The no good, awful really bad day. Tuesday, Jan 12 2016 

bad day

It was one of those days. You know the kind. Typically it starts before you even get out of bed (with a strange dream and a kink in the neck) and doesn’t let up until you call it quits that night. I was checking the forecast for a full moon, the calendar for a Friday the 13th, and wracked my brain trying to remember if I had broken any mirrors in the last 7 years.  It went a little something like this…

I stayed up way too late staring at my computer screen (and forgetting my age) praying for a stroke of graphic design genius to take over me. By 12:30am I realized that I had been staring at the screen without blinking for far too long and it was time to go to bed. With my eyes hopped up on electrical waves and my mind obsessed with figuring out a solution, my body did not cooperate. After a couple hours of tossing, turning and pillow fluffing, I finally met the sandman. The next morning I woke up to realize that the bells announcing my winning slot machine jackpot was just a dream and the bells were actually the sound of my alarm clock that had been going off for the last 45 minutes. I ejected out of bed to discover that my neck was frozen stiff. The cat (who was leisurely laying on my pillow that he stole from me like a thief in the night) looked up at me with irritation for disturbing him.

I made off like the time obsessed rabbit in Alice in Wonderland racing around to the house to rouse the roost.  We’re Late!!!!!! As I am faking patience and pleasantries with my beautiful sleepy eyed children I see her. The dog. The bad bad dog. Covered in mud from nose to tail, traipsing through every square inch of the house, trying her best to look pitiful and innocent. Someone forgot to close off the doggy door! Ahhhhh!!! “No worries” I tell myself. “It’s okay” I tell myself. “I’ll just spray her off with the shower-head while I’m in the shower,” I say.  I scoop up the dirty rascal, toss her in the shower and hurriedly follow behind her. As I step in the shower my foot hits what feels like an oil slick and I catch myself inches before cracking open my skull. Pain shoots from my neck through my arm. I imagine the scene I just avoided – naked with a cracked noggin in the shower with a dirty dog-and was grateful for my ninja like reflexes that saved me the embarrassment of a call to the paramedics. I spray off the trouble maker and reach for my own shampoo to discover the reason for the oil slick. My youngest used our shower the night before and apparently had quite a time. He had taken my shampoo, conditioner, facial cleanser and soap and created a concoction that was now sitting in the corner of the shower in a questionable looking tupperware bowl. I had no choice but to take a scoop and hope for the best. Maybe he will grow up to be a chemist.

We rush out of the house and jump in the car. We reach his school only 17 minutes late. I come to a rolling stop, tell him I love him like crazy cakes, throw him a banana and give him a quick kiss while he does the tuck and roll out of the car. I speed off headed 65 miles north to try and make it on time for the 12 back to back 30 minute case management consultations that I overbooked myself for. As I approach the toll I realize I don’t have cash…or change…or one of those passes that bills you later. I meekly pull up to the window to explain this to the toll worker. My confession is met with a scowl, a 360 degree eye roll, a handwritten copy of my license, my signature on 3 separate pieces of paper promising to pay the $1 by mail, a copy of my license plate, and the sound of 20 irritated morning rush hour drivers horns reminding me that I am inconveniencing them. For the rest of my drive I give myself a pep talk. I turn on the spa music. I tell myself that it’s only 8:45 and I have the whole day ahead of me.

I get to the office park,drive three separate lots and nothing. It’s packed like a sardine can. Just as I’m mentally measuring the space between the dumpster and the tree I find someone to stalk and finally get a spot. My first appointment is waiting. I apologize, hurry into the office with her and take out my computer. There’s no power cord!!!!! And it’s dead!!!! I’m over an hour away from home and I’m booked back to back. I go to the other offices in the building asking if someone..ANYONE has a power cord to fit my laptop. I was a frantic Goldilocks looking for the one that wasn’t too big and wasn’t too small, but never located a cord that fit just right. I tried to center myself- took a couple deep breaths and conceded to the fact that I was going to have to hand write everything and fill in the blanks later. I worked hard to be present and somehow made it through those 6 hours. No sooner had my last appointment left that I was headed the 65 miles back home to pick up my shiny new $165 facilitator manual that had just come in the mail. I needed it for an afternoon planning meeting with a colleague who shared the cost of the purchase with me. I pull into the driveway and started going through the house. I can’t find it. Where is it? It was in that box on the table last I saw it. I scoured every nook and cranny, called everyone, tried to retrace my steps, it was gone. Garbage day was that morning and the pit in my stomach told me that someone must have thought the box was garbage and had accidentally thrown it out.

I was in no mood for accidents- or mistakes- or inconveniences. Hadn’t I had my share! Didn’t I deserve a break! I yelled in frustration at my husband, I snapped at my kids to Quiet Down! I scoffed at the bank teller when she told me they charge $10 for a money order, I impatiently crossed my arms and tapped my foot waiting in line at the store for people who didn’t understand that I was busy and they could discuss their dog food choice with the cashier later. I had lost my patience with humanity. With human error. With the imperfections of the universe. I was on a roll of destruction and was looking out for every tiny infraction to add to the laundry list of my crummy day. And guess what I did in the process? I made it worse!

When I got home around 7 that night I walked in the door wearing my most pitiful look. I had visions of my husband telekinetically knowing how I felt and what I needed.That he would comfort me in exactly the way that I needed and wanted to be comforted at that moment. That he would scoop me up and hold me and listen to my day with complete understanding. That he would kiss me softly and tell me tomorrow is another day. That he would tell me not to worry about the kids or responsibilities tonight because I had a hard day and he had it covered. Instead, he innocently said, “Hi honey- we don’t really have anything in the fridge to cook tonight- what do you want to do for dinner?” I lost it! I yelled at him. I showed my ass. In my martyrdom I proclaimed, “I don’t know! Can’t somebody else figure it out! Why can’t somebody else take some responsibility to grocery shop, or figure out dinner!” He didn’t know what in the world was going on. Confusion must have been his first thought, and then feeling hurt and angry at the way I unjustly projected my stress and frustration from a day that didn’t go my way onto him. Then I was consumed with guilt and anger with myself.

I know my readers are thinking- so you had a bad day- what’s the point? The point is this- we will all have bad days- nobody is immune- not even your friendly local therapist. Even bigger than that- it is critical that we understand how we help the snowball get bigger and roll faster down the hill with our expectations and tendency to turn away from our partner instead of into our partner when things get tumultuous. We collect events and moments and replay the list of our woes adding each new thing on top instead of seeing each event’s magnitude and impact individually. Ask yourself for each new irritation, “On a 1-10 scale of terrible awful and horrible things- where does this single event fall?” Having a more accurate evaluation will help slow the snowball. Honestly- having to place something as silly as forgetting a computer cord falls pretty low on the terrible, awful, horrible scale. Forcing yourself to use a rating system will help you get your perspective back and maybe even laugh at yourself for getting bent out of shape at the level you have.

Most importantly, we don’t communicate our needs, yet expect our partners to anticipate what they are. When we are having “one of those days” and our normal strategies just aren’t making a difference, slow down and take the time to determine what you need. As succinctly as possible, communicate your needs to your partner- before you need them, not after they fail to read your mind and not meet them. For example, tell your partner, “I’m having a rough day- I don’t want you to try to make me feel better, but will you let me lay my head in your lap and tell you about it?” or “I’m struggling with keeping my patience right now- will you figure out dinner for the kids while I go take a bath?” or maybe even, “My day sucked….I don’t want to talk about it, I just need to laugh- let’s watch a comedy tonight.” Projection is a nasty defense mechanism that will inevitably (and possible irreversibly) damage the armor of your relationship. Your partner can be your biggest support, but you have to give them the tools to be able to support you.

Be a great day today folks…. and don’t forget to check out my website! www.fymcounseling.com

-Grace Moran

 

 

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Changing Your World One Smile at a Time Wednesday, Dec 2 2015 

smile2

After a long productive day at the office, I am reflecting on the day (whilelistening to the loud melodious snore of my overweight cat) and I find myself thinking about how many people I come in contact with or pass by on a typical day. That number surely has to be in the hundreds for most Americans. Just today alone- I started my morning with my husband (who looked mighty sharp in his tie), my bright eyed and bushy tailed 11 year old and way-too-early rising highschooler. After getting ready for the day, I waved to my next door neighbor as we each respectively got into our vehicles and headed off.

The trusted crossing guards were posted in their spots, the young students with their bright orange vests were on patrol, and teachers, parents and students were all already engaged in their own personal mission for the moment. After a quick kiss from my little guy and a “See ya later Alligator” I headed off to start my work day. On my morning drive alone I made eye contact with other drivers and pedestrians while at stoplights and I even shared a few words (and dollars) with the Skyway Bridge toll attendant. Once I got to my destination I encountered others vying for parking spots, a police officer drinking his morning coffee, and a couple going for a run with their dog. At least 50 people already and it wasn’t even 9:00!

As humans we are social creatures. We live in communities and we seek out packs. Sometimes we can start to feel like our lives have taken control of us and that we are led around by our obligations, responsibilities and routine. Oftentimes what we truly want to be doing at any given moment has to take a back seat to what we have to do at that moment. We may feel like we are going through the motions waiting for the moment that we can relax and do the things that make us happy. This is the underlying emphasis of the phrase TGIF! This can lead to dread on Sunday night knowing that you have work on Monday, burnout and boredom on Monday through Thursday and feelings of disappointment if your plans for your day off didn’t quite rejuvenate you the way that you had hoped. There is, however, one simple thing you already possess to change your world (and the world of others) every single day. This is done one smile at a time.

Your smile is extremely powerful- and better yet- it’s free! You have the ability to change the way you feel, and invoke a positive response from perfect strangers without even saying a word. One of my favorite games that we created with our children was the smile game. (Picking out the “People of Walmart” runs a close second.) When we go to a store we make a personal goal to see how many people we can earn a smile from. We go around looking to make eye contact with others so that we can flash them our big pearly whites- and guess what! 95% of the time they will smile back. Smiling is contagious and you never know what that one gesture of positive energy may have done for someone else, but better yet- you are causing positivity to return to you.

Be a great day today folks…. and don’t forget to check out my website! www.fymcounseling.com

Stoking the Fire in Your Relationship Tuesday, Mar 5 2013 

intimacy

New relationships can be full of romance, racing hearts, excitement and butterflies. As time goes on-intimacy changes and deepens, but oftentimes romance can take a back seat to life responsibilities. In my practice I work with a lot of couples who are struggling with problems and dissatisfaction in their relationships. I will hear commonalities such as, “He never talks to me anymore,” or “She just doesn’t appreciate how much I do for this family,” or “How can I ever trust him/her again after this!.” Typically problems and dissatisfaction lead back to a common missing piece. What the majority of people are really saying is, “I don’t feel cherished anymore.”

Traditional wedding vows promise to love AND cherish and these ideas are separate for a reason. Even if you are not married, these two things are key to any committed long-term relationship. Love is a feeling and cherish is an action. This week I am going to focus on sharing some tips to strengthening your relationships and improving communication and connectedness through the act of cherishing.

First things first- what does the term cherish mean to you? Take some time to think about it and talk about it with your significant other. Ask each other the question- when do you feel cherished? Webster dictionary defines the word cherish as: to hold dear- feel or show affection for- to keep or cultivate with care and affection- to entertain or harbor in the mind deeply and resolutely.

Ultimately it means to nourish, foster emotional connectedness, have compassion, boost each others ego, value each others company, being thoughtful, being interested in each others desires and excited about each others achievements, spending time, being helpful romantic and affectionate, creating new memories and reminiscing on older ones, taking a team approach to life, honoring commitments, the list can go on and on.

Sounds great right! Most of the things listed above are present in the new glow of a relationship in an attempt to get to know each other and determine if you are a good fit. New relationships are full of excitement due to the emotional risk of developing some vulnerabilities with a person. Oftentimes couples, after having been together for some time, begin to develop a pattern of predictability. With the assurance of committment, the individuals can begin losing sight of the importance of these things in the health of a relationship. People become comfortable with the hum drum of life and feel like they don’t have any extra energy left for the little things.  Your relationship shouldn’t evolve into a business arrangement with job duties of producing income, performing sex, cleaning the house, and parenting. A little bit of romance with a mind of cherishing will go a long way.

Romance is a state of mind. If you have the right mindset you can make cleaning the car romantic, but if you have the wrong mindset-you can turn a candlelight dinner into a fight. Ultimately it’s all about the little things. It’s time to recapture the fun in your relationship. Remember – relationships are NOT self-regulating. They are delicate creations that require attention, self-adjustment and regular tune-ups.

Read below for 40 quick and easy tips to spice up the intimacy in your life. If you keep at it- each partner will feel more cherished and in turn your connection will strengthen.

1. Rent a bicycle built for two

2. Make a toast to one another every time you hold a wine glass

3. Go out dancing- or practice in the living room

4. Write a love letter

5. Serenade him/her

6. Write romantic reminders on your daily to-do list. This part of your life is just as important as your other tasks listed.

7. Hide notes in little places (in his jeans pocket, by her car speedometer, in the medicine cabinet)

8. Make your spouse go on a wild goose hunt for his or her next gift with clues

9. Make up new pet names for each other. The sillier the better

10. Visit the local art gallery, museum or public garden together

11. Eat breakfast by candlelight

12. Shower together

13. Check the morning newspaper for his or her horoscope. Cut it out- write in the margins and stick it on the bathroom mirror or by the coffee pot.

14. After you say goodbye turn around and blow him a kiss

15. Touch more. Hold hands, brush her cheek, stroke his arm, rub his neck, kiss her nose, sit on his lap.

16. Share a bubble bath

17. Spend a whole day in bed watching funny movies.

18. Surprise him with the latest new book by his favorite author

19. On her birthday- send her mother a thank you card.

20. Program a sweet message on his phone and set the alarm to go off during his lunch break

21. Brush her hair

22. Say, “I Love You” at least three times a day

23. Carve your initials in a tree

24. Fulfill one of your partner’s fantasies

25. Throw his or her towel in the dryer while they are in the shower and bring it nice and warm when ready to get out

26. Be silly and act like kids. Toe wrestle-draw funny faces on the eggs in the refrigerator together-kiss every time you see a red corvette

27. Write a love message in the steam of the bathroom mirror

28. Go through revolving doors together

29. Stop nagging and complaining even if you’re right

30. Stop judging, correcting and lecturing

31. Don’t take each other for granted

32. Lay in the grass and make pictures out of the cloud formations together

33. Fly a kite together

34. Eliminate all interruptions. Turn off your phones and eliminate the TV. Ship the kids off to a sitter and stay home and connect

35. Read out loud to each other

36. Go to the costume store and rent each other costumes

37. Be each others biggest fan. Compliment each other often

38. Keep your own life exciting and maintain your individuality. Have a life outside your relationship

39. Don’t position yourself between your partner’s passion. Don’t force your partner to choose between you and his football or between you and her photography. “If you can’t beat ’em- join ’em!” Read a book about their passion or ask questions to get to know more about the things that interest your partner

40. Draw a picture of each other- doing your very best.

At the end of the day relationships take work- but it doesn’t have to be work that isn’t enjoyable. Romance isn’t buying diamonds and flowers (although those things are most certainly appreciated every now again), it truly is the little things in life that make it worth living. Communicate with each other how you like to be loved and make the effort to let your partner know that you appreciate them through frequent small gestures. You will notice a difference in how you relate to each other.

Signing off and wishing you all happy healthy futures.

Be a great day today folks…. and don’t forget to check out my website! www.fymcounseling.com

 

Middle School Mayhem and the Evolving Parental Role Thursday, Feb 21 2013 

parenting2

The moment we left the elementary cafeteria for our son’s fifth grade graduation, the nerves, worry and nostalgia crept in. Our little man was definitely growing up and eager to embark upon the next stage of life. Try as we might- there was nothing we could do to stop it. We had worked so hard up to this point to surround him with structured activities, to know his fellow classmates and teachers, and to protect his innocence. All of this changed on his first day of sixth grade.

The bus is perhaps one of the first places that children learn that there are all types of people, that gullibility is preyed upon, and that some children believe that talking about disgusting and shocking things is equivalent to popularity. The morals that you have instilled in your child will encounter their first true tests and your child will begin to morph the morals that are yours and develop them into their own based on their own life truths, developed beliefs and experiences. Prepare yourself.

With this being said, your child is also rapidly changing. They are having many bodily changes, emotional changes and social changes. Their strong desire to please their parents and teachers starts to give way in lieu of their desire to please their peers. Hormones are a real thing and as they begin coursing through your pre-teen they become distracted, sometimes strongly emotional over things that may surprise you, and cautious or embarrassed by things that used to be common place in your relationship with him or her.

Parents become frantic because of all the changes and they are afraid of losing their influence over their children’s choices, and they fear losing their relationship with their child. I have seen two ends of the spectrum that inevitably lead to problems. Some parents get trapped into changing their parental relationship to one of a friendship, and some change to a dictatorship. I’m here to tell you there is a better way.

Befriending your pre-teen in an attempt to maintain closeness and influence may seem to work well at first, but the boundary lines are blurred. While your pre-teen may pretend to detest your rules and parental advice, deep down they trust it because it is a natural division of the parent child relationship. When your child realizes that you have stepped down to a friend role they will slowly start to manipulate the relationship because they now hold some of the power to the functioning of the relationship. The parent then starts to feel as if they need to be sneaky or win over the favor of their child to stay in their good graces. Plus- no matter how cool you are in real life- you are not really that cool in the world of your pre-teen.

The dictatorship role is doomed in the structure. Pre-teens are starting to find themselves. They feel separation from their “old and out of touch parents” and already feel oppressed in their “dystopian” school and home environments. They are seeking independence, trust, responsibility, and are dealing with loads of peer pressure. Your child will make mistakes. Your child will fight for responsibilities they are not ready for. Taking a dictator role will force your child to take the extreme opposite position of anything you command to prove their maturity. Your child will also start to lie about the smallest things and will not feel comfortable coming to you with problems that arise in their lives.

The middle ground will work better to help your child develop safely and also to maintain a relationship of openness and trust with your child. Be patient with yourself. This evolving relationship takes time, patience, trial, error and a lot of faith. Some tips to ponder:

* Just because your child has been thrown into an educational environment that demands a huge increase in personal responsibility, doesn’t mean that they will immediately adapt to the change. They require help! Check with the school to find out if they have a website where you can track your child’s progress, assignments and homework. If not- contact their teachers individually and ask if they post these things somewhere online. After the first week of school- take your son or daughter to an office supply store and have them show you what they need to organize their school responsibilities. Use anecdotal stories of times when you were overwhelmed or unorganized and tell them what you found to be helpful. Check up on them DAILY to make sure that they are keeping up. After a couple months of your daily homework hounding and check-ups, let them go for a week  then check up again. If they are doing well then switch to a weekly check-up until they start to slip. Never ever believe at face value when your pre-teen says “I don’t have any homework”, or “I finished my homework at school.” There is always a test to study for or an upcoming assignment. Check the sites and see with your own two eyes. If your internal alarm tells you that your child is not telling you the whole truth always call them out on it. They will start to realize that lying to you is not an easy option. Trust me- an ounce of prevention here is worth a pound of cure.

* Create experiences that allow your children to show how grown they are. Give them ample opportunities to make decisions so they can begin to feel confident in their decision making skills. Slow and steady wins the race. For example- hand them your bank card and ask them to find a good deal for pizza online and put in an order for your family. Give him/her a spending amount and then leave him or her completely alone. You will be amazed at how seriously s/he will take this task. Every family member’s preference will have to be taken into account as will the budget and making sure there is enough food to feed everyone. They will have to fill out the correct information and complete the business transaction with the driver at the door. Act like it’s no big deal, but make sure you comment on how glad you are that s/he got XX type of pizza or act amazed at how good of a deal they got for the price. If they didn’t do too well- they will realize it themselves at the dinner table. No need to rub it in. They are taking their own mental notes.

* Keeping your pre-teen on track can be an exhausting task. After awhile you will feel like all you do is parent and direct. One of the best things we ever did was find a therapeutic horse riding ranch to volunteer at with our 12 year old son. Going there, doing hard labor together, benefiting other children who had severe disabilities, and gaining intrinsic pride were only some of the benefits. This helped our son realize the importance of philanthropy, helped him to see how blessed he was in his own life, and helped to teach him how good it feels to be a producer instead of just a consumer. He feels like he is an important part of something bigger than himself. He now begs us to take him down to go muck out the stalls!

* Hand over the leadership role to your child. Whatever your child is good at- have them teach you. At this point in time there are a multitude of things they can do better than you. If they play sports, or an instrument, or can draw an animal really well, or if they know some fancy dance moves, or a computer program, etc have them teach you how to do it. This helps them to develop leadership skills and helps to bind you together in a positive way. They will relish the ability to tell you what to do for once and will feel a sense of pride in their abilities.

* Take time to develop creative consequences- but above all else- NEVER EMBARRASS. Consequences are essential and necessary. Do not get upset that your weekend plans have to change last minute because your child requires a consequence. That’s parenting! Think up creative punishments that have a purpose. Your pre-teen is not going to responds to “time out” like s/he did last year. When they do need consequences-are driving you nuts-or have finally shocked you with something they did- resist the urge to vent to the whole world on your Facebook account or talk about their offenses to relatives at Christmas dinner. Just think about how much you would like your dirty laundry or life mistakes aired out to the whole world without your consent. What will inevitably happen if you do this is your child will resent you, it will be damaging to their sense of self-worth, and they will not trust you. Pre-teens pride themselves on the idea of “respect” and I guarantee that if you make it a habit of proclaiming to the world the faults of your child that s/he will never come to talk to you about relationship woes, ask for your advice about things that are private, pose embarrassing sex questions, or share concerns about a friend’s drug habit or peer pressure.

*Talk to your child about sex. I can’t be anymore blunt. By sixth grade, your son or daughter already knows that people have sex and how they do it. They learned that way back in third grade. Now- they are hearing about much more nefarious things that people do in the bedroom (especially with the advent and availability of handheld wireless devices.) Although you will feel uncomfortable, just do it. Perhaps you can start off reminiscing and talking to your child about how uncomfortable you felt when your parents talked to you about sex, but how glad you were that they did. Allow them the opportunity to ask you anything and answer them truthfully (within reason). Don’t just have “the talk” once- have it multiple times.

* Continue to protect your children from violent or immoral media. Think about the effect that spending 3 hours per day, 5 days per week shooting and killing virtual characters can have on your child. If you don’t want your child to communicate the way that the characters on Family Guy communicate then don’t let them watch it! Use your parental controls on all devices. Unless you want your son or daughter to learn about romantic relationships by typing in the keyword “sex” on you tube- this is essential. Tell them why you feel it is important that they do not view these specific things. By restricting these things is opens up opportunities for communication so you can tell them why you do not feel it is right for them. They may seem bigger and may act like they know it all, but do not let them fool you. They are still the same sponge that they were as toddlers and they are still emotionally young. They just assimilate information in a different way. My son will whine about his cheap flip phone- his lack of an I-pad that EVERYONE else has, the fact that he can’t play Black-Ops like EVERYONE else, etc., but the next day he will talk to us in shock of how other children’s parent just appear to not care about what their children do. He will incredulously relay a story of how some kids treat their parents poorly. This shows us deep down how he appreciates our rules and involvement because he knows that we love and care for him.

*Lastly, never forget that you are a role model for your children. When that person cuts you off- show self-restraint. When your significant other is on your last nerve, take a walk and model how to assertively get some space. When you are wrong- apologize and own up to it! Afterward applaud yourself. When you fail to be a good role model- tell your child what you wish you would have done instead. Let your kids know that you are human too. Tell your children about your own personal growth goals that you are working on. Let them know that we are all a work in progress and you are no exception.

The rest is just good ole luck and the passage of time. My parting words to you through these tough formative years is…best of luck and remember- this too shall pass. Till next time.

Be a great day today folks…. and don’t forget to check out my website! www.fymcounseling.com

-Grace Moran