Monthly Archives: August 2011

Pick Up the Baby and Put Down the Broom!

One bit of advice for first time mothers that I cannot repeat enough is this: pick up the baby and put down the broom. That’s right, let the dust gather, the mail pile up (might want to pay that mortgage though, don’t want to forget that one!) and the dog fur multiply. You can’t see out of your windows, you whine? So what? You should only have eyes for that wee one in your arms anyway! Count your lucky stars if you are getting your own bod washed, much less any major house cleaning done, on a regular basis!

After your little doll face arrives, the shift from having your house always, or most of the time, in your preferred stage of cleanliness to tripping over piled laundry in the hall and a mile high stack of dirty dishes in the sink is a tough one. Time to give yourself a break!
I’m not talking about letting your house enter pigsty status or causing concern for local Child Protective Services folk. I’m talking about letting the floors go for awhile. Give up making your bed for the time being – feel very blessed if you can find time to change the sheets on a regular basis! Go ahead and let the dust gather on your collection of Precious Moments figurines (yikes!) that you inherited from Aunt Matilda without guilt. And if the dust bunnies under the bed mutate into dust dinosaurs – oh well!

Very quickly you will find ways to get the central life and sanity preserving basics done. You can wash dishes or load the washing machine with one hand while the other holds Baby and some people’s kids will sleep on the clothes dryer in their carriers. Mine would not but maybe you’ll get lucky on that one. You can run the vacuum and maybe sweep a bit pretty easily. You can get those things covered but for clean diapers sake do not stress out over all the rest of it. The deeper cleaning stuff, believe me, will wait right there for you to get to it once baby has grown a bit and life is a little more coherent. Like when they are leaving for college. No really, I’m kidding!

Here’s the soft baby bottom line Mommsies and Daddios; Baby will be Baby for such a short time you cannot even fathom it at this moment. To waste even a moment while you are holding them and nuzzling their tummies on guilt over the state of the house is absurd. In those first few months (years) watch them every second you can, like corn you can practically hear them growing.

Observe, hold, smell, touch and love-love -love them as much as you possibly can. Ask any parent of grown children and they will tell you that children become adults and are leaving home before you know it and you do not want to have any regrets over how you prioritized your time with them when they do.

So breathe and relax…a little grubbiness never killed anyone and believe it or not I’ve heard that dog fur sweaters are a quite the thing in some parts. Consider this, soon you’ll be able to knit enough dog fur sweaters for a whole platoon of soldiers and maybe even go on to start your own dog sweater cottage industry. Not likely, but I can guarantee that one day you will be able to see clearly out of those windows again. Just in time to notice that the grass is taller than your fence but we’ll save that discussion for another day.

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Throw Your Dog (Mind) A Bone: 25 ways to Stop Addictive Obsessions!

How many times have you been up in the middle of the night chewing a bone of worry? Replaying a conversation or argument in your mind with all the accompanying “Oh I should have said that to him!” or “What did she mean when she said x, y or z?” is wasted energy. It’s so hard to go to or return to sleep what the mind is on a tear, chewing, gnawing and grinding on an issue or issues. The best solution to this is to throw your mind a bone to chew on that you control. Curious? Well keep reading.

Our minds are natural problem solvers. We have a problem so we stew on it and create solutions. We needed to wheels to get around easier so we made them. We needed fire for tastier food and neighborhood cookouts so we created a way to start it and keep it going. It’s what we do, we create tools, procedures, internets pretty much entire worlds through the amazing problem solving ability in our noggins. The problem is when those powers stop being used for good and we start chewing our own paws so to speak. And when we chew long enough without progress we find depression setting in, feelings of defeat, self-doubt and angst begin to percolate and make us feel worthless which can lead to triggering addictive behaviors and all manner or not so good things we do to try and shut the brain down.

This is an easy fix relatively speaking. You have to train yourself like you would a new puppy. You don’t allow obsessions to take over your mind. Your mind is chewing your new leather shoes so you take those away and give it a rawhide of a “problem” to solve that you know you can figure out. The success of solving a problem or introducing something, anything, unfamiliar to the brain creates a nice rush of brain chemicals and can provide a respite from obsessions.

Here are 25 options:

1. Sudoku or crossword puzzle.

2. Music lessons which are often free and very easily found by using Google to search for “kazoo lessons” or any other instrument of your choice.

3. Take apart your old VCR gathering dust in the garage and try to put it back together.

4. Jigsaw puzzles.

5. Take up knitting or crochet for which you can also find numerous free video lessons through Google.
6. Gratitude lists.

7. Organize your bookshelves.

8. Clean your kitchen drawers.

9. Rearrange your closet.

10. Make Fido or Fifi healthy dog cookies.

11. Make a guest list for your next party.

12. Try out a few yoga poses. Try holding them for 2-3 minutes if you can without pain.

13. Mindfulness exercises such as eating a raisin or chocolate chip or Doritos with incredible slowness.

14. Massage a nice smelling lotion on your hands making sure you really stay aware of how it feels.

15. Change up your routine in any area that you can.

16. Dig out those foreign language CDs and start listening. Just listen, don’t strain, focus on the sound of the words.

17. Try to find a foreign newspaper at the library or online and try to read it.

18. Buy a coloring book for adults and use it! My favorite is ‘Everyone’s Mandala Coloring Book” by Monique Mandali.

19. Swipe one of your kids coloring books and go at it. Disney Princesses or Winnie The Pooh might be just what you need.

20. Brainstorm 25 ways to get rich quick.

21. Take action on one of those ways with any small step you can.

22. Walk and breathe and breathe. Try coordinating your breathing with your footsteps.

23. Walk backwards and then forwards. Alternate. Your brain loves change ups.

24. Watch your breathing and try to count 1 inhale, 1 exhale, 2 inhale, 2 exhale until you get to 10. Sounds easy? It so is not!

25. Play the game of what you would do if you won the lottery. Make lists in order of what you’d do first.

The point is to give your brain something to do other than grind on whatever issue you are stuck on. Learning something new or doing something different may be all you need to relax and when you revisit your original problem you’ll be much more likely to solve it. If obsession or depression is impacting your life please seek professional help immediately. Remember problems are a given, suffering over them is optional.

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Expecting Good

Today I live in the quiet, joyous, expectation of good – Ernest Holmes

I opened a book to this quote today and it hit me.  How often do I start the day mentally rehearsing all the “bad” stuff I think will be coming my way?  Too often. It colors my entire mood before I am even fully dressed and out of the door.  I am pre-planning and internally tensing up and defending against tough moments that haven’t even happened, and may not ever happen, yet.

I can say I am much better at this and even today, on my way to a meeting that I wasn’t totally enthused about, did take a few moments and offer up a prayer for the best possible outcome.  I think I do better in my personal life at this than my professional one as I often make gratitude lists that remind me of what’s important and help me center back into a positive frame of mind.  Too often at work I am silently worrying that I won’t know the right answer when asked a question or that someone will need something that I can’t deliver.  And lately, as my memory slips further away from me, I stress out wondering if I have forgotten to enter something critical on my calendar!

Too often I am trying to get through the day alone forgetting that I can ask for help from other people and perhaps more importantly from God, Great Spirit or whatever other name you’d like to place on whatever it is out there that is larger than us.  I love Anne Lamott, a writer who says her most often said prayer is “Help! Help! Help!”  I adore that because I often use it myself and it is always answered in one form or another even when I can’t always see it in the moment.

Today I live in the quiet, joyous, expectation of good – Ernest Holmes

Really read that one.  How much different would your mood and subsequently your day be if you, in spite of all the evidence to the contrary, really believed that eventually everything would work out in your favor?  And doesn’t life usually, given enough time, end up positive?  When you reflect back on your life how many places do you see where what looked like the worst possible timing/event which was happening to you actually turned out to be a gift?

I know I’ve certainly been handed boxes, “presents” from the Universe wrapped in tattered brown paper that smelled a little or a lot like leftover tuna and when opened sure didn’t look like a gift by any stretch of the imagination!  In fact some of them looked a lot like…well you can fill in the blank on that one in with your own imagination.  You know what I mean though, sometimes life knocks you right off your feet and when you stand back up (and you must stand back up!) your world looks entirely different and usually entirely better than it was before.  Hindsight can be a moment of regret but it can also be a moment in which you finally understand what the “bad” was all about and if you’re lucky even feel grateful for it.

Today I live in the quiet, joyous, expectation of good – Ernest Holmes

The point is to have a little faith that living in the expectation of good means it’s much more likely that you’ll see it arise in your world and even more likely that you will recognize all the good which surrounds you in this very moment.  And if you can’t expect something good today then prayerfully ask for help in learning how to expect the very best in every day.  Try it and see what happens, remember it goes like this, “Help! Help! Help!”

New Mommy Stress (by request)

Nothing is more frightening than the moment in the hours, days or weeks after the birth of your first child when you realize the enormous scope of what you have taken on to accomplish.  Somehow you are supposed to raise this incredibly small life form to adulthood with all its limbs and digits still attached and hopefully in possession of a conscience, some social skills and some smarts: at least enough smarts to take care of him or herself and even better…pick out a nice safe nursing home for you when the time comes. Uh…right.
There is that one moment in time when you consciously or unconsciously start screaming the question from somewhere in your soul – Oh My God What Have I Done?!  It’s ok if you don’t want to admit it that you want to stuff the baby back where it came from and pretend to still be pregnant for a few more years.  It makes you normal and it’s ok to admit it.
Truth is it is scary, even more so these days with parents who have already gone on before us to wherever we go when we die or are so far away geographically that they might as well be gone and aren’t around to comfort us in our insecurity.  It used to be there was someone in the next hut over or at the next fire that could help us at 3am when the baby just will not stop crying and absolutely refuses to tell you how to give it what it wants.  Or could help us get some sleep when the circuits in our brain are starting to overload from the lack thereof.
I remember moments when my daughter was small and I would have to drag myself from sleep with an internal system of pulleys and levers and force my body to move.  I remember literally feeling nauseated from waking up so many in the night. My baby would cry and I would cry with her, as all moms eventually do,  because it breaks our hearts knowing our babies must be thinking that they are lost in a foreign world and don’t speak the language and none of the large people around seem very competent to meet their very pressing needs.  How scary for them!  How scary for us!
There are so many books out there and methods and procedures and experts and family members and family-in-law members that it can become overwhelming to try and figure out the “right” way to parent.  Food choices and diaper decisions.  Waitlists for the “best” schools.  And budget choices of do I buy new because I want my baby to not wear stranger baby clothes or do I buy used because it’s practical and means I can save more money for little Paulette’s college fund or little Wilson’s first fender bender?
Should I make him comfort himself at night or should I hold him or should he sleep with us as most of the rest of the world’s babies do?  But what if I roll over on him? Should I feed her on demand or every two hours and when do I start with the solids?  Should I breast feed or bottle feed? And what the hell do I do with all these stretch marks?!
Here’s the thing.  You are going to mess your child up in some way or the other.  Accept this and forgive yourself in advance.  You are going to mess them up less if you relax and remember to breathe.  Hold your sweet dumpling baby and take deep long breaths and you will stay calm and able to ‘feel” in your gut what is right for YOUR baby.  Not Dr. Spock’s baby or Nurse Bossy’s baby, your baby.
I made myself feel better as a mother by starting a therapy fund for my daughter for future psychoanalysis to undo all my mistakes.  I tried so hard to do it “right”.  The right clothes, right book, right diet and you know my daughter did what she knew was right for her every time in spite of all my book learnin’.  When I finally accepted that she knew a lot of the time what worked for her and that I really was going to make some serious mistakes and some not such a big deal mistakes and everything in between I relaxed.
Practice saying the following: “I’m sorry, little Chelsea that I fell asleep from exhaustion and was late getting you from daycare.”  “I’m sorry, little Mateo, that I made you go to (insert one) public, private or alternative school and it warped you and now you can’t stop sucking your thumb even though you’re 30 years old.”  “I’m sorry I made you come home at a decent hour and wouldn’t let you wear thong underwear in kindergarten.” And “ I’m really sorry for that terrible haircut I gave you when you were 4.”
Seriously though recognize that you might have to do some apologizing at some point.  It’s all right to apologize to kids when it’s really necessary.  Don’t let them “work” you over it though! You’ll know when it’s right to say you’re sorry.  Recognize too that when they have kids they’ll understand what a great job you did but most likely will take you 100% for granted until then and it’s ok.
Take every moment to remind yourself you will get to sleep again someday and impress upon your mind every time you can the image of your baby’s face.  It’s so true that overnight they are grown and gone.  Remind yourself that hundreds of millions of mothers who have gone before you, and are with you in spirit now, know exactly what you’re going through.  Get some friends you can call when you need to sleep or when you need a moment of non-baby time with your partner. 

I can’t stress enough to new moms the value of some parenting classes here and there, lots of play dates and remembering to slap on some lipstick now and then so you don’t forget how pretty you are.  One of the best gifts I got right after my daughter was born was perfume and nail polish.  I’ll never forget how happy those two little things made me feel! 

Also let your partner or your own parents help you more often without hovering over them every second.  Chances are they’re willing to do more if you can get yourself out of the way. They aren’t “doing it wrong” either.  If you don’t have a partner please take time to find some friends to help you along this road and take care of yourself as much as you can. 

It’s the middle of the night and she won’t stop crying and you want to scream out loud.  It’s not ok but it will be.  Really it will. You’re not alone. You’re ok.  Babies have been overcoming adversity since the beginning of time.  It’s ok if they cry sometimes because you can’t figure out how to make them happy.  It’s ok if you forget to do all the “right” things.  It’s ok if you wonder if you are really cut out for all this and maybe Auntie Joan and Uncle Bob would like to raise another child. 

When you get overwhelmed by it all call a 24/7 prayer line of any faith, call your parents, call a friend, preferably another mother and cry your heart out. Heck make up some symptoms and call Dial A Nurse, hearing a human adult voice can go a long way to re-centering.  Talk about your fears and your concerns and go ahead and think you’re the worst mom ever because you aren’t.  If you’re reading this and you’re trying at all, in even the tiniest of ways, to understand this new creature and your new, oh so unfamiliar and strange role then that alone should tell you something about who you are already as a mother.
Keep firmly in mind that as long as you don’t drop them on their heads (too often) and take time to breathe, breathe and breathe again they will be fine.  And so will you.  And hey, if they turn out not to need that therapy fund after all, you can take a helluva cruise with that cash!

Gifts of Addictions Part 1

I get tired sometimes when our culture speaks of addicts in a tone of “those people” or as if struggling with an addiction equals being the worst person on Earth that is unless it’s someone famous then it’s fascinating and sometimes dare I say “cool”?

Not so folks. Not at all.  Work with those who are addicted for awhile or be in personal relationships with those in active addiction or in recovery and you will see a much different story.

We all know the dark side of addictions.  What it looks like: lost children, lost jobs, lost marriages, lost lives.  There is another side though. What you will find over and over again when you really look past the pain is people who are sensitive to the world in ways that are not well understood by those who aren’t.

You will find a high rate of creativity in art, music, written words or acting.  You will find people who give to the point of their own destruction.  Who help other people walk even when their own legs are broken.  The shirt off their backs type.

You will find that in childhood there were few filters between their souls and the harshness of daily life in functional and dysfunctional families.  Somewhere around 9 or 10 years old or maybe they make it to their teens before they can’t take it anymore but at some point they try drugs and discover in many ways, the peace of relief from all the turmoil inside and out.

Those who feel powerless discover power at last.  Those who feel lost in the social world suddenly find themselves comfortable and chatting away like it was nothing.  Those who feel scraped raw by too much stimuli are able to snuggle into a cottony buffer and finally sigh deeply with relief.

I am beginning to believe that until we start looking more into the studies regarding sensitively wired people we are going to continue to fail at our current ridiculous rates when it comes to treating major addictions.  I’m not the only one I’m sure starting to wonder just how much biology and the ability to filter stimuli has to do with why some kids try drugs and it’s fun for them but they stop and why others continue on in and out of recovery for the rest of their lives.

More on this later…art class awaits…