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Saturday, March 15, 2014

Give Empathy Hugs every Morning and Night

spring is almost here!
I love reading about relationships, and I hate that I can't remember which book I read this in, but there is a fantastic practice I've been working into my routine lately, and I just had to share it. 

It's called an "Empathy Hug."  And here's how it works. 

In the morning, right away when you wake up and greet your spouse, hug them for a few moments and really try to think of how they are feeling--what they might be worried about, excited about, focused on, working on, etc.  Really try to cultivate empathy for them in that shared moment.  Then, when you wake your kiddo (if you have kids!), do the same.  Hug your kiddo for a few moments, and really try to get into their mind and think about what they might be thinking about, feeling, worried about, hopeful about, planning for, etc.  For that moment, try to take their perspective.  Then, at the end of the day (before bed, for example), do the same thing. 

It might seem a little strange at first, but I really find that trying to take the perspective of my loved ones as a part of my regular routine really makes me think of them all day with more love and care.  It builds loving connection whether we are together all day or not.  

Also, I find that if I'm trying to think about things from their perspective but I'm not sure what their concerns for that day might be, that spurs me to ask them specifics like, "What's on your plate for today?" or "What are you looking forward to today?"  And then, once I know something specific about their day (for example, my daughter was excited that it was her teacher's birthday today, and she had made her a card.), I find myself wondering during the day how that went, and just generally feeling  more connected to them all throughout the day, just because I know a few little specific things that they were thinking about that morning. 

Also, sometimes if my hubby or daughter have mentioned a concern that morning, and then that evening they seem upset or irritated, I find that I more often have an empathetic response (rather than an angry why-are-you-in-a-bad-mood response!) because I have already tried to think about things from their perspective that day. 

So often, I think that our thoughts shape our responses to our loved ones.  So when I make a habit of cultivating empathy, I think it's easier to feel connection and caring and to respond with patience and understanding.  But when I'm busy and only thinking of the thousands of tasks to check off my to do list in my head, and don't take time to cultivate empathy, I'm much more likely to respond with annoyance or irritation. 

So, what do you think?  Is it worth a try?  Give it a month, and see if you don't feel closer and more connected to your family members just by giving two little "Empathy Hugs" per day.  (And then let me know how it goes by leaving a comment!)

What helps you have greater empathy toward your loved ones?  When do you feel the most "connected" to your family members?

Thursday, March 6, 2014

What I Wore Wednesday

speech therapy and meetings
I've been trying to hold myself accountable for putting a little effort into my outfits lately, and since I was too busy to post last week, I have quite a few outfits to post today.  Some are rather blah, but I tried to use more accessories this week, and it was fun!  I do feel better when I'm wearing at least one piece that I really love.  I also took time to do my nails this week, and felt much more put together when I'd see my shiny teal nails in passing.  :)

What makes you feel good when you wear it? 

my new favorite grey suede shoes with little silver studs

church and out to a movie

I've been experimenting with larger earrings, fun!

speech therapy, new long necklace from Ross

meetings and speech therapy

speech therapy and evaluations

office day - paperwork and meetings

tunic and leggings with boots, running errands with Flanna on Saturday
sporting some new earrings from Target and a long necklace from Lia Sophia

Paperwork and meetings - neat India inspired silk shirt from my mom

working from home - report writing/paperwork (I added the scarf to go out to pick up Flanna)

Saturday brunch with the family - hand-me down animal print cardigan from my MIL

speech therapy and testing day; this is my wonder woman pose.  :)

Monday, March 3, 2014

Marriage Monday: Learn How to Start Over

Yesterday, I was lucky enough to hear our Archbishop Joseph give a sermon about forgiveness, while he was visiting our church for Forgiveness Sunday.  And he said something that really stayed with me.

He said, "Most of our problems in life stem from our inability to start over."

He said that when we sin or make a mistake, we need to change not only our behavior but our attitude, and start over again.  He said this in the context of us asking forgiveness, and granting forgiveness, but I think this is beautiful advice when applied to marriage, as well.

When we are selfish, or rude, or impatient with one another, we need to learn how to continually start over with a loving attitude.  When we have been snappish, or interpreted something our spouse said as being snappish, we need to allow ourselves (and our spouses) the chance to start over and repair things.  When we have worked long hours and come home exhausted for days at a time and had barely enough energy to ask how our partner's day was, much less to actually listen when they respond--we need to start over without blame or guilt and work hard to build connection and attention to one another again.  Learning to "start over" might be one of the most important lessons we learn to keep our marriages strong and happy. 

I know that there are times when relationships cannot be saved, and when no amount of "starting over" can fix things, and I'm not talking about those times here.  I'm just talking about the typical squabbles and irritations and misunderstandings and struggles that are bound to come about when we live our lives with someone.  But I think that some people might interpret these typical squabbles and irritations and misunderstandings and struggles as grounds for ending things.  Maybe this is why the average marriage relationship only lasts 8 years?   Maybe we need to learn how to start over with our partners, rather than moving on to someone new.  As the Indigo Girls say, "These are ghosts and mirages, all these thoughts of fairer weather."

I think, too, that being able to "start over" afresh is important in our relationships with other friends and family members.  When my daughter has driven me to the edge of my patience, we both need the chance to start over again with a loving attitude--without either of us holding a grudge!  And offering forgiveness, and begging forgiveness of one another, is often a good place to start in the "starting over" process!

So, there it is, folks, a bit of wisdom from a sage old Archbishop.  Who, by the way, also offered this wonderful quote yesterday:  "If I fell asleep during church, it was because my body was tired, but my mind was still worshiping!"   Hah!  I love that!

What about you?  Do you think learning to "start over"has been important to keeping your relationship strong and happy? 

Speechy Sunday: Follow Your Students' Interests

So many of my elementary aged students love more than anything to tell me about their pets.  One little girl tells me about her rabbits before she even says hello to me on days I see her for speech!  So it seemed only natural to follow my students' interests and create a "Pet" unit for our literature-based speech-language therapy sessions.  For this unit, we read these 3 story books over and over: 

Harry the Dirty Dog by Gene Zion,
Stray Dog by Marc Simont, &
Whistle for Willie by Ezra Jack Keats

Each time we read the books, I teach specific vocabulary and concepts.  Here, I'm going to highlight the vocabulary and concepts I teach for the "Harry the Dirty Dog" book.

Key vocabulary:
except - but not
bury - to put in a hole and cover over with dirt
filthy - very dirty
changed - became different
recognize - to know who someone is
exhausted - very tired
expect - to think something will happen a certain way
disappointed - upset or sad that things didn't go how you expected
confused - not understanding
relieved - no longer upset, glad something stressful is over
comfortable - cozy
scrub - to wash by rubbing hard with a rag, sponge, or scrub brush

The first time I read this book with students, I often discuss the idea of changing from clean to filthy and back again, and create a craft illustrating the similarities and differences between clean Harry and filthy Harry.  For concepts, I like to point out the endings of these words:  dirty, dirtier, dirtiest-- and how "er" means more, and "est" means most.

The next time we read the book, I often encourage my students to create complex sentences using the sentence frame shown in the picture (ex:  He feels disappointed because he expected to go inside and eat dinner, but he can't.). 

The last time we read the book, I encourage my students to tell the story to me, using all of the vocabulary and concepts we've discussed throughout the times we've read the book already.  I take data on which vocabulary words, concepts, and complex sentence forms they can now use on their own.  I used to think that these types of story book activities worked only for "language" students, but I have to say that after using them this year with all of my clients, I will never do articulation sessions without a book to serve as a context for the words we are practicing again.  It takes some planning ahead, but is really useful for getting to spontaneous use of target words really quickly. 

This is also a great book for students on the autism spectrum, because it sets the stage to talk about different people's expectations, thoughts, and perspectives, and how they might be different depending on the situation.  In the book, Harry the dog gets so dirty while he is out playing that he changes from a white dog to a black dog.  Then, sadly, his family doesn't recognize him when he gets home.  Some good high-level questions to ask students include: 

 -Why is Harry disappointed when he gets home?  Because he expects to come home and eat dinner after playing all day. But instead, his family doesn't recognize him and won't invite him inside.
-Why don't they recognize him?  Because they expect him to be white.  But he is black.
-Why did Harry change colors?  Because he got so filthy.
-How did he get so filthy?  He played in filthy places. 
-Why did Harry want a bath at the end (when he hated baths so much at first)? Because he wanted his family to recognize him.
-Do you think Harry will ever get that filthy again?  (prediction-- maybe not, because he doesn't want to come home and not be recognized again!)

This book can be challenging for some students, especially students who are on the autism spectrum and might have difficulty considering other people's perspectives and thoughts.  But I have found that if I repeat the book enough times (3-4 times), my students understand the concepts by the end of the unit, and really enjoy being experts on the book by the last time we read it together.  I have also been blown away by the multisyllabic words that some of my articulation students begin pronouncing correctly after we practice them within the context of the story over and over.
our new little dog!

And funny story--the first week of this unit, as I was reading "Stray Dog" to my students, guess what I found?  My very own stray dog!   Who is now a wonderful member of the family!  So hooray for children's literature for planting a seed in my heart to have compassion on a little dog alone out in the world! 

What's your favorite book about pets?  (I also love "Hondo and Fabian" by Peter McCarty--a great book about a day in the life of a dog and a cat that my friend Dana gave Flanna one year.)