This blog is a stream of conciousness from my head to the keyboard to the screen. There will be talk of random subjects. If you have delicate eyes, proceed with caution. I like to talk about controversial subjects and sex a lot. So, take heed my friends. This is not a blog for debate, but for love and sharing. If your views do not match my own, love to you, but don't bring the rest of us down. That's all I'm saying.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Monkey Mind (A Fat Story)

My mind is jumping all over the place this morning. It's a little thing I like to call "monkey mind". (borrowed from "the Accidental Buddhist"). Here are a few of the things racing about in the noggin flinging excrement today (come on, that's a funny monkey reference):

- I just wrapped up one committee commitment, I'm ramping up another, one more week of one, starting a new one today and in the middle of another that has a 9-12 month commitment.
-My kids are in wacky land right now. I blame the change in the weather, it seems the most victimless thing to blame.
-I have friends and family that I need to catch up with as I feel like I've been out of the loop for a couple of weeks for some reason.
-This couple day a week gymnastics teaching just seems to get in the way as it hits on random times and is so infrequent it doesn't seem like a real part of my schedule.
- My whole house is in messy chaos right now as I am coming off a week of uber PMS and 4 days of brother/sister-in-law and nephews being in town.

In other words, I am a mom. You could insert many monikers into this last sentence and I am sure it would work just fine, i.e. dad. I don't want anyone to think I feel moms have the corner on monkey mind, or monkey business for that matter.

With all of this  swinging from vines in my head, there is one incident my mind keeps going back to. I think this incident shows my masterful self control as a parent, no kids were smacked, my keen timing, I let things unfold as they did, and the awesomeness of my daughter, which I will take credit for at this time.

The kids were eating dinner at church youth group last night. They have music, craft and then dinner before the lesson time. It's awesome. I run the craft and so I am always late to dinner having to clean up before I join the kids. I usually sit with my little one and so my big girl asked me to sit with her and told me she would save me a seat. She did and I sat at her table once I joined the dinner festivities.

I knew all the kids at the table, a lovely group, except for the one boy at the table who was introduced as the cousin of one of the girls dining with us. Awesome. It's brave for a middle school boy to join a table full of girls. Kudos.

The conversation goes along, blah, blah, blah. "Hey Mrs. Neuwirth, have you ever eaten real chicken?" "Yes, I have." "Does your fake chicken taste like it." "It kind of tastes like it, but the texture is different." blah, blah, blah. Then the kids, 4 in middle school and 2 in 5th grade (my kid being one of the latter) start comparing who knows who. Fine, fine. Then the boy asks my daughter's name. She gives it. He repeats it incorrectly. She restates it. The he says...wait for it...seriously this is a quote..."Oh, I know you. Someone said you used to be little and now you've gotten a lot bigger."

The whole table realizes that he is referring to her weight. Everyone knows she is rounder, hippier, and boobier than she used to be. The whole table freezes, including me. I decide in that split second that I need to keep my mouth shut and let my girl deal with this.

This is her worst fear come to life, someone calling her fat. This is what she has cried about on the way to school for the past two days. She has been so worried that people will call her fat with short season and smaller clothes on the way. She calls herself fat, not realizing that puberty will fill you out whether you are ready or not and whether you have the stature to pull it off or not. When your body decides to round out a barely over 4 foot 10 year old, it's going to look different than on a 5'1" 13 year old.

Fat, fat, fat, fat. This is what she worries about. This is what she now is faced with. I hold my breath and wait for the barrage of tears, the screaming, the hurt for days to come.

"Oh, I know you. Someone said you used to be little and now you've gotten a lot bigger." My girl, "Really? Thanks for sharing!" All the girls at the table, "What is wrong with you?" "Why would you even say something like that?" "You don't need to repeat things all the time." etc. etc.

Translation: You dumb ass, what the hell is wrong with you? That was an ass-hat thing to say so you should just shut up now.

I like the way these ladies have handled the situation. My daughter looks at me and I just give a nonchalant shrug to confirm it's all good and boys are stupid. This satisfies her and she repeats her original response. The girls continue to mumble disbelief at the boy. I finally breath. In the back of my head I am wondering if there will be fall out later when she is driving home, going to bed or getting ready for school tomorrow.

There is no fall out.

She is fine.

I think that she has had to face a big fear of hers and she saw that it did not swallow her up. She was able to stand her ground. Not only that, she had backup. He didn't. She did. She fought and she not only won, she kicked ass!

Keeping my mouth shut was not easy. But, the support of her peers and her sticking up for herself was much more powerful and necessary than anything I could have done or said. I am proud of my girl and her friends. I think this was a huge opportunity for growth and she took it. I am proud.

Well, that is one monkey back in the jungle and out of my mind. With one monkey on his way out, I have a feeling others will follow. That's the way it is with monkey mind. If I can get a single primate moving on, a single task done, one good parenting moment accomplished, momentum tends to build.

I wish everyone a monkey free day and opportunities to face your fears and kick the crap out of them like my daughter did. She is awesome!!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Driving to School

How is a 2-3 min. car ride to school capable of completely changing the mood of the morning?

Every one was up, dressed, finished with breakfast and happy. Lunches weren't quite ready when we hear the squeak of the bus tires, so I tell the girls I will run them up to school. It's just about a mile away. Close enough to walk if we got an earlier start, but it's always the bus or we drive if we're a few minutes behind.

Down the front walk, my 6 year old begins explaining how she's just like a teenager. She has her phone in her hand (an old one of my father-in-laws that she plays with), her book and her rolling backpack. She tells me the car is an airplane because she has her suitcase, phone and book to read. So funny.

My oldest is in shorts. It's chilly out, but has been so nice in the afternoons. She confirms that it is supposed to warm up and says this might not have been the day to dress "cute" since her legs are a bit cold. I assure her it will warm up and I like her outfit, too.

We back up out of the driveway, first fit. Little one can't get the seatbelt on right so big sister is trying to help and is getting frustrated with the attitude she is getting. I convince the little one to let her sister help and the older one to calm down and both of them to speak nicely.

We drive several houses down and now the little one is kicking the air and hitting her legs because the seatbelt is bugging her (I mentioned we have sensory issues around here, right?). This annoys the older one who starts telling her to calm down in a not so calm voice.

We round the first turn, about a block from our house. The noise from the back is getting louder. I stop the car and tell them they are not to speak to each other anymore, re-explain why the seatbelt is being funky because it is the same reason it gets messed up every single time we get into the car and this happens. The little miss now throws her fake phone and she is informed that she will be leaving that in the car and will not be playing with it for the rest of the day.

Now my youngest is crying and is still pissed off at the seatbelt. I can see my older one speaking under her breath, I know threats are happening, she is reminded not to speak to her sister.

We hit the first of 2 stop signs. My big girl thanks me for driving them to school. She knows I am not happy and starts to try to make amends. The little one is still fussing. She says thank you, too, in between pouty tears.

We hit the second stop sign and now my older one starts thinking about entering school, they just had 4 days off and that always makes re-entry difficult. She starts to contemplate her wardrobe choice and starts to get nervous about the whole wearing shorts thing. Little one is starting to calm down.

We pull into the school and I hear, "Why did I wear shorts? People are going to be asking me a million questions. They are going to make fun of me. They are going to say I am fat. Look at all these bruises on my legs from playing this weekend. They look horrible......" I remain silent because I have no idea how to comfort all these thoughts out of her in the 2 seconds before she leaves the car. My youngest has now stopped fussing.

The side door of the van is opened for them to go into the building. They say good bye, they love me. I say that I love them too and I hope they have a good day.

They walk into school and I drive home on the verge of tears.

What the hell just happened? What am I supposed to do with this? Is there a parenting lesson here? Did I miss the mark on this one or are my children just out of there little minds like many other children out there? Holy crap!

Sometimes I just don't know about this parenting gig. Somedays I feel like a freakin' rock star of a parent. The kids are happy, well behaved, kind to each other and to other people and happy. Other days like today I feel like I am doing something so wrong because I can't even have a 3 min. drive to school without all hell breaking loose.

I just feel sad.

I don't know what they are going to do once they are in the building. My kindergardener will probably go into the class just fine because the damn seatbelt is not on any more. My fifth graders whole day is going to hinge on what the first person says about her outfit. I hope it is a friend. I hope it is not someone who is going to be unkind to her. I can't control any of this. I dropped them off and had to leave and assume that all would be OK. There is a lot of letting go in parenting.

Now, I am going to go get some coffee, fold some laundry, and let go of this morning. I do not get a notch in my good parenting belt this morning, but the belt has not been taken away. I get to try again later today and hopefully it will go better.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Gifts for My Children

Do you ever do things and then realize it is something you have seen your children do? Sometimes I see them and hear myself. But for me, generally, it is a realization that I have just mimicked something that I get after them for. Then the thought that they perform that action, because of me, causes a moment of pause.

Sometimes this pause is filled with laughter because I think it is so funny that they chose to copy that statement or action. Other times it makes me sad because it is something that I do not like and would rather they did not emulate.

After such an incident this afternoon with Blaine, I had to really stop and think about why I interrupt people who are speaking to me. This is something my girls do all of this time and it drives us both super crazy.

So, I was wondering why does this happen with me? I do not feel what I have to say is more important or valid. I want to hear what the other person is saying. I realized that I don't know I am doing it, until I am doing it. When I have a thought in my mind, it takes a minute to process it before I am able to find the words. Many of you who know me well have seen me pause mid-sentence to search for a word or a phrase to verbalize my thought. Since this thought is stuck in my head as I am processing it, I often do not hear that someone else is starting to speak. It is only once my thought is together and I am speaking it that I hear that someone else is already speaking.

Our youngest will walk up to Blaine and I and just start talking. When we pause and draw her attention to the fact that we are in the middle of a conversation, she usually replies, "Well I didn't know." This has always confused us because we were obviously speaking. Now maybe I understand. Slow processing. That is our problem. How to fix it, I don't know. But, I think I will be a little more lenient on my kids when they interrupt the hundreds of times a day that they do.

So, let's see, gifts that I have given to my children. I have given this gift of interrupting along with some anxiety, OCD, major tactile defensiveness and other sensory issues. That's OK. Counseling and medications abound and they will be fine.

Growing up with all these traits in my little body, in my adolescent years, early adulthood and up to now, has created the person that I am today. It has developed other traits and ways of being that I am proud to pass on and I am happy to see the girls imitate.

I am very compassionate and driven to help people, especially the "under dogs." I was an under dog a lot of the time growing up. I know what it meant to me when people would take time to help or notice what I did. This is also why I became a teacher, studied psychology and got a degree in multi-ethnic education. I want us all to champion each other regardless of our similarities or differences in race, gender, age, SES, culture, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, family make-up, etc.

I am deeply spiritual. I had to be in those years that I was suicidal everyday. I had to feel there was a purpose for me to be here. I had to feel, and know, that a higher power put me here because I was to make a difference otherwise, I would have cashed in my chips long long ago.

I am a big smart-ass. When you are teased and laughed at often, you either cry a lot or learn to laugh. I decided about 10 years ago I would laugh. I laugh loud and often. I make jokes about things all the time. I am very sarcastic because I like that type of humor and I think it reveals truth in a way that people will listen.

I love deeply. I do not let a lot of people into my inner circle of friends. There are lots of people who I respect and value that I don't let in. If you are in my inner circle it is because I love you and I trust you with everything that I have and everything that I am.

This leads to a trait that can be good or bad, I am vulnerable. I decided a long time ago to be a Pollyanna about this world. I truly believe that people are good. People want to do good things. All parents try. There are circumstances that lead to bad decision making. There are things beyond our control that can make us use poor judgement. However, in general, I am willing to be disappointed or get hurt from time to time to live in a world where I believe people have my back and people are well meaning.

So, let's see, compassion, spirituality, a sense of humor, deep love and vulnerability are also gifts I give to my children. All of these things I also see emulated on a daily basis. My girls are amazing, caring, gifted, passionate children. So I consider those traits I mentioned earlier the yin to the yang of these traits.
All things in balance.

What gifts of yours do you see in the people around you? What gifts do you see in yourself. Look and see what you are passing around, I am sure you will be impressed. We are all complicated complex creatures of nature, nurture, circumstance, fate, and free will. Embrace all that you are and all the gifts you have today.

A friend passed on some words that she saw on a t-shirt the other day. I think it sums up all things well: Namaste Bitches!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The Labeling of it All

OCD, depression, ADHD
Social Anxiety Disorder, Depression, OCD
Significant Anxiety and OCD, Inattentive ADHD
Suspected: Significant Anxiety and OCD, Combination ADHD

These are the members of my immediate family according to the DSM V. Counselors, doctors, neurologists, teachers, and family members have all confirmed this information. What does it mean? Does it mean anything? What does it look like? How does it affect our lives?

It's just a bunch of labels. But, it's all true and it is significant in our lives.

I will clarify the meaning of these letters quickly for anyone not familiar: ADHD=Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, OCD=Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Inattentive ADHD=Not the kid running around the room, they just can't pay attention and concentrate, Combination ADHD=The kid who can't pay attention and concentrate and is also running around the room, Social Anxiety Disorder=Fear of engaging with people, even people they are very familiar with.

What do I do with this? For a long time I ignored it. I didn't think it was making that big of an impact in our lives or was noticeable to outsiders. Sure, I have been in and out of counseling since college and I've been on medication for a very long time. This is true for a lot of people. How was I different?

I was different because there were times that my house got to the point of being barely livable due to the dishes piled up, the stacks of laundry, toys and things everywhere, dirty bathrooms, sheets that hadn't been changed in months, kids having meltdowns on a daily basis, and a husband who would prefer to stay at work than come home. Not because he didn't want to be with us, but because it was such chaos and clutter and confusion it was awful to be part of.

There were times that I wanted it to be/feel different, but I was stuck. It was so hard to fix what was going on with my home and family, so I started to help fix things elsewhere. I'd help my mom organize. I'd volunteer places. I was the one willing to run errands for people. All of this got me out of my house so that I didn't have to look at it or think about it.

I was overwhelmed. I couldn't get started. I felt like the person who weighed 600 lbs., lost 300 lbs., and was still morbidly obese. I would clean one room, even two, just to have the stuff from other rooms spill into the clean areas, and I would give up again.

Meanwhile, things were getting more difficult at school for my big girl. This year has been significantly better. Part of the problem, a big part, was the teacher from last year. This is not be being a protective parent, she is no longer at the school. It was the teacher. However, I am grateful. Seeing my child struggling kicked me into gear.

I decided to quit my teaching job. That environment was poison to me. It was not like the other teaching jobs I had. I did not wake up ready for the day and excited. I woke up dreading having to go. I knew quitting that job would make me stronger and then my job could be my family, my home, our issues, our needs. I knew I needed to quit fixing outside things so that I could fix what was right in front of me, what the actual root of the problems were.

It has been 8 months since all of this has come about. Change is difficult. New routines are difficult for me and for the rest of my family (remember the OCD part). My house is now more often clean than not. Laundry is done weekly. Bathrooms are cleaned weekly, or more often. Floors are swept and things are dusted weekly. Bed sheets are changed every other week (I'm still working on getting this to weekly), dishes are done on most days, but are never more then 2 days behind. The girls have clipboards with morning, afternoon, and evening routines on them. They will follow them with reminders. The girls are getting to school on time since I am getting out of bed on time. We are not missing meetings or outings because I am keeping, and referring to, a calendar.

All these things are items that most people do. I am starting to do them, too. I still have rough spots. There are still days that I struggle to get out of bed or off the couch. I still hate answering or talking on the phone. I get impatient with my children only to realize that I am not providing the structure they need. And it's ok. I know it is not the end of the world. If my house things do not get done for a day or two, I can catch up because it has not been weeks or months since I did those chores last. The phone is a good and friendly item. People are calling to talk, not yell at me. And kids are resilient. They roll with things and forgive me for not always doing what I know is right. I can always try again.

So, these labels do mean something. They mean that I have to be diligent, without distractions, to get to where I need to be. I need to focus on my family to help them focus. My family deserves my attention and I deserve my wonderful family.

I know there are so many other people out there who struggle. I want to tell them: You are awesome. You can make any changes you need. There is help. There are people ready to support and love you. You can do it!

I am awesome. I can make any changes that I need. I can access help. There are lots of people who love and support me. I can do it!

Friday, February 4, 2011

What is Rape?

I love John Stewart because he brings to light the ridiculousness of life. Not all are fans because he is super liberal, he blasts the GOP, and he is not a friend of the far right religious faction, but sometimes he just gets it right no matter who you are.

If you have not watched the link above (click on the title "What is Rape?"), take a second and watch. Go ahead, I'll wait. If you have already seen it, keep on reading.

How is it a group in Congress think they can "redefine" rape to leave out a group of people who generally feel no one will believe them anyway. The group that they are trying to "undefine" as rape victims are people with limited mental capacity, people who have been drugged or who have taken drugs (including people who become unconscious), and people who are on a date. I am assuming this last category extends to people who are married, but I am not certain.  

Have we not been espousing "no means no" for years now? How long did we fight to get that as the accepted mantra? Is the act of rape not defined by non-consensual sex? Now, we are going to excuse some forms because there were 191 federally funded abortions last year, costing each tax payer 2/10 of a cent.

In order to save that miniscule amount of money, Congress is willing to take power away from a group of women who have been victimized and are willing to victimize them a second time.

I know married women who have been raped. I know people who have been raped by friends. I know people who have been date raped. I know people who have been attacked and raped. Does this list alone not show the prevalence of this horrible crime? By the way, non of the women that I mentioned ever reported this brutality. Why? Because they were afraid of a second victimization in the courts. They could not bear the thought of a judge not believing them. That's what their husband, boyfriend, date and/or stranger had already told them would happen.

There are petitions floating around the internet, there is one at the bottom of this page. Let congress know that we still believe that "NO MEANS NO." We women want to keep our power and we are willing to fight for it. We had to do it before, we will do it again.

Here is the link to sign the petition being brought to Congress:


Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Solitary Peace

As I sit here, I can hear ice pelt the tin awnings of my bedroom windows. It is a peaceful and amazing sound. The sound woke me this morning and I immediately said a prayer of thanks for my warm house and the fact that my husband, children and cats are safe and warm with me.

We are very lucky.

Shortly after getting out of bed, and having my coffee, the girls and I decided to take a bath. We were a bit squished, but we managed. While in the tub we discussed how we would most likely be stuck in the house together over the next few days, no one able to come in or go out. The girls are used to daily running about the neighborhood with friends. We also spoke of what we would like to do to amuse ourselves during these days together. We continued talking, while getting prunier, and ended up discussing where we would like to live, travel and work when we grow up. I was part of that discussion as well because I don't have the answers to these questions for myself.

Sometimes I get worried, no scared, no intimidated about the future. It seems so daunting. What do I want to do? Where do I want to be? Who and how do I want to be?

I caught glimpses of some possibilities, that at lest stretched my mind and got it moving, this weekend. I was on an amazing women's retreat that I am very proud to say I had a hand in creating and running. The speakers were amazing and really helped me start to think about how I think about things, including the future. A little metacognition is always good for soul searching.

Do you know there is a small part of our brain, about the size of a peanut, that sits on or by our brainstem, I forget the particulars, and its sole purpose is to make sure we are afraid. Of everything. It's called the amygdala and it was a very powerful and useful part of our brain in the days of the caveman. It made us afraid to be alone and worried about our every move in order that we would not be eaten by tigers. I learned this on the retreat.

In modern time this part of our brain is a little less needed, and a little more hindering, of our daily living and functioning. Our being afraid to be alone, to not fit in can overshadow the reality of what is happening around us. How often do we assume that people are thinking negatively of us and then live/react to that false information? They think I'm too fat, not smart enough, not a capable homemaker/worker, not a good mom/dad, etc., etc., etc. We are afraid to not be liked and fit in. We don't want to be left alone to be eaten by tigers.

What if these thoughts were false. Just consider the possibilities. What if this peanut sized part of our brain is wrong. Let that sink in. What if we quit listening to it's false signals of danger because they are not true. The "tribe" is not thinking these things. We are safe. We are in a group. We are competent, smart, a good size and shape and loving parents, spouses, family members and friends. What if you stood up to you amygdala?

I'll tell you what brain scientists have found. They have found that just by acknowledging that those negative thoughts might not be true, you actually shift your brain chemistry. That's right, the amygdala no longer is the only part of the brain firing. You free yourself just by considering the possibility that you are safe. There is no hungry tiger.

So, now as I sit here and listen to the ice pelt my house, knowing that I am blessed and safe and warm, I am able to enjoy our solitude as a family. I know when we do finally get to leave this house there is a tribe of people, family, friends, co-workers, to welcome me back into those worlds. I will remember that they are not judging me. They respect and love me. And just by acknowledging these facts, I am free to live for now and the future without fear and the intimidation that I sometimes have about not doing things in the right way, in the right time and with the right people's blessing.

I am able to dream, like my children do, without reservations or hang ups, about what I want to be when I grow up. I had some big thoughts come to mind at the retreat this weekend. I will let them stir around without judgement, concern for what others might be thinking, and without my pesky amygdala telling me the lie that there are tigers right around the corner, just waiting to pounce and disturb my solitude.