Loyalty, unconditional love, comfort, moments of disgust so complete they stay with you for hours…

I am not a squeamish person. I spent years as a surgical assistant seeing things like face lifts and liposuction, third degree burns and genital warts the size of small, organic cauliflower heads. I do not shudder easily or often.
I am, however, a very visual person. I form pictures in my head when people describe things to me and fix images I’ve seen in my mind. Yesterday I came to regret that.
Eve had her first-ever cross country meet yesterday afternoon and I decided, since it involved running along trails in the park, it would be cool to bring the dog along. We could cheer Eve’s team on and the dog could get a mini-walk and some fresh air out of the deal. It was pouring rain, torrential rain, but we could handle it.
The meet went off without a hitch. Eve came in at about the middle of the pack, wet ponytail slapping against the back of her neck with every footfall, her cheeks flushed and a huge smile on her face. I waited under a nearby tree with her coach and some other parents for her to get her official time and join us for a snack and some water. The dog, who believes that social outreach is his most pressing duty, was using every ounce of his 80 pounds to strain at the leash in an attempt to get to the other dogs in the park, but this was nothing new. I planted my feet and stood fast as I chatted with the other parents.
A few minutes later, I noticed a distinct absence of tugging on the other end of the leash and looked down to see CB’s head dip to the ground as he snatched something off of the leaf litter underneath his feet.
“What are you eating?” I figured he had gotten ahold of some child’s leftover granola bar or, at worst, discovered some bunny poop (AKA doggie M&Ms). I heard him crunching something and looked down to see a long grey form protruding from the left side of his mouth.
“A stick! Drop it! Drop it, CB!” I bent down and reached for the piece that was sticking out of his mouth and in that time-altering thing that happens when your brain finally catches up to your eyes, the split second before I grabbed it, I noticed it had claws. The thing poking out of the side of my dog’s mouth had claws. I reared back for a moment as I tried to remember whether I had actually had that glass of wine with lunch or just thought about it, and the coach yelled, “He’s got a crow’s foot in his mouth! Eeew!”
I wish.
A struggle ensued for the next several minutes as CB realized he was busted and did everything possible to hang on to his prize. His jaw strength is only slightly less than the holding power of Crazy Glue, so even with both my hands clamped onto his muzzle, I was completely unable to pry his mouth open. I finally realized that it was going to take a trade. I needed something he wanted more than that thing in his mouth to make him open up. Of course, this was the first time in recorded history that I was wearing a jacket without a pocket full of dog treats and the only thing the coach had was Eve’s post-run snack, a Fruit Rollup. I tore a piece off and waved it in front of his nose, begging him to release his treasure but he just rolled his eyes at me ‘duh’ style and kept on gnawing.
Somehow I finally managed to wedge the sticky fruit snack past his teeth and up on to the roof of his mouth and that shocked him enough that I got a finger hold in and was able to open his mouth. I felt like the Crocodile Hunter! Now, the only problem was that it took both of my hands to hold his mouth open and the claw wasn’t coming out. It was stuck.
Eve had finally shown up, no doubt to berate me for causing a scene and ruining her social standing forever (at this point, I’m pretty certain I won’t be invited to the next meet, if she even tells me when it is or where). I hollered at her to yank the thing out of CB’s mouth but she squatted down, took one look and said, “I’m not touching that thing! Forget it!”
Thank goodness for mothers. Mothers who are used to spit and pee and vomit on their hands. Eve’s teammate’s mother came to my rescue, bent down and pulled the claw out of his mouth. We were all surprised (and disgusted and appalled) when that claw came out attached to a three inch length of leg bone.
After about five minutes of compulsive hand-washing we all came back together underneath the tree and surmised that the foot belonged to a possum at some point. It didn’t take much more than a nanosecond beyond that conclusion for us to all tilt our heads back and look up into the tree, expecting to find a very pissed off possum hanging above us. I have no idea where that leg came from or how it managed to get there and I’m pretty sure I don’t want to think about it much.
As for the dog, he sulked all the way home. How dare I take his fairly discovered treasure and toss it in the trash and think that a postage-stamp piece of Fruit Rollup would be an even trade?
I am still shuddering at the sight of that thing in my mind’s eye. Bubba didn’t even want to hear the story, he’s so squeamish, and he was thanking his lucky stars that he missed the entire thing. As for Lola, she was disappointed she wasn’t there and asked me to draw her a picture of the foot/leg after dinner. I gladly did. I can still see it perfectly.

This week’s positive intention class was focused on identifying and honoring the little victim within. We all have one (mine is a little green gremlin with warts and pointed ears who is so ugly he is cute) and their job is to continually warn us of all the dangerous things out there that we need to watch out for. He doesn’t forget anything and has this way of linking every negative experience to a few major traumatic events in the past and worrying that if we dare to set one big toe out the door again, we will certainly be run over and squashed flat.

The meditation for this morning involved acknowledging his presence, listening to his fears and reminding him that he is safe and heard. The goal is to disarm him and keep him from ballooning into an enormous source of energy and reactivity whose whiny chatter causes us to do and say things that aren’t authentically us. I can recall many instances in my life where I allowed him to take over and I began feeling entitled and pathetic, blaming anyone and anything around me for the situation I found myself in and giving away my power to control my own responses.
After that, the instructor asked us to recall a time when we felt victimized. Observe that moment and think about what that felt like. What emotions does that moment prompt – anger, frustration, fear, sadness? The ultimate goal is to be able to separate those feelings from the person you are now and recognize that that moment no longer has any power over you. Release the negative energy, forgive the perpetrator(s), and truly feel free.
True to form, I didn’t choose a squabble between myself and my mother or a time when Bubba sprung a business trip on me out of the blue. Nope, I went straight to the heart of things. In my defense, I didn’t actually mean to; it was just that when I sat down to do the meditation, my mind and body went to the most visceral place it could. I was instantly eight years old, lying on a dingy mattress on the floor of a dark, dank bedroom, being molested by my babysitter’s teenage son.
I couldn’t finish the meditation. As much as I wanted to, I couldn’t get past the fear and hatred. My fingers began to go numb, my sacrum felt made of cement, and my jaw tightened. I can’t forgive him now. I can’t let go. It’s clear to me that I have to and I want to, but right now, today, it isn’t going to happen. Nothing like jumping in with both feet!

I’ve learned some new ‘exercises’ in my positive intentions class and am diligently attempting them daily. Some are easier than others and I find that there are two that consistently find me struggling to focus and complete them.

The first is called “Shower.” In this exercise, I am supposed to find a quiet moment and visualize myself in my ideal shower, covered with a grey, sooty mud. This muck represents all of the negative energy I’ve picked up during the day, from witnessing a stranger’s struggle to helping the girls settle a fight to hearing bad news from a friend. None of this ‘mud’ is mine and I simply need to wash it away and restore the golden glow to myself, acknowledging that my love and light sent out to anyone and everyone who is struggling is the best I can do.
I am fully in favor of this exercise, but when I find myself standing in my shower (a wooden affair in the middle of a gorgeous green pasture with a rain-shower head and a view of the hillside) under the spray, my mind immediately begins to catalog all of the things I’m washing away. Within seconds, I’m bogged down in the minutiae of the negative energy and it stubbornly refuses to rinse off of me.
At the suggestion of a friend, I tried a different approach. She calls it the “cheesecloth.” I simply run an enormous piece of cheesecloth up through my body, catching all of the negative particles and packaging them up in a tidy bundle which I then discard. I can even tie the bundle at the top with a gold ribbon of love. For some reason, this is much more effective for me, not to mention faster, and when I’m done, I feel literally lighter. The cheesecloth is full of little black, sticky bits and I am free.
The other exercise is called “Eject and Replace.” Essentially, it gives you the opportunity to observe your reactions throughout the day and when you have one you don’t particularly like (snapping off some sarcastic comment to the girls when I’m rushed and annoyed), you simply tug on your earlobe. This has the effect of ‘flushing’ the nasty thought out of your mind and leaves a space for you to replace it with love and light. My problem is that my mouth is faster than my mind and once those words are out, it’s too late to flush them. I have discovered that these negative thoughts come much more often when I am doing seventeen things at once and I resort to habitual responses. Ultimately, I suppose that this is the entire point of the positive intentions class – to slow down and be aware of what I am saying and doing and INTENDING instead of just reacting.
Guess it’s a good thing we meet again tomorrow.

The gifts just keep on coming this week. It’s a busy one, with the beginning of the school year and Eve and I both adjusting to the rhythms of a new school, so I will share with you the quick-and-dirty list of lovely things the Universe has flung my way recently.

  • Last Wednesday, my sister-in-law called to invite us to go camping with her and her kids for two days before their school year started. For some reason, we accepted on a whim and spent two glorious days walking in the woods, swimming, floating the river and meeting two other families who have kids with special needs. What a lovely, fun way to see these kids – outside a classroom, riding bikes and talking on walkie-talkies and sitting down with mothers of other kids with sensory processing issues. They get it. Lola and I shared an innertube and bounced and rocked our way down the river and saw a juvenile bald eagle, two vultures and a great blue heron along the way.
  • When we got home, we learned that our bear is back. The one who visited our backyard nearly every night between September and February last year paid us another visit over the weekend and, while he wreaked havoc on my birdfeeders and the compost bin and left me some enormous piles of bear poo, I am so excited to have this gentle giant wandering through my back lawn again. Rather than frightening me, it makes me feel safe and relaxed to know that my yard is a haven for this amazing creature. I suppose I would feel differently if he wasn’t nocturnal!
  • On Monday I had a phone interview with a small publisher in Montana who may or may not be able to help me, but for nearly an hour we talked writing and publishing and it didn’t take us long to figure out that she knows Bubba from a previous job and the teeny tiny town she lives in in Montana is the same one where my favorite aunt and her husband live.
  • With Bubba out of town for three days, I managed to get both girls to and from school and their various activities with no hiccups, despite the fact that it is a logistical labyrinth. We did it! And in the process, I have met some lovely people who are willing to help us out whenever they can – I need only ask.
  • On Tuesday I started a class with four other women (total strangers) on positive intention. The four of us immediately bonded and one of the participants brought copies of her book to distribute at the end of class. She gave me her phone number and encouraged me to contact her if I want to talk about publishing my own book.
  • The teacher of this class sends daily emails to ‘check in’ with our progress and remind us to engage in certain exercises she taught us on Tuesday. We are all encouraged to dialogue (through email) about our experiences and the feedback she has provided so far has been amazing. I feel physically lighter.
Next, I am going to the post office to send out a packet of information on my book to a publisher that was recommended to me. I spent yesterday polishing it, filling it with positive intention and sitting with it. Today, it heads out surrounded by golden light and the knowledge that the manuscript is better than good enough.
Have a lovely weekend!

Quiet morning. Girls both at school and Bubba’s off to California. Dishes done. Laundry put away. Email answered. Dog walked. It occurs to me how long it has been since I sat in a quiet room and meditated, so I head upstairs, settle down on a cushion, cross my legs and begin breathing.

The cat, however, has different ideas. This cat, who is very aloof and has never sat in anyone’s lap in the six years we have had her, has decided she needs to be touched. I can hear her soft pads as she makes her way across the carpet toward me, and I hear her begin to purr just before her silky head crashes in to my left hand. Eyes closed, I am determined to ignore her until she goes away. This is one more distraction – a chance to practice focusing on my breath and letting everything else slip away.
She paces between my hands, angling her head so that the soft space between her ears bangs into my knuckles as she walks in front of my folded legs. Back and forth. Insistent.
The longer I ignore her, the pushier she gets. Now she is stopping for a second at a time in front of each hand, pushing and nudging and purring and as she makes her U-turn to walk to the other hand, she rubs her flanks against me.
I can’t help but smile. She knows what she wants and she is going to get it. For what ever reason, at this moment, she needs to be touched. I open my eyes and indulge her, scratching behind her ears and underneath her collar as she melts into me. If I don’t see this as a power play, if I don’t resent her for ‘winning’ or ‘getting her way,’ I can simply acknowledge that she knew what she needed and set about making it happen. I can stand in awe of her ability to make this the most important thing right now. I can wonder about my own self-awareness in a quiet moment and whether I am able to pinpoint that one thing that would feel the best to me and go after it.
I am grateful for this lesson and this quiet moment. And the truth is, even though I didn’t meditate, this touch is fulfilling for me, too. Feeling her thick fur fill up the spaces between my fingers and listening to her pure purring pleasure is satisfying and grounding. It gives me hope that the next time I am in need of touch I can let someone know.

When you can create a fantasy school?

Two days before school starts, Lola and I sit down at the breakfast table to make a list of the kids that will be in her class this year. Because she attends a multi-age classroom, there are always some kids who return from year to year, and others who are brand new.
Somehow, this morphed into Lola creating a list of kids who would make the best classroom possible. She adds friends from our neighborhood, babysitters “if they were my age,” and our dog, CB. There’s a pretty good ratio of boys to girls and a total of 23 kids in all. From this, we move on to designing the curriculum.
Lola decides that Science studies will consist of learning about guts, goo, and critters, Math is when they will count bugs, divide Trader Joe’s meringue cookies among the students and multiply brain strands. Reading will include some chapter books, but mostly Babymouse and Calvin and Hobbes comic books (‘everyone needs to giggle, Mom’). Throughout the year, the kids will write their own spooky and funny plays, create their own foreign language, engage in “Real Art” by doing it as well as studying artists, and have PE every day. PE will include dodgeball, kickball, softball, and running obstacle courses. History will be studied mostly by cooking recipes from important historical periods, and Social Studies, well, duh, “we’ll be social together,” Lola informs me.
She thinks that school shouldn’t start until 10:00 AM, despite the fact that she is up at 6:15 every morning, just to give the kids time to hang out in their pajamas with their parents before going off to school. It can go until 4:00 PM, but the kids get at least an hour for lunch and two half hour breaks for snacks or recess, plus one hour of dedicated recess. Four days a week they can have school at the school, but on Fridays they should go somewhere – a museum or a park or a water park or someone’s back yard or “a science laboratory to watch them do actual science and then I can tell them that that is where I’ll work when I grow up because I’m going to be the best scientist ever and sit in Albert Einstein’s chair.”
Oh, and Lola doesn’t want to charge tuition. This school is free. Sign me up!

I heard someone say once that the reason we get defensive when someone insults us is because there is a part of us that believes in the veracity of the insult. Think about it. Don’t we usually come back with, “No, I’m not!” or some such defense or proof that we are not, indeed, guilty of whatever our accuser has said we are guilty of? I know I do that. Once someone says something about me (unless it’s my kids – I long ago figured out how to let go the slings and arrows of being told I’m the meanest mother there is), I am immediately driven to prove them wrong. I see my girls doing it with each other, too.

“She called me a butthead!” Lola shrieks.

“Well, are you one?” I ask.

She is offended. Until she realizes that her bottom is most definitely not on her head and giggles. I remind her that just because Eve is older than her and flung the insult with a great deal of passion, does not mean that Lola is, indeed, a butthead. And if she were one, is that something under her control or not? If not, then it isn’t much of an insult, is it? That’s like calling the dog a dog. No matter how loudly or indignantly you say it, it’s just the truth and not derogatory. It isn’t his fault he’s a dog. He just is.

Like most of my parenting tactics, however, it seems that I must repeat this speech for both girls somewhere between half a million and two billion times before they actually either recall it on their own or think long enough to apply its actual meaning to this particular situation.

Why is name-calling so effective? Who first discovered that it had the power to stop another human in their tracks? Name-calling is like the sound bite of relationships – rarely accurate but effective at grabbing attention. I know that when my girls descend into “jerk” and “idiot” they have simply stopped attempting to solve whatever misunderstanding they are having and are simply trying to get the point across that they are MAD. I’m pretty sure the names are designed to hurt feelings, too, although neither of my girls would admit that they purposely wanted to hurt her sister. When we all sit down later to discuss the issue, sometimes I ask them for a character sketch of a jerk or an idiot or a butthead and, once we have all of the traits down on paper, it turns out that neither of them fits the description. So why is it so much easier to label other people with mean names than it is to say we are simply angry or frustrated or hurt?

I wonder if it is because calling someone else a name puts all of the blame outside ourselves. If we admit that we are upset, not only does that make us seem vulnerable, it somehow invites personal responsibility into the mix. If you are a jerk, however, it must be all your fault and I am teflon-girl. Certainly when I am accused of being a jerk or an idiot I have a moment, however fleeting, of panic. Is it all my fault? Did I make a huge mistake? What have I done?

I suppose that if I remember to think about the fact that I am probably not really an idiot (or the worst mother who ever walked the face of the planet), I might see that I have hurt or confused this other person inadvertently and, by not becoming defensive, maybe I can find a way to solve the problem without hurling some insult back first.
Easier said than done, but this is one of the opportunities having Eve and Lola has afforded me to look at my own behavior. Hopefully, it won’t take me more than half a million reminders to do things a little differently.

This summer has been a tricky one for Lola. Honestly, I think it has actually been more of a trial for Bubba and me, but it started out tough for Lola with this.

I got some feedback from the naturopath, who suggested we run some tests. I spoke to my therapist who had me answer a series of questions rating Lola’s behaviors in different situations. I confided in Carrie who pointed me in yet another direction. Is this sounding familiar to anyone? Bubba was not convinced. In fact, he was horrified and offended. Not his little girl. She is just quirky. Different. One-of-a-kind.

The therapist is fairly certain it is ADHD. Even though Lola has never been in trouble at school and her attention span is terrific, her need for constant motion, both asleep and awake, coupled with her inability to transition and low threshold for places like Costco, spell ADHD to her. She suggested we have her formally evaluated and try a course of medication. I nearly stopped seeing her for that. The fact is, I’m not going there yet. Nowhere near yet. Lola is lovely. She is wild and crazy and irreverent and funny and unpredictable and clever and the most loving child I’ve ever met. The possibility that medications would change her into someone who is calm and quiet all the time scares the crap out of me.

Carrie, on the other hand, asked me to check out something called SPD – sensory processing disorder. Jackpot! I printed out a thirteen page checklist and Lola and I sat down with a highlighter to mark it up. The list was broken down into sections for each sense: hearing, sight, taste, touch, and smell. Within each of those sections, there were questions about hypersensitivity (oversensitive) and hyposensitivity (not sensitive enough). We knew all of these things, but seeing the pages striped with bright green marks, leaving not very much white space behind was pretty telling. Lola is incredibly sensitive to smells and sounds, but craves touch (wrestling, squeezing, bouncing, twirling, tickling and being upside-down) and taste (sour foods like lemons don’t even make her cringe and when the last pickle is gone from the jar, she gets a straw and sucks out the juice). The more I looked, the more we found Lola in the pages of this list.

My therapist warned me that “SPD isn’t an official diagnosis, but is often a part of ADHD,” but I’m still not going there. It’s not that I’m resistant to Lola being ADHD, it’s that I don’t think she is. Truth be told, I’m resistant to Lola being labeled anything at all. Every time I talk to someone about SPD, the “D” (disorder) makes me cringe. I’ve found the “D” standing for dysfunction in other places and I really just want it to stand for “difference.” Lola is intelligent enough to know that she is different from most other kids and she is the one who came to me complaining of some symptoms, but I really don’t want her to begin thinking of herself as disordered or dysfunctional. Before we headed to the doctor’s office yesterday, I sat down with her to let her know I was going to share the checklist with the doctor and ask for some ideas from her. I wanted to be sure she was comfortable with that and didn’t feel as though anything was “wrong” with her or that she had anything to feel badly about. She seemed okay with it, but once we were in the exam room and the doctor and I began talking, she curled up on the table facing the wall and burst into tears.

Thankfully, our naturopath spent several years as an occupational therapist before becoming an ND and she has some tricks up her sleeve to help Lola begin to integrate her senses better and feel more comfortable with them. Bubba still isn’t convinced, but he’s willing to look the other way so long as the things I try with Lola don’t require a diagnosis or a prescription. I get how he feels. Lola is special and lovely and wonderful just the way she is. Neither of us wants her to change and we certainly don’t want this magnificent child to be labeled as something lacking or deficient or abnormal. This is a delicate dance I’m learning the steps to and I’m not sure I want to be on this dance floor.

I invited Dad to dinner last night in my dream. When he was alive, before we truly trusted our relationship, that was our way. Instead of meeting one-on-one, we would find ways to come within each other’s radius in public and invite the other one to come along.

In my dream, he just happened to call me when I was staying with a friend who was going through a nasty break up and I asked him to join a group of us for dinner that evening. He was pleased. I was pleased. Dad and I both had a terrific public face and we were proud of each other’s accomplishments, so presenting each other to our friends and acquaintances was always a safe bet. We would both rather die a thousand deaths than make a scene and trusted each other’s predictability.

“Do you think I’m insane to be having such a hard time breaking up with a guy who is such a jerk?” my friend cried as we dressed for dinner.

I don’t recall exactly the advice I gave her in the dream, but it was gentle and supportive and indicated that I knew exactly how she felt. I spoke to her as someone who is now happily married and, as such, proof that there is life beyond dating a jerk. I reminded her that no relationship is perfect, including my marriage, but being in one that makes you feel less of a person is simply not worth it. I was proud of my compassion and understanding and she was grateful.

I woke up before we got to dinner so I didn’t get to see Dad. Ever since he died, I dream about talking to him on the phone or getting letters from him, but I can’t ever actually see him. I pondered the peripheral nature of his appearance this time and ultimately felt good that we got past the “I’d like you to meet my dad” nature of our relationship in life. Unfortunately, it took my depression and Dad’s cancer to break through the surface and lead to trust and brutal honesty. We had three years of true, sometimes ugly, this-is-who-I-am talks and were able to learn so much from each other. I think that it was my willingness to admit that I hit rock bottom and ask for help that led him to a counselor in the last six months of his life. Even though I’m certain he knew he was going to die, this Marine-who-didn’t-ask-for-help-EVER found a therapist to help him work through some of the things that were hurting him the most. The fact that he went was astronomical. That he shared this information with me was even more phenomenal and indicated a level of trust that I will cherish forever. I am pleased that it gave him some comfort. I am sad that he learned that asking for help is less of a sign of weakness and more of a sign of trust only in the last six months he was alive, but I am so glad that he died knowing that he could seek assistance and be rewarded with love and understanding.

I’m still not sure what this dream means, but anytime Dad shows up I’m happy to receive him. Today will be spent basking in the warmth that his visit prompted.

Is there anything you do that you don’t require some sort of validation for?


Humans are such social creatures. Does that make us need validation from outside sources? Does that feed in to our “look at me” attitude? For other beings, things are more utilitarian. Build a nest so you won’t be eaten by predators on the ground and your eggs won’t fall to the ground. Hunt so that you can eat.

We have Twitter and Facebook so that we can constantly update our social networks with information about what we’re doing. “Just cooked the most fabulous dinner.” “Seeing the new release of Terminator:Salvation.” We post photos of ourselves and our children, videos of ourselves playing Guitar Hero, links to events we’re promoting or involved in. Are we creating connection or feeding our own narcissism? Are we showing off?

When I look at the kinds of things I do that I don’t require some sort of pat on the back for, I’m not sure there are many of them. When I spend a chunk of time planning, shopping for and creating a delicious meal for my family, I want some feedback. I want someone to say, “Wow, sweetie! That rocked!” or “Mom, please make this again!”

When I think about my book and what I want from it, I have to say that it isn’t one of those things. I truly wrote the book for myself. It would be sprinkles on the cake to have someone say they loved it or that it reached them somehow. The frosting would be the fact that it got published at all. I don’t expect or need, or even particularly want to sell a million copies and get rich from the book. The process of writing it was huge for me. It was an exercise in doing something solely for myself, solely to prove to myself that I could do it. The focus, the absolute selfishness it took to find the time to engage in the research and writing of the book, knowing that the chances it would be published was a way of saying to myself that it was worth doing simply because it was something I wanted to do. How do you justify spending five years of your life doing something that will probably not pay out financially at the end?

The answer, for me was that I wrote it because I was absolutely compelled to do so. To this day, I write because I can’t NOT write. I don’t write for a paycheck. I don’t write for an audience (much), because when I do I’m necessarily not happy with my process or the product. I write because I have to. And that is one of the things that I do that is pure.