- He wants to be your best friend. This is an area that has been our marriage’s saving grace. Since the very beginning my husband has been my best friend: I love being with him, I tell him everything, and he is the first person I call when I have good or bad news.  I also know that he considers me to be his best friend, but as is true with all of my friendships, I have a lot of room for improvement. I am a horrible listener which makes connection very one-sided. My impatience is not helpful to either side of the friendship and my quickness to problem-solve and rescue instead of just supporting is hugely problematic. Here, it boils down to trust…I can be a much better friend when I trust myself to be a good friend and I trust my best friend to take care of himself.

4 – He wants to understand you. For a lot of women this is a problem because they aren’t willing to share their deep desires. Like me, they also aren’t forthright with what they need. I, in my great need to be understood, over-share everything with a hidden agenda of control. I’ve been let-down (by my own hypersensitivity and others negligence) in my life so much that I feel like I have to now control everyone around me so they won’t hurt me. “I love daisies, but they can’t be orange. For my birthday, here is my list…make sure #2 is just the right size. No, we can’t go there to eat, you know I hate Indian food.” Trust me, we could do this all day. I guess what I have learned the most here is that being truly understood trumps any manipulated derivative that he could offer. I’ve had to let go of control and accept what others have to offer. What is more important: that he gets me the right kind of flowers or that he knows I’m having a crappy day? That I get what I want for my birthday or that he loves me enough to buy me a present? That we go where I want for dinner or that he wants to be with me on a date?

5 – He wants to protect you. It would be interesting to hear my husband’s opinion on this one, but I think he would probably correlate this to what I’ve already said about letting him being my hero. If I am all suited up in body armor of my own making and I think I can wield a sword better than he can then what is there for him to protect? I don’t need to be weak to be protected, but I do need to be humble enough to let him stand next to me on the enemy line. At the very least I need to not stand across from him with my gun pointed in his direction. That’s figurative not literal, in case you are wondering about how necessary marriage counseling is for us. A healthy relationship requires an “it’s me and you against the world” mentality.

6 – He wants to make you happy. There are two things I’ve learned about happiness. 1- No one else can make me happy. 2 – I can’t make anyone else happy. People can however work together with others for mutual happiness. The fact that my man goes to marriage counseling with me is the best way that he has shown me how important my happiness is to him. I have learned how to be happy without him. He has learned how to be happy without me. Therefore WE have learned how to be happy with each other.  My happiness increases as his happiness does and visa-versa. This makes me very happy.

7 – He wants to be himself. This is perhaps the trickiest of the seven. What should we do as human beings with inherent flaws especially when we are in a marriage? Is it really fair for my husband to be himself if being himself hurts me in some way? Is it fair for me to be overly critical (which I am) because that is just the way that I am?  Yes, we want to be ourselves, but, yes, we should also try to improve – especially for our spouse. I remember well the day we met with my psychiatrist who was discussing the behaviors associated with my bipolar disease and the management of such behaviors. LG asked, “How do I know the difference between Alice being bipolar and Alice just being Alice? I married her because I love some of these things about her – even if they are bipolar.” That, my friends was the most romantic thing I had ever heard. I think back on it often. He loves me for me, even if me is kind of screwed up. I try to give him the same benefit of the doubt although I think he is better at this than I am. I have found that I am always the best at letting him be himself when I put his needs above my own and he has learned that I am better at overlooking his weaknesses when he lets me know his awareness of them and how he is working at fixing them.

So, there you have it: my cliff’s note version of three years of marriage counseling. Yes, it has taken me three years to work my way up from a big fat F to a pretty solid C, if I do say so myself. I can honestly say that my marriage is the best and worst thing that has ever happened to me. It’s the worst because that mirror it forces me to look in is so very harsh! It’s the best because when I look in the mirror and start to cry at all the flaws that I see in myself, my man has always been there to love me through it. It’s my honor and privilege (when I succeed at it) to do the same for him.

Why? Because the amazing man that is my husband LeGrand makes me happy. He is my protector. He gets me. He is my best friend. He’s my lover. He’s my hero.

I feel a song coming on:

I belong with you. You belong with me. You’re my sweetheart. I love you LG.

I want to be happy.

crazy-old-lady

Last year I read Stephanie Nielsen’s post on “happiness is a choice“.
[As some of you may know Stephanie was in a life-altering plane crash.]

I marvel at how the hardest trials in our lives teach us the most necessary lessons.

Here is a great quote from her memoir  Heaven is Here:
{Go here, for my book review.}

“But even with all that others were willing to offer me, I realized along the way that ultimately nothing they did could make me happy. I felt comforted by family and my faith, but peace was different from happiness. At first I thought stubbornly that the only thing that would make me happy was for my life to look like it did before the accident. But no one could give that to me, and no one else could make me happy. Happiness was my choice, and though it is hard won, I am the only person who can stand in the way of it.”

I wholeheartedly concur that happiness is a choice. I often hear people complain about their lives and I understand that complaining is a tempting choice (one I give into often), but I guess I have learned the hard way that complaining doesn’t accomplish anything. In fact, if anything, complaining does nothing but make everything seem worse.

I concur that happiness is a choice, but I like how Stephanie put it: It is hard won. I don’t think we just say, “O.k. I am going to be happy,” and then we are magically happy. I think that we say, “I am going to choose happiness,” and then we alter our choices to make sure we are happy. It requires a lot of exercise to do this, but I have found that I have become a lot better at happiness as I have matured.

Here are the ways I have changed to become a happier person:

  1. I try no to complain and count my blessings instead.
  2. I take care of myself and no longer feel guilty about it.
  3. I try to live vulnerably.
  4. I have positive self-talk and work every day on loving myself.
  5. I change and set healthy boundaries and  try to live with love in my heart for everyone around me. (This is definitely the most difficult.)

How do you choose happiness? I would love to have more happy tools in my arsenal.

Oh and I love this song from the broadway show No, No, Nanette.

 

But it sure was a bummer when I figured out that the song was full of one really big lie.
We can absolutely be happy even when other people aren’t.
In fact maybe that’s the most important time to choose it for ourselves, when others around us are always miserable because misery loves company and who wants to be the miserable company.

Abigail The Mini-Einstein

My Abigail is awesome. She is such a great girl. The last couple of times I have watched her playing soccer from the car while waiting for practice to be over I just can’t believe she is my daughter. She is so grown-up.  When did she become a woman? She loves to taunt us about getting her drivers permit in six months. Nothing better then that to make a parent feel like they are coming of age.

I love Abigail just because she is her but lately I’ve started to stress about what it will be like when she flies the coop. How will I know what to wear or what jewelry to match with my outfit? Who will tell me which shoes look better? What will I do without her to help the younger girls with their math homework? Who is going to be throwing out the smart trivia that always brings me such joy. This girls smarts always amaze me. I just really love hanging out with my Abigail. She has boundless energy and always makes me laugh.

CA 2013 - Sunday

Two funny stories about Abigail have occurred in the past couple of weeks. First is just a silly little thing but it demonstrates her silly sense of humor. She was talking to her friend about coming over to our new place to watch a movie. This is her wording, “Hey Kaimi, do you want to come over to my half-of-a-house and watch a movie?” The only reason she could even invite her friend is because the rest of us wouldn’t be home to bug them all night. We are literally on top of each other in our half-of-a-house, but at least we can all laugh about it.

The next story happened yesterday. It is A-typical of Abigail’s ADHD. She is my little mini-Einstein. She is just like her dad (except for the sense of humor and boundless energy  and fashion sense – I’m taking all credit for those traits). She is smart as a whip but struggles with organization and motivation because of her ADHD. Although she could have taken all honors classes this year as a Freshman, LG and I limited her to two because we knew she would get overwhelmed. She picked math and science for her honors because those are her favorite subjects and are of the most interest to her.

All year long she’s been getting straight A’s and she’s told us that she was on top of her homework. We trusted her. Well, this is a pattern with her. She outright lies because she doesn’t want to do her homework. So, yesterday she texts me from school and tells me she is going to just drop honors math because her homework packet is due and she didn’t finish it. (The way they do honors math is by giving additional work to do at home to the kids that want it) I was not happy and kind of confused because I didn’t even know if she was allowed to drop it. I ended up calling the school adviser and after a couple of tries I found myself on the phone with her math teacher. I explained the situation and told the teacher I was NOT o.k. with this and would come pull her out of school right now to get the packet done. Her teacher replied, “No way, she is way too smart not to do honors; don’t worry I will take care of this. I will get her in here right now.”

Her teacher ended up texting her from one of her friend’s phones and got her to come to her class where she told Abigail that she would give her til morning to get it done.  Abigail – 0, Mom – 1.

Abigail and I laughed about it all afternoon. Then LG stayed up until 10 pm with Abigail getting it all done. Math is just not my department. We now will require Abigail to show us her work every day so we can help her manage her ADHD better, but our final goal is always to let her manage it herself. Obviously, she hasn’t arrived quite yet but lucky for us we’ve got a few more years til college.

If you want a better picture of what it is like to raise an Einstein daughter, check out this commercial. It is so my Abigail.