Velcro Doesn’t Foster Independence.

It amazes me that something as simple as Velcro sneakers can actually makes things harder, but they can!

velcro shoes

Wait, what? If my child is struggling with tying his shoes, making every departure one giant meltdown, Velcro has to be a better option. I mean, that is what they were designed for, right? Well, technically they probably were created to ease stress, but with a high price tag.

You are familiar with the scenario: It is time for school, the outfit has been out on the floor since the kiss goodnight, breakfast is done, and now it’s time to get out the door.

With cute little sneakers in hand, your 5-year-old proudly slides his feet into his shoes and then begins to grasp the shoe laces ever so carefully as you whisper, “one bunny ear, two bunny ear…”

You can feel your heart race a bit as you witness his third attempt and you can see his confidence begin to wane. Your confidence in his ability, along with your concerns of being late begin to collide. You picture the tantrum from the morning before and do your best to give one last pep talk.

“Be patient, honey. Over, under, around and through…” you say calmly feeling the pounding in your chest.

“I can’t do it!?” He screams. “I cant! I hate these shoes! I’m not going to school…”

And so it begins. Another morning of upset. You then do what you do. You help out. You explain how hard this task is and how it will get easier over time. Then you tie his shoes, acknowledging that you can tie them tighter anyway. He feels happy, and so do you. Yet as it keeps happening over and over each morning, you offer less and less time for him to try, until you eventually begin to tie them the second he has his feet in the shoes.

What could possibly be the harm in that? Eventually everyone learns to tie their shoes…dont they?

The harm actually has little to do with the shoe-tying meltdown. The larger problem we are contributing to is keeping our children from experiencing discomfort. While we believe in our hearts we are helping, we are continuously robbing them of their ability to manage discomfort. We are single-handedly stealing their opportunity to man handle things that don’t feel right. And in the large scheme of life as we know it, we are contributing to a society of emerging adults that do not know how to get themselves out of uncomfortable situations because we have been doing it for them. While that help comes from a yearning to make their life easier, we are actually trying to avoid our own discomfort by helping them to avoid theirs.

The large problem lies right there.

We must know what discomfort feels like in order to be successful adults. We must experience it simply so we can experience the triumph that comes along with lifting ourselves up. While we want to convince ourselves that this is how we show our love, this is not a loving gesture at all. In fact, doing things for others that they can do for themselves simply robs them of their opportunity for success.

It starts with a simple act of ‘over, under, around and through….’ and leads to dangerous times of isolation and peer pressure and days of now what am I supposed to do? The discomfort our children/emerging adults experience when we are not around, can lead to feelings of desperation and hopelessness. These feelings can contribute to the yearning to tune-out, possibly leading to addictive behaviors that allow them to not feel disappointment or fears. It can lead to feelings of failure and disconnect and can perpetuate a hidden downward spiral.

One emerging adult client I worked with shared his experience of overwhelm and stress he felt in college and turned to alcohol and drugs to mask all that he could not cope with. When I asked him if he ever thought about trying to quit his addictive behaviors, he said simply, “there was no reason to think about quitting…it was the darkest hole I had ever been in and knew I was never getting out.”

Fortunately, he was given a second chance with many months of recovery. But all are not as fortunate. The crisis is real. And while as parents we do not cause our children’s depression, isolation or addictive behaviors, we can contribute by continuing to push them further in that dark hole by doing for them. Or we can begin to actually help, by allowing them the success they are capable of and deserve.

So, the next time you are unsure of whether your help is helpful or hurtful, ask yourself this question: Is this something that they are capable of doing themselves? Because if it is, let them. Take a few extra breathes. Be mindful that their discomfort is just like yours and that life is never about how we fall, but how we learn to dust off and get back up.

Want to really foster independence? Skip the velcro.

Motherhood. When Giving is not Loving.

There were many things in my life I didn’t understand right way. There were things I had to study for, take notes on, research and then even start over again before being able to really comprehend it. But being a mother, was not one of those things. Not to say I didn’t do my research, but once my babies were in my arms, I barely remembered the things I had read about. What I knew was a deep love that did not need comprehending. It did not need definitions or explanations.

I will never forget the way my first-born son looked deep into my eyes, as if he could see into my soul. I will never forget feeling like he oddly understood it. Like he was saying, “okay, so you are the one that will always keep me safe.” That look like he too understood…that our eyes meeting, and our souls connecting was all this journey was going to need. Maybe he knew more than I️ did.

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nt I had gone from pregnant, to mom and knew that my job from here forward was simply to love and protect this one sweet angel, which then turned into two sweet angels. I remember constantly thinking, "I will always keep you safe.”

False. We cannot always keep our children safe, nor is that always our job. So what is our job?

It is only recently that I have been able to transform that word into responsibility and only recently that I have been able to ask myself, ‘what is my responsibility?

I never thought of myself as an average mom. I didn't just become a mom, I had an amazing love for my babies that could not be described. I had a yearning to care for, love, and give to them in a way I had never experienced. It wasn’t that I️ thought they couldn’t do for themselves, but was more about the overwhelming joy I got from giving. Whether it was folding their clothes just so, baking the goodies that warmed their hearts (or at least made them smile broadly) or making their lunches just so…was about me. It was how I showed my love for them. It was what I created as the thing that reminded them every day how much they were loved.

So what could possibly be wrong with that? Nothing actually.

When your child can't tie his shoes, you tie them. When your child is too young to use the stove, you cook his meals. When your child isn't tall enough to reach the washer, you wash his clothes. But at some point our definition of being mom gets confusing, and our purpose gets convoluted. The way we give becomes defined by the actual things we give or do…for them.

Giving, is not necessarily loving.

When your 7-year-old comes home and says he needs crayons for school, you get them. That is being a responsible parent. That is not love, though, that is responsibility. When your 20-year-old comes home and says he needs red pens for class and you run out to the store while he sits in front of the tv, that is not love. That is giving, but a different kind of giving. That kind of giving actually robs your child of ‘responsibility’. It crossed the line of helping into enabling.

Helping is doing for others when they cannot do it for themselves. Enabling is doing for others when they are capable of doing for themselves. Enabling – that which hijacks another’s opportunity for success. Ugh!

The first time I heard that I felt sick to my stomach. My brain began to scroll the hundreds of things a day that I had done for family members, that I felt were done simply to show my undying love for them. I was certain that giving was loving. I mean, if I wasn’t giving, then how would they know I loved them?

That is the million dollar question. For myself, what I have learned is that my constant giving was not as selfless as I once had thought. It seemed that if I was giving to others before giving to myself, then I was being selfless. That is what motherhood is all about, isn’t it? Apparently not.

Apparently if we are doing this motherhood thing the way it should be done, in a way that produces 18 year olds that are self-sufficient, independent and successful, then we should be working our way out of a job. What?! Trust me, that was never a part of my vocabulary. I wanted to be ‘mommy’ forever. I loved the job, the title, the satisfaction and pure joy it gave me. There was nothing more rewarding than this…Until, that is, I was forced to look at the aftermath of what I had created.

I was forced to look at how my constant doing was robbing the very beings in my family of their own independence. Stealing their opportunity for success. Convincing them without words that my way was not only better, but that perhaps they weren’t even capable at all without my help.

Neither of those things were true. I never believed my way was the best or only way and always knew they were capable of success without my help.

So why was I️ doing things they were capable of handling on their own? Why was I️ doing those things before they even asked for help? Why was my go-to always, “Oh, don’t worry…I’ll get it.”

Simple. It was how I showed my undying love. Right? Well…no. It wasn’t about that at all. Instead, although I didn’t know it at the time, it was really about me and my desire to feel needed. I mean, if I didn’t do for them, then why would they need me? Seems simple and harmless but actually has some negative consequences. Ones that keep our emerging adults from learning what to do with feelings of discomfort. Ones that keep our emerging adults from learning what to do in the face of challenges. Ones that keep our emerging adults dependent upon us…just the opposite of our hopes and dreams for them.

Motherhood is hard for sure, but finding a balance between helping and enabling is where the rubber meets the road. You can do this. Just keep asking the question: Am I helping because they are unable, or am I stealing their opportunity for success?

If you keep practicing, you will soon be able to see which kinds of giving gestures are simply acts of love…that which build strong family love and success.

In the Face of the Unknown.

We think that life is all about what we know. Where we have been and where we are now. Who we have been with and who are with now. But really, life’s true meaning comes from the unknown and can be found in the depths of the silence.

Sound simple? No, it isn’t simple at all. As a matter of fact, if you have been a specialist in analyzing your life like I have, it is very hard to even get to that space of quiet. The kind of quiet where you own head isn’t filling you with opinions on nearly everything. The kind of quiet that allows you to simply hear the sound of your own heart beating.

Some people can get there by learning how to meditate, or perhaps reading many books on the topic, but sometimes you are able to get there after the storm in your life has been so great, so overwhelming, that the only thing left to do…is be silent.

That place, is my most favorite place of all. This, is where I sit today.

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Today I chose not to rush out to the gym like I usually do on Sundays. Instead, I chose to start this beautiful Sunday in the quiet. I took the dog for his usual long walk, leaving my phone at home to silence the calls and music, made a cup of coffee and grabbed my laptop. I opened my blog folder trying to recall when the last blog rolled off my fingertips and my shoulders began to release, settling deeply into my new couch.

 

With the cool breeze gently blowing in my window, and the scent of a candle sweetly filling the air, I began to breathe deeply, open to the possibility of new thoughts. I begin to create a space separate from the people, places, and things in my past and instead, fill the space with thoughts about this moment.

As the sun shines in the window and I feel gifted in a way that cannot be explained. I am acutely aware of the stillness of this moment, even with my fingers antsy to move on the keys and am overwhelmed with the wholeness deep within my body.

I do a slow and steady internal scan of my body and notice for the first time in months, how complete I feel. How settled I even feel on the couch, without my mind and body yearning to get to get up and go.

In this moment, as the sun shines in on my stillness, warming me from the outside in, I know I have arrived. Yet I also know that it is in only in the space of all the things that I did not know would occur in my life, that I have actually been given my life. And that actually being open to the unexpected parts of life is where the real work begins.

In the space of the unknown I could see clearly that losing my mother and nearly losing my son, did not break me, but instead rebuilt a fiery strength within me that cannot be taken. And with that strength, I had the courage to walk away from relationships not meant for me. It was only in the space of the unknown, that I could see that leaving painful relationships did not create a feeling of more loss, but instead a gratefulness of life. It was only in the space of the unknown that I was able to see that I am worthy of kindness and love and cannot tolerate anything less than that.

It is in this sun-filled moment, that I am given the gift of life in a way that I did not know was possible. But do now.

Order a copy of my book: Own your Now. 

My Life hasn’t Gone as Planned.

And you know what? That’s okay.

No, really. It is okay. Even with all of the disappointments, sadness, frustration, and moments of wondering how I got here again, I understand that I am human and perfectly imperfect like the rest of us. Yet my uncanny ability to get to my feet again, dust off and carry on with hope and possibility has been even more important than the fact that my life hasn’t gone as planned.

My gift to persevere is not something I think much about until the moment I have hit the ground again, but when I do, I rely heavily on my fail-proof plan: get steady, lean slightly and take someone else’s hand when needed.

That’s the basic stop, drop and roll for me, but the details are where the rubber meets the road.

1 – Get Steady
Getting steady means regaining some balance. And just like a balance pose in yoga, focusing on a steady spot in the room, in order to get fully centered in life, you need to find time to focus on yourself for at least a moment. For me, that means taking the time to be kind to myself. It means not criticizing that I am here again, but instead, praising myself with what comes next…I can always get back up.  I then steady myself and take the time I need to recover knowing that what is next, is to get back up!

2 – Leaning into the Curve
It’s hard to emotionally lean into the curve because it feels unnatural. At first. This is because in the face of real hardship and disappointment, our natural way of being is anger resentment and disappointment, which often leads to blame. You know…YOU did this. How could YOU do this to me? Why would YOU do this to me? Yet that actually perpetuates the upset and imbalance, making it impossible to move forward. Instead, I have learned to lean in. Literally leaning into what has occurred as if this is the only possible thing to choose. Instead of blaming, I look inward. I might say, okay, I thought he was the one, but I was mistaken. Or I hoped that this was my chosen life path, but now I see it isn’t. Or I was really blind-sighted this time, I will have to make sure next time I am seeing the whole picture clearly.

I have always loved the quote: “What we resist, persists”. It’s so true, yet when we lean in we become empowered to move on.

3 – Find a Hand
No matter where my life has taken me, I remain open to the help and support of people around me because sometimes we are so broken we actually can’t get up alone.  I actively seek like-minded people in my life who seem to get getting it right, either professionally or personally and then invite them into my world. These people become my inspiration on good days, and just what I need on the harder ones. I have come to learn that simply because we need help, does not make us ‘needy’, yet more insightful. It is critical to know what we need in order to move forward, especially when we have been wired to be strong and independent. It is critical to be surrounded by people who won’t blink an eye at the sight of your outstretched hand, but instead reach theirs back out to you. It’s a support system that we all need, one that helps even when you don’t need it. One that continues to help you build on your own strengths.

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We plan, and then life happens, but what matters most, is what you do next…

So what are you willing to do to finally reset and begin again with true hope and inspiration?

Let’s Reset together…

I am Just Afraid I Will Forget…

Truth is that my memory has never been real strong. It wasn’t until I got to college that I realized that in order for me to remember things…any thing…I needed to write it down and see it. It was a tedious way to learn, but necessary.  If I were in school today they would probably slap a label on that, but back then you had to find your own strategies to compensate. Maybe that wasn’t such a bad thing.

Today I began to wonder if this is why I take so many pictures. Long before the era of iPhones and the obsession of everything needing to be at your finger tips, I was documenting my world and the people in it. I was happy to be a part of a world that didn’t rely on film,  because the more I took, the better my chances of getting them just so. But that wasnt what I was going for.

I am highly sensate. Meaning, I feel things more intensely than most. Not just raw emotions from a conversation or two, but even from things I see around me. I am awestruck by beauty, especially things I can relate to or things that remind me of my past. And my incessant picture-taking has been a way for me to access the love of what makes me happy…anytime I want. I never thought of it as any more than that.

Until tonight.

After my first official day of summer at the beach, the 2nd summer without my mom in this world, I noticed the bright pink sky unexpectedly and hurried down the stairs to see the sunset. I paused at the bottom of the stairs, thinking I should at least grab my phone, bu convinced myself that maybe just for today I could simply be present to the moment. I hear that a lot. Like maybe not everything needs a picture as much as being present in the moment.

I headed down the street to see my first ever sunset…without a camera of any sort.

As I walked, I felt overwhelmed with how beautiful it was. The colors were radiant. I tried to analyze it, decipher how many colors there were. I tried to recall if I had ever seen one so beautiful. And while it was hard to stare too long since the sun was so bright, I couldn’t look away.  The way the lines created such beauty in the sky, silenced me.

Within minutes my heart started to race as I watched this bright sunshine fall into the earth, signaling another day gone by.

How would I remember this? Surely no one could ever recall exactly what this one looked like without seeing it in a picture. How would I remember this first sunset of the summer without mom, if I didn’t have the picture of it for later?

I began to have a sinking feeling as I forced myself to watch the sun set and then began racing back to the house as my brain scrambled to hold the memory. I knew this wouldn’t be a memory I could contain and as if to prove myself right, my brain began to run the photo reel it had stored. All I could think about though were the pictures that were missing. Images not as clear as I remembered. Difficulty trying to recall the true colors in my boys eyes, the sweet lines of my moms face when she would smile. The way she looked at me when she held my hand in the hospital…tears began to stream down my face.

My quick footsteps moved into a light jog with a hopefulness that I might make it just in time. I ran the stairs, grabbed my phone and headed for the balcony. Maybe, just maybe something was still left. Something I could hold onto….

And there it was. Not nearly the way I had seen it just minutes before, but just enough, to remind me of how eloquent it was. How much it made me appreciate each passing moment of my life, each ending of the day that continued to give me a brand new tomorrow…


Maybe it isn’t that I’m obsessed with taking pictures. It’s just that…well…without them I am just afraid I will forget…

Might Need More than One Preserver.

Last night I cried myself to sleep. I am not positive why, but I wasn’t exactly surprised either.

I know my demons. I also know the work it takes to stay upright at times. I live what I preach, call out what I want and keep the rest of the darkness down low to be squelched by all my positivity.

 

I believe that when you think positive thoughts, keep your feet moving, keep reading and getting support from those around you that can relate to what you are going through…you can get through pretty much anything. And if you add a sister in there that has been through all of your hard and then some…you CAN get through anything. Or so I have believed.

So finally hitting the pillow last night, overwhelmingly exhausted at the mere hour of 9pm, happy to be horizontal, thinking about nothing…the tears came. I became overwhelmed with grief for what seemed like no reason. I felt suddenly alone…even with my tiny poodle snug under my chin, and my loving husband downstairs on the couch.

I grieved the loss of my mother, as I have done for over a year now, the sadness over having my 23 year old son only reachable by phone as he continues to call Seattle his home and the pain in my chest for the struggles my 20 year old has endured over the past year…I grieve…for them and for me. Mostly me, though. Praying for someone to throw me a line.

This morning I awoke with my fourth migraine in a week, forced a shake down my throat and dragged my tired body to the gym. My workouts are my medicine. Even when I am too tired, bluer than blue, too heavy in my shoes to go, and unclear if this time I should actually be lying down instead…I go. Because the end result is always the same: clarity in my life, even when sometimes it barely makes sense.

Many times I walk away with more than a sweat and a clear mind.

I head into the cardio cinema room praying for a movie I can escape to and begin on the elliptical with concerns of my recent dizzy spells repeating. I see a flash of my sisters last text to me from the night before: “Sometimes when it’s very dark and I feel sad and lonely, I straighten my crown and remember whose daughter I am. You and me. Thank god.” Thank god is right.

I note that the title of the movie, Pirate Radio, does not register as a place that will help me escape. I had hoped for a love story. Maybe a story about a prince who comes and saves the day like my husband did many years ago, or a story about a mother and her boys, and a fierce love that only she can understand. Or even a story about life’s’ struggles that prevail with a mother that won’t give up…

But instead, I am faced with a boat filled with ‘pirates’ playing music. I begin my workout with an open mind and an open heart in need of a sweat. In need of being in someone else’s world. I find quickly I am engaged in their passion, and their commitment to make music for the people on land. I feel oddly inspired as they play their records in spite of the politicians trying to bring them down.

I suddenly feel connected to these pirates and worried about them as their boat begins to go down into the freezing ocean. My eyes fill with tears as they say, “Perhaps it is better to die knowing you have lived the life you loved, then having lived without this kind of love at all,” and can feel my own woes drift away as I find myself praying that they don’t go down. I am clear that I am now on their sinking ship.

And then…someone notices a boat in the distance. Just as they have gone into acceptance of letting go, someone asks, “Is it a small boat or a big one?  Is it just one…or maybe two?”

“It is not one boat,” the man says trying to see into the dark night…”It is not even two…or three…in fact, it’s a fuck load of boats.”

fuck load of boats

I begin to sob and then laugh slightly at myself for connecting with this story: That sometimes a preserver is not enough, but that with just enough hope and passion, a fuck load of boats will show up just in time to keep the boat afloat and the music playing.

As my mama would always say, “We can’t see around corners, so just lean in…”
The boats will come.

 

 

What you AND your High School Senior need most this year.

Somehow the summer came and went during a nap you don’t remember taking and you awake to find that it is September. To-do lists have been misplaced, senior year is already a whirlwind and college applications need to be submitted in the next 4 months. You feel overwhelmed, anxious and worried and you’re not even the one going to college!

college student pic - blog

However, it is 1pm on Saturday and HE is still asleep. How can he sleep when there is so much to do? Shouldn’t he have a plan for the day? Some kind of plan of what he has to do next? A plan for college tours, a list of pros and cons of the schools already visited…or how about that room! How can anyone think, never mind sleep…in a room that is covered in clothing like that?

Unfortunately it doesn’t get any better when he wakes up. He grumbles through a giant bowl of cereal, showers, and then says he’s going out. When I try my best to run through all of the things on the ever-growing list, he barely looks up, mumbles that he will do it later…and leaves as he spends the rest of the day pretending that his phone isn’t attached to the palm of his hand, and he doesn’t see my texts.

I spend the rest of the day mumbling (to myself) “I don’t care…if you don’t get everything done in time I guess you won’t go to college.” As if caring is actually optional.

Sound familiar?

I am sure it does, since it is very common. As a matter of fact, it is not only common, but also necessary for both of you.

Senior year is the most important one on record. While it is also frustrating and worrisome, with all of its’ emotional rollercoasters, everything both of you experience (in many cases, the whole family) is just what needs to occur for a successful year in college. However there are many things you can do to survive feeling ignored, unwanted and out of control.

Your role as the parent.

Lean in.
This will be the year that you learn to lean in and detach from the outcome. Literally lean into whatever your son/daughter is presenting. I don’t mean to suggest you should allow them to be disrespectful, ignoring curfews or laws, but simply allow them to experience life as a senior, however it unfolds. It is about lowering your shoulders and understanding that while they are not quite ready to stand on their own, this is the year for them to figure it out.

Don’t panic.
The thought of accepting everything (especially at 3pm when they are still sleeping!) is challenging, while detaching from the outcome may feel remotely like abandonment. But it is simply a way to look at the same situation with a new lens. It is a simple way to care deeply about a situation or another person from an objective point of view, which creates the ability to care, but not be controlled by or invested in how the person responds.

Then you will be able to truly impact your emerging adult in a meaningful way.

Understand what they are experiencing:

1 – Worry about getting into a good college.
2 – Concerns about letting you down.
3 – Wanting to be independent.
4 – Wanting the freedom, while still needing help.
5 – Fear of leaving friends and family behind.
6 – Fear of the unknown.

The more you talk at your teen, the more they will ignore you. Instead, create a balance of simple strategies and thought-provoking questions that will give them the help they need to take initiative.

Helping without hindering:
The idea is to guide his/her thinking with strong questions that foster productivity and organization. A great way to start is to compartmentalize the college search process by keeping it separate from all other senior year tasks.

Planning: The best planning is not done quietly in your head! Start by purchasing a notebook (or even a planner) that is just for senior year tasks. A successful college freshman year will be one that is organized. This simple idea of a notebook just for the college search process is a great way to model organization. Use it for every task that needs to be accomplished and check it weekly.

Discuss: Share the idea about the notebook with your senior. Be honest about how you’re feeling about the process and give them the space to share how are feeling about it.
What you might say: I want you to know that I feel pretty overwhelmed with this search process too and am hoping if we can organize everything that needs to be done, it will feel less overwhelming. I even bought a notebook for you that would help us stay on task. What do you think?

Create a List: Now it is time to get the running mental list onto paper! This step will also model an important process they will need once in college: Organizing tasks. The American College Health Association-National College Health Assessment revealed that 84% of college freshman feel overwhelmed by all they have to do, so let’s start helping them now by setting reasonable and attainable goals. Keep it simple.
What you might say: Can you make a list of all the things that need to be done in the next 6 months? Include everything you can think of and let me know if you need any help.

Chunking: One way to avoid overload is to group the list into important headers, which will create several smaller lists and feel less overwhelming.
What you might say: Wow, that is quite a list! It might seem more manageable if we could think of 3 or 4 categories and then put the tasks into the appropriate section in the notebook. Can you think of some categories?

Deadlines: Timelines dramatically reduce stress. Knowing what to do is helpful, but knowing when to do it alleviates the worry surrounding it.
What you might say: If we knew when each of these things needed to be done, we could work backwards and figure out when to start. Could you put a due date next to each item you listed? 

By asking them to do only one thing at a time, they will feel more confident about completing the task and less likely to ignore it. In addition, they will sense your desire to help as well as your confidence in them to do it alone. In addition, your detachment from the outcome will be great practice for both of to remember that there is more than one way for problems to be solved, and that our way, is not always the best way. This detachment will foster their independence and yours too!

There is a delicate balance senior year between holding on and letting go. However, if you are truly open to everything and attached to nothing, you will be present and happy as you enjoy the last high school year in a way that leaves you both feeling successful.