Amazing Parents

Sometimes it\’s AMAZING. Sometimes it\’s just A MAZE.

Slowing down to connect in the present moment

A lot has happened to me in the past several weeks.  The roller coaster that I’ve been on has stopped and then started again.  It’s moving slower this time, which is good.  Because I don’t feel like throwing up anymore.  I just want it over.  I want the ride to be over.  I want to get off now.

But…

I have come to realize that things happen sequencially.  In an order that cannot be sped up, nor slowed down.  We have no control over what has happened, nor what is yet to come.  We cannot fit our lives into pretty little boxes that make perfect sense.  We do not have that kind of power.

I also realize that most of us wish we did.

Because when we are on a ride, a crazy loop-de-loo ride, controlled by someone else, it’s very scary.  You move along at someone else’s pace and the curves just come without you knowing.  Suddenly you’re just in it.  In a fight to keep yourself together.  To not throw up.  And I’m sorry that is what some of you have been through.  I am sorry that it’s sometimes a ride like that.  You have no idea how much I feel your pain.

But I can’t change that for you.  It’s not in my power to stop the ride.  If I could, I would.  You all know that.  Because I want off too.  They say that in car accidents, people who saw the other car coming are worse off than those who didn’t.  Because when you see it, you tense up.  And when every muscle inside your body is flexed like that, the impact causes much more damage.  I think that is what it’s like in life.  A lot.

If we could just learn to relax and enjoy the ride we’d suffer much less damage.  It wouldn’t hurt so bad on impact.  We could recover sooner, stronger.  If we could just learn to breathe and to slow down our bodies and our minds….oh if we could.  Why is that sometimes so hard?

So what I’m going to do right now is commit myself to slowing down.  To stop existing in the past and in the future.  I am just going to exist in the present.  Right here.  Right now.  I’m going to take deep breaths and I’m going to feel my feet on the floor beneath me.  Because it’s there.  I just need to take my shoes off and actually feel it and recognize it’s solid.  Maybe I’ll even rub mud all over my body to remind me I’m alive, with skin that is healthy and growing around me, to protect me from my environment.  Yes, my body has everything it needs.  I just need to let it do it’s job.  And I want it to do it’s job.  Because I can’t do it any other way.

I am going to learn to love myself and my body and my life.  No matter what happens along the ride.  That is going to be this year’s love for me.  I just hope that it lasts.  It better last this time.

Advertisements

November 3, 2008 Posted by | A New Paradigm | Leave a comment

It’s Raining

Today I got paid.  That was cool.

I also saw my dad.  He brought back something he had borrowed.  And instead of just bringing it back, he had to “fix it” for me.  A normal human would have been appreciative, but for some reason I was not.  I found it degrading on so many levels.  I realized this has everything to do with me and where I am right now — that feeling of just wanting to break out of every box I’ve ever been put in — and so I said nothing except, “Thanks, Dad.  That was nice.”  He felt good.  I felt good that I stopped a fight.

But hours after he is gone, I secretly think to myself how sometimes the fight is just so. worth. it.

Smelly J’nelly knows what I mean.  She has been living with The Guiltinator for 8 days straight.  Do you know the kind of inner resolve it takes to survive 8 days of that????  Seriously. It’s so intense.

The difference between me and Nelly is that I usually start the fight.  Because I need to say what I need to say and that’s just all I know in the moment.  But what I realized today was that part of breaking out of the boxes I’m in means breaking out of the ones I’ve made for myself.  Like I don’t always need to start the fight.  I don’t.  Just because that’s what I’ve always done and today I want to do something differently.  So today I just enjoyed saying nothing at all.  I’ve been doing more of that lately.  And now I can see why Nelly has always done it too.  The silent suffering.  Because in a way, it’s just so much cleaner.  So much cleaner to break away from.

I don’t know what I’m talking about anymore.  There is no point to be made.  Just an observation that means nothing in the end.  Except that maybe I’m allowed to experiment with who I am and that’s ok.  I don’t have to always be the one that thinks the fight is worth it.  Sometimes I can be the silent one too.  And that doesn’t make me “fake”.  It just makes me quiet.  And that feels really good.  Because when I’m quiet I can hear the rain.

October 4, 2008 Posted by | A New Paradigm, Soap Box | 3 Comments

It’s Not Socks…or rubberbands…or old papers…it’s you.

The human brain is a complicated place.  It is estimated that there are over 100 billion neurons inside that lump of clay.  Each neuron has an estimated 7,000 synapses which connects it to other neurons.  I’m no mathematician, but I can guess that that’s a whole heck of a lot of stuff going on at any given moment in one tiny place.  And all of it happening out of our ability to physically see it.  It just zings and snaps and connects and ……ahhhh!  It makes me dizzy thinking about it (even though I totally dig it too).

To simplify how the brain behaves, we can break it down into one issue: how the brain stores memory.  Think of it like this — there is a four drawer filing cabinet.  Each drawer is a deeper and deeper level of memory.  So the further down you go inside the cabinet, the more and more subconscious exist the files.

The first drawer is the cognitive drawer.  This is where your brain holds data, including names of people, important dates.  This is the drawer you are in when you are solving a math problem or trying to figure out your schedule for next week.  You problem solve from here.  Information in this drawer is normally at your disposal relatively quickly.

The second drawer is your emotional drawer.  This drawer contains all the emotions connected to your cognitive memories.  For instance, you might run into an old friend and find yourself flooded with feelings, either positive or negative.  But for your life, you cannot remember their last name.  That is because the last name is in the cognitive drawer and right now, you are in the second drawer.  You have accessed a stored emotion connected to that friend.

The third drawer is the motor drawer.  Here is where you are when you are literally writing the letters in the words on the page.  Or when you are riding a bicycle or driving a car.  These memories are subconscious.  You do not have to concentrate on making the letter “b” when you write the word “baby”, because your body has remembered it and stored it away.  You just write it, without any thought.  It’s like what they say about riding a bike — once you learn how, you never forget.  To a large extent, that is scientifically true.

The fourth drawer is what we call the state drawer.  The state drawer is the deepest level of memory inside your body.  It is 100% subconscious.  Our state drawer can contain many positive memories.  Such as being held as a baby and nursed and all those pre-verbal needs being met.  What’s in our state drawer dictates our personality.  The positive memories in this drawer make us a trusting person.  Or a funny person.  Maybe open and emotionally available.

And it is also here that all of our traumas are stored.  When we are yelling or screaming or even shut down, we are in our state drawer.  We are coming from a deep place inside ourselves that we have little control over, and in fact, sometimes are absolutely unaware of.  This is where our children are when they are tantruming or stealing or arguing.  They are trying to survive in the moment and they are doing the best that they can to make it happen.  A lot of people are afraid of the state drawer.  But I’m not.  Instead, I honor it.  It is here that my deepest personality traits spring from and it is here that I have become the person I am today.  And that is ok.  With all my flaws and all my goodness.  It’s just ok.

So why am I talking about this?

The thing is, I woke up this morning and had a class to teach at 10.  I was working hard to get a presentation together.  I quickly reviewed the material.  I was working so hard to concentrate.  But it wasn’t working and I was confused.  I felt slightly dysregulated.  I literally sat in this chair in front of my computer and It was then that I realized I was walking around in my second drawer.  I was being flooded by emotions.  As hard as I tried, I could not get into my top drawer, into my cognitive drawer.  I was just too caught up in a memory of something from a long time ago.   Something about walking home from school with a cute boy who didn’t even know he was my boyfriend.  And a song I used to play over and over again.  Like I was free falling out into nothing.

And that’s fine.  And eventually I had my class and I believe I taught it from my emotional drawer and it went well.  It had passion and that is sometimes missing in life, so that’s ok.

But it just reminded me that we need to sometimes reconsider the expectations we have for ourselves, and also for our children.  When our children are in their bottom drawer, they are not in a cognitive place.  That is why consequences in the moment of misbehavior do not work.  That is why when you use time-out once, you have to keep using it for years and years.  Because in the moment it does not work.  Because in the moment of the flood of emotions, and in the moment of resurfacing trauma in their little lives, they are not in a place to understand cause and effect.  They are not able to problem solve.  The consequence is chaotic and does not make any sense.  That cognitive drawer is just not open.  In those moments its state drawer time.

And this is not some goofy parenting model speaking here.  This is nueroscience.  Plain and simple.  It’s fact.  It shows up on MRIs and CT Scans all day long.

So what do our kids need in those moments instead of consequences?  Well, think back to the last time you melted down.  Or to the last time you were flooded with an emotional memory of someone from a long time ago.  What did you need?  What would have helped you process it and move forward?

Most likely you just needed someone beside you, fully present.  Someone who can hear you and say, “wow”.  Well, that’s just what your child needs too.

Because without someone who understands you and someone who can validate you, everything just seems like you’re free falling out into nothing.  And sometimes that can feel really good.  But you know, it can also be really overwhelming.  I guess it just depends on what you keep in all those drawers.

October 1, 2008 Posted by | A New Paradigm, RAD Education | Leave a comment

Which rabbit am I?

I laugh as I shake my head back and forth and somehow muster an, “I don’t know.”  And I didn’t get any smarter as I slept, because this morning I woke up and I still don’t know.  I don’t know which rabbit you are.  For that matter, I don’t know which I am either.  Ah, the plethora of things I do not quite yet know about myself.  All the answers, the references, the cross references, the things you always need to know.  But when you ring, I still pick it up.  And when you’re silent in my ear, I know you are laughing at something I just said.  And I wait to hear the echo of your happiness.  Which, as you know, is more precious to me than even my own.  Because your happiness is my happiness.   You are my “amygdala buddy” and I like it that way.

I think everybody needs one — an amygdala buddy, not a rabbit (although rabbits are really cool).  What everybody needs is someone who knows that you’re lying when you say that you are fine.  Someone who can enter the room and bring you instant regulation.  And if not instant, than pretty darn fast.  I wouldn’t necessarily call it a “chemistry” thing.  But it might be.  I’m just a pseudo-neuroscientist.  I just know what I know.  And I know that’s what you can do.  You can read right through my lines and you can feel what I feel right when I feel it.   That is connection.  And that is what everybody in the whole wide world spends their whole life yearning for.

I think I will tell you now, that the amygdala is the part of the primitive brain that is responsible for perceiving threat and danger in our environment.  A cave man with a well-working amygdala would have been a more successful hunter, more likely to survive in the woods.  Today, a child with a well-working amygdala will be more likely to survive his infancy when his mother does not feed him or change him or even pick him up at all.  Because he will begin to perceive her as a threat in his environment and he will not need to depend on her anymore.  And that perception will then be transferred to all adults, to all people for that matter.  Instaed of trust, mistrust forms.  That is trauma.  That is Reactive Attachment Disorder.

And no matter who you are, or what your story is, there is a piece of you in this article.  Because every one of our past experiences builds our brain into what it is today.  And when our past experiences are scary or stressful or even unpredictable, our amygdalas can become very, very strong.  And before we know it, we are perceiving even mundane things as threats to our well being, to our survival.  We might have panic attacks or we might get easily frustrated during moments of pressure. We might be more likely to have a one night stand than a long term relationship.  We might keep people close, but only so close.  We might always wonder if everybody feels that way. That is a strong amygdala.  That is being attachment-challenged. And that is just human nature.

So I don’t know what rabbit you are.  But at least I know you’re human.

September 28, 2008 Posted by | RAD Education | 3 Comments

That Darned old Pucker Brush again

Like I’ve said before, there is an old saying in the south about being confused.  It’s called “wandering around in the pucker brush.”  And to my understanding, the pucker brush is pretty nasty.  Prickly.  Painful.  Just bad to get lost in.

That is how it feels when you are trying to parent a child with a trauma history and can’t seem to find any help.  (Believe me.  I’ve been there!)

So to help you find your way out of the maze and into healing, you now have access to BCI-trained therapy right here in Oregon!

Check out this link:

Life Strategies in McMinnville, Oregon

And get yourself out of the pucker brush.  It’s never too late.

Peace in the home.

Peace in the community.

Peace in the world.

September 13, 2008 Posted by | A New Paradigm, RAD Education, Soap Box, Support Groups | Leave a comment

I Will Hold Your Hair Back When the World Gets Overwhelming…Whether Or Not You Hold Mine

What happened next wasn’t very interesting, so I felt no need to keep that story going. But if you must know, I will tell you. All the sordid details of every pathetically complicated interaction.

He laughed at me. He said he knows. He said, “Yes, for 10 years. I felt it too. But that doesn’t change today.”

Then my brother got me Conor Oberst tickets and now I’m fine.

And how, exactly does this become about parenting? And especially about parenting a child with trauma? Well, everything. In every way it feels the same. Because my son, and all the stories he could keep telling, about wanting so badly to be loved and to be noticed and to be validated by someone he looks up to. That is what I was doing. That is just what I thought I needed in that moment. And I believe I did. I needed someone to wrap their arms around me and say, “I hear you and you’re safe with me and I love you anyway.” And he did and it’s all good.

But what if he hadn’t? What if he just laughed?

I would have been so humiliated, so hurt, that I couldn’t have left that space with a smile on my face. I would have been in tears.  But worse than that, I would have been in so much emotional pain that I don’t know how I could have recovered.  I would have continued to throw up and stay awake in bed, curled up in the fetal position without a thought in my brain.  I would have chalked it up to every negative thing inside of my head being right, once and for all. They are all right. That I’m that terrible. That I’m fat. That I’m way out of my league here with trying to find love.

That is what foster care is like for our children.  And placements and orphanages and disrupted adoptions.  To be so terrified of sharing yourself with someone.  Yet to go against everything inside of you and actually say what you want.  Then only to be shut down, to be laughed at, again….and again….and again.   To be devastated by someone who you thought was supposed to love you.

I think a lot of times, the traditional parenting paradigm that we operate out of is just like that. Our kids whine and they cry and we say, “Oh that child! He is just doing that for attention!” As if that was a bad thing. What if we stop thinking of it like that and we just give them what they think they need? What if we just meet them exactly where they are? Validate their feelings?   Hold them?  Show them how much we care about what matters to them?  Tell them that we, “hear you and love you anyway” or that “all your feelings are safe with me”?  Isn’t that exactly what they need?  Isn’t that just what you have needed at times, someone to just unconditionally support you no matter what?  Or someone just to hold you?

Because that’s all I needed someone to do. I just wanted to be held.  And that’s not wrong. It’s right. And true connection creates safety to have those needs met. That is unconditional love. And that is what parenting should be all about.

How did we get so far removed from that? When did we start saying “full-time mom”? Like Nelly asked, “When did a child become a full time or part time deal?” Isn’t the very nature of parenting a full-time job? To bring a life into this world, whether by our body or our hearts and be responsible for them in every way?  To be there with someone, for someone. Someone who maybe just “needs” you when they need you. Someone who you are just there for.  You know, just to hold thier hair back when the world gets overwhelming.  Because it’s not our children’s job to hold ours.

And that’s it.  That’s all that happened.  From the beginning until now.  I had an experience of unconditional support from somebody that I needed it from.  Finally, he was present with me and he heard everything I said.  The best part is that he is taking responsibility for his part of the relationship and that makes him a big, strong man.   And that means the story isn’t over yet.  (Wink, wink.)

To be continued in about 1000 years…..

September 11, 2008 Posted by | A New Paradigm, Soap Box | Leave a comment

Tied up and twisted

It has felt that way. For a long, long time now. Like I was tied up and twisted, against my will. With a ball and a heavy chain. Like everytime I tried to move, I was pinned. Down. And down again. Harder and harder. Trapped. Scared to death. Tired. And it’s so heavy and he’s so strong. All I can do is hope that I don’t die like this. But I knew I would.

So one day I just gritted my teeth, and I clenched my fists, and I used every single muscle in my body to get out of that mess. Out of the knots and the loops and the tangles. All that heavy chain just snapping in the moment of my adrenaline finally kicking in. My will to live finally doing it’s job.

People always wonder what kind of weak idiots end up like that. But it wasn’t like that. I’m not weak, nor am I an idiot. It just started to tangle and before I knew it, there I was. When it gets like that, it isn’t something you can just sit and undo. Like Christmas lights two years late. At some point you just have to give up the fight and buy a new set. And just so you know, that’s just one more reason why I hate Christmas. Because there’s always a fight about the lights. No matter what you do when you pack them away. The next year, there they are, all in an unbreakable knot. Tied up and twisted. Frustrating. Stuck. You pull and you push. Everyone in the room thinks they can do it better. But it’s so hard to see where one string begins and the other ends. It makes you want to scream. But you realize even that won’t help.  So each year you vow never to let that happen again, but each year, there they are again.  In a ball, tangled.  Tied up and twisted.

That is what it was like for me. Like I was tied up and twisted. And now it’s all starting to unravel. Slowly. But there it goes. Another piece of me, coming undone. And instead of feeling scary and stupid, it feels so freakin’ good. Like a hot bubble bath or a song that you can’t help but sing. It just feels right. And it makes me want to keep going. To keep bathing and keep singing. To get it all out. To stay right there, where I can see each part of myself, safe. Laid out bare and straight. And I can see it all so clearly. All those pieces of me that I couldn’t find before. But there they are. And I’ve said so much.

And if I’ve gone overboard, then I beg you to forgive me. But in my haste, I have held you so close. It is like ten years ago you crashed into me. And I just finally felt it. And it feels really good.

Thank you for reminding me of who I am.

August 30, 2008 Posted by | Soap Box | 1 Comment

I Like Fish

So….hmmm….I really want to write. I have so much to say. More about irony, definitely. And also something about preconceived notions and stereotypes. Boxes and categories that make me, all of us, so much more comfortable. We do that with our kids a lot. Like that little girl who figgets too much. Let’s call it ADHD and give her some pills. But what if there were no pills? Like there were not for that last thousands and thousands of human history. What then? Well, then you can’t “fix” it. You just have to be with it, as uncomfortable as it is, and accept it someday as reality.

Because I have this friend…..who, for Nelly’s sake, shall remain nameless…..and my relationship with him falls into so many categories, so many perfect little boxes. And I do this intentionally, so as not to “rock the boat”. But you know what, my whole life has just come crashing down and I suddenly realize that all those lovely boxes were lies. Facades. A superficial excuse for what was really going on. Like sex with a stranger and thorazine and pre-recorded chants and a big pink metal bottle of hairspray.

And quite frankly, I’m done. I’m done with it all. I’m done with wondering what people will think. I’m done “over-analyzing” everything. Because I just finally want to be here, present. I want to feel all of my feelings that I have been told to shove down for three decades. I want to be free to express my awe to people that awe me, and to express my disgust to people who turn my stomach up in knots. I want to feel free to cry when someone rings the doorbell, for no other reason than “that’s just what we’re doing here today”. And free to wear my hair like a princess, just because Sister Mary does it, and she always looks so pretty, and just because I. suddenly. realize. I. can. too.

And that includes my over grown lawn and the music I listen to. That includes the laundry I’ve decided to throw away instead of wash. And the bricks that are crumbling by the fish tank.

Which reminds me, my fish never complain.

I like fish.

August 28, 2008 Posted by | Soap Box | 2 Comments

Isn’t it ironic?

It’s like rain on your wedding day….It’s like a free ride when you’re already there…..It’s like the good advice you just didn’t take….don’t ya think?…..Life has such a funny way of sneaking up on you when you think everything’s ok. ….a traffic jam when you’re already late….It’s like 10,000 spoons when all you need is a knife….like meeting the man of my dreams, then his beautiful wife…. Yeah….

Isn’t that so true? This seems to be my theme song this week. My life and all of it’s uncertainties. Like adopting a child because I wanted so badly to show him love, then being told he is unable to feel it. Then finding a way to make that happen. Now I’m professionally teaching it to other parents, dispelling the myths that have existed for decades about kids like mine. That’s just so ironic. That the one thing I thought for sure would eventually kill me in this life is now my means of living. Now that’s just funny.

Another ironic point to mention is how badly I have searched for love in my personal life, in my marriage. And I swear, it is only after my husband has left me destitude that I realize I am worthy to actually be loved. It’s only after I have been hurt, that I feel safe. It is only during the pain, that I can somehow connect to my inner peace. It is only through having my family ripped apart that I feel whole.

It’s just so ironic. And so cliche I really can’t write any more about it.

I just wanted you to know that.

August 24, 2008 Posted by | Soap Box | Leave a comment

BCI Teleparenting Classes

A new round of teleparenting classes is starting next week from our friends at the Consciously Parenting Project! These classes are a great alternative/addition to attending a Live Event by BCI because it brings a Beyond Consequences Certified Instructor right to your door. But how?

Using a conference line, participants join the call at the designated time using the phone number given. During the call the students gather in a virtual classroom where the instructor leads a power point presentation while helping each student apply the principles to their own families. There is plenty of time for personal help, as well as time for questions and answers when they come up. After each class, students also have access to a private forum area where your instructor will continue to lead a more in depth discussion throughout the week about the principles taught in class. Homework is assigned, but is not graded, and overall, the classes make learning to parent differently a whole lot of fun because you get to interact with other parents who totally “get it”. They know where you are and they can support where you are trying to go.

Who can take a teleparenting class? Anybody! Whether you are an adoptive, foster, or biological family you are welcome at any of the Amazing Parents/Consciously Parenting classes and/or events.

Here’s what other parents have said about their experiences taking these teleparenting classes from the Consciously Parenting Project.

“The Beyond Consequences class has changed my view on parenting. I had read the book in the past but I wasn’t able to digest it in the same way as with the addition of the class/forum discussions. It took everything to a new level. I especially enjoyed the support of talking to and hearing from other parents who are on the same journey.”
-Mother of 4 biological children

“This training has been very beneficial in this trauma journey that we walk. Each time I learn a little more that I’m able to implement into my relationships with my daughter. Keep it up!”
-Mother of 2 adopted children

“This is the class I have been needing for 13 years! Thank you so much for opening my eyes to a new and better way to raise my children. Not only are my kids worth it but so am I!”

-Mother of 3 biological children

“In studying the Beyond Consequences book for the class, I learned it in a much more personal depth.”
-Grandmother raising 2 adopted children


If you would like more information about these teleparenting classes, including prices and schedules, click here.

August 16, 2008 Posted by | RAD Education | Leave a comment