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Monday, October 23, 2017

Maybe It's a Gift?

Cutest TimeHop photo, that I never would've
discovered if it weren't for waking up early.  
I had the flu last week.  It was awful.

I'm so glad to be feeling better now, finally!

The worst part of feeling icky last week was the fact that I had trouble resting and sleeping, because of a steroid shot and the Tamiflu I took.  Apparently, insomnia is a possible side effect for both.  So, I tried to rest, but wasn't really able to, which I think slowed down my recovery.

I would find myself waking up much earlier than normal, unable to fall back asleep.   Which drove me crazy. I would lie there in the early early mornings in the dark, and try to close my eyes and get back to sleep, and be so frustrated!

But then, this weekend, I thought, "Maybe this is a gift?" This peaceful time to be awake, to be still and calm, while everyone else is asleep, when the sun isn't out yet, and the world is quiet.  Maybe it's a gift?

When I thought of it that way, it did seem special, much less frustrating, and like a magical, quiet moment for me to reflect on the day to come.  I started to use that time to look at my TimeHop, or "On this Day" memories in Facebook, and to try to take a bigger view of my life as I started my day.

Nothing truly changed, but when I reframed that insomia in my mind, it made me less anxious about it, less worried that it would happen again, and less frustrated that I was awake before I really needed to be.  And feeling less stressed was a gift.

What can you reframe this week?  What is frustrating you a bit, that just might be a gift in disguise? 

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Notice gifts and Name them

It has rained quite a bit here for the past week.  I get a little gloomy without sunlight, so all the rain had me a little down.  But then I walked by my hostas and realized that the rain has made them look so beautiful and lush.  The rain is a gift, for these plants.

I cleaned out my daughter's closet over the weekend.  Oh, dear.  So many clothes that don't fit anymore.  So many shoes that she has outgrown.  So many toys that she is getting too big for.  My hallway is now lined with bags of things to donate:  some to hand down to cousins, some for Goodwill, others to take to my work.  When will I have time to deal with those tasks?  I just barely had time to clean out a closet, hah! It can be overwhelming, all the tasks to be done!  But then this evening, as I mulled over my weekly schedule and tried to pencil in Goodwill drop-offs, I realized that I should be thankful that we live in such an abundantly luxurious time, when shoes and jeans and books and toys are actually reasonably affordable.  And I should be grateful that my sweet girl worked hard during a weekend to sort and organize, and was even agreeable about donating her hand-me-downs (which never usually happens! She normally wants to save every shiny gum wrapper, hah!)  Abundance, and outer order, are gifts.

Each morning when I wake up, I try to thank God for several specific things.  I am thankful for my family, for my home, for my dog, for my strong body.  For rain.  For organized closets.  And even if it's rainy out and I have to step over 3 Goodwill bags on my way to the coffee maker, I really do find that when I notice gifts and name them, I am happier with my lot in life.

What gifts have you noticed this week?  

Friday, June 23, 2017

Zoom In

Today on my lunch break,  I noticed I was feeling pretty stressed about all of the items still un-done on my to-do list.  I knew I had a busy afternoon full of patients to see after lunch (which translates into zero time to get those tasks checked off my list!), and I was nervous that I would end up taking work home for the weekend if I didn't get it all done.  When I sat down at my therapy table with my first afternoon patient, though, I took a deep breath and told myself to, "zoom in."

It took a few minutes.  I was face to face with my patient, so I tried to notice what he was noticing.  I tried to see what it was that made him light up.  I noticed he'd had a hair cut since last week, and I could see his eyes better today.  I noticed that he smiled when he tapped a shape-sorter block against the table.  When I copied him and made the same tapping sound, he laughed.  I noticed that he used his voice more when there was noise in the background, like a ball popper popping or a musical toy playing.  By the end of the session, I had forgotten my to-do list stress, and had learned a few new things about my sweet patient that made our session incredibly productive.   Just by zooming in.

It's the same at home.  When I'm caught in the big picture of who needs to be where, and what needs to be done when, and how best to juggle it all, if I can just "zoom in" on my daughter, or my husband, or my dog, or a neat flower that just bloomed, my stress will often flow away, without a lot of effort on my part.

And now, it's Friday!  And I'm home!  And my daughter's spending the night with her cousin!  And even though I brought a tiny bit of work home, I'm going to "zoom in" on my hubby and have a nice dinner with him now!

What can you "zoom in" on today, for a quick happiness boost?  

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Summer Speech Sound Practice: Make it Fun!

This is the timer function on my cell phone.
It's within the clock app. 
It's summer, hooray!  Time for vacations and trips and a break from our routines!

I'm all for summer fun, but as an SLP (speech language pathologist), I don't want my speech students to lose their speech skills over the summer.  So, I often give parents summer packets and word lists to practice over their summer vacations.  But this summer, I have a new twist on speech homework:   The Super Speed Speech Sound Game.

(By the way, I got the idea for this game from the Whole Brain Teaching authors -- they have a super speed game for learning math facts, sight words, etc., and I love so many of their ideas!  Check them out!)

Generally, in the Super Speed Speech Sound Game, I give families a numbered list of 60 to 100 words that contain their child's target speech sound. These words are usually words we have practiced many times in speech, so that children can be pretty successful saying the words correctly, even without me there.  The words can just be a written list if the child is a reader, or I'll give a list of pictures/icons if they aren't yet readers.  Then, you play the game like this:

The Super Speed Speech Sound Game

1.  Set a timer for 1 minute. (most cell phones have a timer function)

2. When the timer starts, the child starts at #1 and says as many words correctly from the list, in order, as possible.  You interrupt them if the word was incorrect and have them repeat it correctly (quickly) before they can move to the next word.  Don't let them slip an incorrect word past you--we don't want a child to practice a word wrong! So don't be afraid to interrupt them and have them repeat the word until it is right.

3.  When the timer buzzes, write down the number of the last word on the list the child said correctly. This becomes their "score."

4.  Then, challenge the child to try to "beat their score" two times.  Reset the timer for one minute and have the child start over at #1 and read the same words over again quickly and correctly.  Again, if they say a word incorrectly, interrupt them and have them repeat the word correctly.  When the timer buzzes a second time, compare the # they got to with their first attempt.  The second try is almost always higher!   Celebrate that the child "beat their high score!"  Then, reset the timer again, and do one last round.  When the timer buzzes, write down the # they got to.

5.  If the child beats their high score twice,  reward them with a dance around the kitchen table or something equally silly.

That's it!  Instead of begging your kids to practice their speech words, they will be begging you to play this fun game with them!  (Well, maybe at least they won't complain about it!)

The Super Speed Speech Sound Game will build automaticity and help children maintain their speech sound skills even when they are out for the summer.  Let me know if you try it, and how your child liked it, if you did!

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Accept Help Gracefully

My view from bed, as my hubby greeted the pup this morning.
Today, I was very sick.  I woke up early in the morning to prepare some food for a pot-luck I was planning to attend at work today.  But within moments, I felt shaky and nauseated and just downright horrible.  A stomach bug had struck!

Luckily, it must've been a short-lived bug, because I felt much better by this evening.

But the thing that struck me today, was that immediately when I told my husband I was feeling sick, he jumped out of bed and got to work helping me.  He brought me ginger ale.  He turned on all of our fans, so I wouldn't be hot.  He got out the cleaning supplies and lysol.  He brought me a bucket.  He brought me a bell to ring in case he was downstairs and couldn't hear me.  He checked on me every half hour or so.  I felt so cared for.

It occurred to me that I am a grown-up and could probably have gotten all of those things for myself, even in my sick state.  I felt a little guilty that my busy hubby had to take time out of his day to help me.  Several times, I apologized to him, for being so needy.

But when I thought about it, I realized that if the tables were turned, I would want him to accept my help without feeling guilty about it.  I would want him to feel cared for and safe without having to apologize for needing help or care.  I would be honored to be able to help him, because I love him and being helpful is one way I like to show love.

And so I tried to just accept help, and appreciate his kind care, rather than feeling bad about needing help.

I do think that many times in loving relationships, if people don't accept help gracefully, it can put others off. A friend or family member who thinks they are being loving by doing things for others constantly but who never accepts help from others, can seem to be keeping other people at a distance, even if they don't mean to.  I think it's something we need to consider about ourselves.  How do our rejections of help, or our expressions of guilt, or our apologies when we do receive help, affect the person trying to lovingly give us care or help?  Does it make them feel that we aren't as close as they thought, because we are uncomfortable being needy in front of them?

Let's try to be graceful in accepting help from those we love.

Have you ever noticed this? How gracefully do you accept help from your loved ones?  How can you be better about this? 

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Don't Compare Your Beginning to Someone Else's Ending

miniature rose bud- last week
We moved to this historic Southern town last October.  We've been here 7 months or so, now.  I still feel new to the community, new to our neighborhood, new to our daughter's school, new to my job, new to our church, new to the friendships we are developing here.  I still use GPS to get most places.  I don't have an eye doctor yet.  The dentist that gets the best reviews can't fit us in until August.  I still can't figure out how to change my address for my bank account.  (Seriously, I've tried.)  And is the Pep Boys down the street going to put transmission fluid in my oil tank accidentally?  Should I try the local mechanic instead?  Some days I feel like I shouldn't be approaching forty still unsure of where to get my car's oil changed.

Also, my daughter's best friend that she met at school this past year just found out she is moving out of state this summer.  So now my poor sweetie has to navigate losing yet another BFF, which breaks my heart, as most of those losses of friends have been on our account, since we've moved 4 times in her 10 years, poor dear.

And it's hard not to compare myself to the families around us, who seem to be so integrated into the community, so supported in their friend groups, so active and involved in their schools, so settled and competent in their careers.

I forget that all of this takes time.  It doesn't happen overnight.  Or even in a year.

miniature rose  - today
Today, I was watering the plants in my tiny yard (a.k.a., my diminutive garden, as the fancy design book that describes our historic home calls it, haha!).  And I noticed that my miniature roses and Gerbera daisies are starting to bloom.

I had noticed the tiny rosebuds and the tiny furry sprig of the unfurling baby daisy last week.  And now, they're already completely different.  And in a few days or a week, they'll be even more amazing.

I have to remember not to compare my newly planted, timidly budding, slightly unfurling self with those hardy, veteran plants I see all around me.  I mean, really, that fuzzy curled up daisy is pretty horrific compared to the proud daisy I know it will be one day.  I can't compare the new sprig with the finished product.   It takes time to unfurl and straighten up.  Time to settle in, to fit in, to bloom where you're planted.

And so, I will continue to plug away at making our life here a good and beautiful one.  And to notice tiny signs of progress.  Because progress is beautiful, too.

Gerbera Daisy shoot- last week
Gerbera daisy unfurling slowly - today

When have you felt the urge to compare your beginning to someone else's ending?  What has helped you recenter yourself in those situations?  

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

New Happiness Commandments

I've been working on some new happiness commandments for 2017.  I'm not set on them yet, but I did come up with some things that make me happier when I can do them.

Experience nature.

Build your village.

Just add music.

Work hard to make a connection.

Move your body.

Do your best, and be done with it.

Indulge your senses.

Learn something new.

Reflect. But don't ruminate.

What would you add?  What "commandments" do you try to live by that make you happier? 


Anticipate Fun

The day of our engagement!  On top of Stone Mountain.
We're planning a day trip to Stone Mountain this weekend, and I'm really excited about it!  Stone Mountain holds a special place in my heart, because it's where Robi proposed to me.  And also, we've had a tradition of going to "Snow Mountain" for the past several years during the winter break, so keeping up with that tradition makes me happy, too!

I try to remember to "anticipate fun," because looking forward to fun times makes me happier!  And I'm not the only one who gets extra happiness from anticipating fun.  The authors of this article in the journal of Applied Research in Quality of Life found that vacationers get a strong happiness boost before vacations, and have much higher levels of happiness than non-vacationers when looking forward to a vacation.  (After vacations, not so much!)

I try to let Flannery know our future plans, so she can benefit from anticipating our fun trips, too. Today on our morning commute, I talked to her about our upcoming Snow Mountain trip, and what we might do there--getting cocoa, building a snowman, sledding/tubing, perhaps riding the train around the mountain.  It really does make me happy to think ahead about the good times we're planning as a family.   We also have a quick weekend camping trip planned in a few months, and a beach trip we're planning for the summer, and just thinking about those getaways puts me in an instant good mood.

So, what fun time are you anticipating?  If you don't have a fun trip or vacation planned yet, is there a quick weekend trip you could start planning?  Do it!  Just be sure to plan it far enough in advance to soak up the anticipatory happiness!

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Be Unhurried

My new favorite nail color -- Rosy Future.  Nice and natural but shiny. 
This has been the first weekend in a while that we didn't have big plans, and it has been so rejuvenating.  I slept in a tiny bit, took a nice long bath, and made breakfast--french toast for Flanna and her friend who's staying over this weekend, and eggs and sausage for the grown ups.  And I didn't feel hurried through any of those tasks!  It was so nice.

Then, I went to yoga with a friend, and we ran into another friend at the gym and ended up taking a nice long walk after the yoga class.  Again, unhurried--so nice!

Then, I came home and had lunch, painted my nails and the girls' (love this new color!), and made myself some hot tea (Cinnamon Chai, yum).  And now I have a few hours of endless options before Flanna has her Valentine's Dance for school.  Should I read a book?  Check Facebook?  Take a nap?  (Sleeping is my hobby!  That option sounds the best!)

As much as I love doing fun things and being with friends and family, sometimes it can be exhausting to go, go, go every weekend.  Being unhurried this morning has been refreshing!  Which makes me think that perhaps I should try harder to be unhurried more often in my normal routine. I could plan in a little margin of error in our morning commute, maybe.  I could more consistently make lunches at night, when there is no time pressure, rather than in the mornings when we are on a tight schedule.  I could plan my meals for the week ahead of time and be sure I have everything I need for each one, so I don't have to stop by the grocery store for any missing ingredients on the way home from work and school.  I could give myself a wide window between activities and appointments.  That way, when my daughter remembers that her jacket is all the way upstairs at the exact moment that we should be walking out the door for something, I can respond calmly, because I have planned ahead to be unhurried.  I'm definitely less snappish when I don't have to hurry.  And being non-snappish definitely makes me happier!

Do you feel this way, too?  That you're always hurrying and need to step back from that?  How can you try to be less hurried this week?  

Getting ready for her Valentine's Dance today

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Look Up

The earth is the Lord's, and the fullness, fullness thereof.  
This week, the tulip trees (Japanese magnolias?) have begun blooming all over the city.  I notice them as I am rushing to drop of my daughter at school, rushing to work, rushing home, rushing to the grocery store, and generally, well, rushing around.

I notice them, and they call to me.
To slow down.  To look up.  To take time, just a moment, to appreciate them while they are here.  Because they won't last forever.  Some gifts are brief.

And so yesterday, I paused.  I stood under a tree in a parking lot and looked up.

And peace came. I didn't even know I called it.  But it came.

What gifts call you to pause, and notice them? 

Call Peace

Flanna in front of a desolate city/tree-scape, several years ago at the High Museum
This week, the first week of Donald Trump's presidency, has been a difficult week for me to practice my 3rd New Year's Resolution --calling peace.  Each time I have checked the news, my heart has frozen as if it is a deer in headlights, staring at an oncoming logging truck barreling straight at me and my tiny fawns further behind me.

I try not to get too involved in politics, but I am fearful for our country this week.  Fearful for the long-term ramifications of allowing one powerful yet unkind human to "lead" a nation that is in desperate need of peace and unity but appears to be tumbling backwards in time and away from love.

I don't want to back down and be silent, allowing discriminatory actions to pass by without notice, but I also know that if I dwell too much on the larger picture of things that I cannot control, I will lose the ability to call peace.  I will forget to see the beauty in front of me.  I can easily become frustrated with my small sphere of influence and so much that needs to be done.  So it's a delicate balance, this caring for my family and myself, but also caring for my country and our world and all those hurting, oppressed, scared, suffering, and marginalized by these political changes.

This week, I will pay attention, and do the small things I can do, like contact my representatives and be sure my voice is heard, and pray for those who are hurt by the actions of our current president, and pray for that president, that he may learn from his actions quickly enough not to do irreparable damage to our beloved country.  And when I feel too pulled into the headlights of that oncoming truck, I will step away, and take deep breaths, and lower my tense shoulders, and lift my eyes up to the trees, and study the long eyelashes of my darling daughter, and pet my cuddly dog, and kiss my husband, and work hard to connect with my sweet clients.  And there's a chance peace will come.

What about you, how are you dealing with the political changes going on right now? 

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Tell Your Tough Family Stories

Flanna, age 2

I was talking to my daughter recently about her earliest memory.  She says she can remember me singing while I stood holding her in the shower in our green tiled bathroom with the bamboo shower curtain in our old home on Pulaski Street in Athens, GA.  She would've been about 2 at that time.  I do remember that moment, because it was unusual for me to hold her in the shower.  I usually gave her a bath, and even if I had given her a shower, I would usually just hold her hand and let her stand in the shower because I was too nervous I would drop her if I was holding her.  But on that morning, she had been sick, and I wanted to hold her up high so she could breathe in more steam from the shower.   I remember being nervous and holding her slippery soapy body so tightly, so she couldn't wiggle out of my arms.  But she just remembers a sweet warm care-taking experience, thank goodness, not my fear of her slipping!

Anyway, she asked why she doesn't remember anything from before this memory.  There were probably zillions of things that happened before that day that were just as interesting, if not more interesting than that first memory.  And I told her that one of my professors had taught me that we often do have sensory memories from before our "first memory," but that until we can understand and tell stories, we aren't able to encode those memories so that we can later recall them.  It was probably around 2 or 2 1/2 when she was first able to understand and tell simple stories, and that's probably why she remembers and can recall this moment.  

I think a lot about how stories are so important to us as humans.  Stories help us make sense of who we are, of who our family is and was, of how we got to this place and where we might go.  Stories are more than just looking back and reminiscing, they are actually important in how we see ourselves as connected to the world and what we think of ourselves individually.  Carol Westby, a brilliant SLP and researcher,  remarked in a recent journal article about the importance of teaching children to create stories about their own lives, "A coherent life story can lead to making informed choices, learning to effectively solve problems, and taking control of and responsibility for one’s life." Also, as I've discussed before in this blog, researchers at Emory University's Family Narratives lab say, "... adolescents who are embedded in a storied family history show higher levels of emotional well-being, perhaps because these stories provide larger narrative frameworks for understanding self and the world, and because these stories help provide a sense of continuity across generations in ways that promote a secure identity (see Fivush, Bohanek, & Duke, 2008, for a full theoretical discussion)."  When we can tell a story about how we overcame an obstacle, or how our family members faced strife but persevered, we help our children become more reflective individuals who can calmly face problems, flip back through their library of their own or others' experiences, and come up with solutions that might work in this case.

So, don't sugar coat your family history.  Tell your children the good family memories, but also the hard ones.  For Flanna, some of those include:  How her great great grandma died young, but the older children took care of the younger children as well as they could for as long as they could.  How the younger ones had to be sent to an orphanage, but they kept in touch and always sent letters back and forth.  How her grandparents worked hard physical jobs that were tough on their bodies in order to earn enough money to send their children to college, and their children were the first to graduate college on either side of the family.  How her great grandpa had a car wreck that caused a spinal cord injury but worked hard to relearn things with therapy and really enjoyed the therapy dogs that would visit the rehab center. How her great aunt wanted to have children for so many years and didn't give up and finally became a mom for the first time in her 40s.  How her grandmother had to move from one state to another the summer before her senior year of high school, and how that felt like the end of the world, but actually allowed her to meet her future husband.  How her great grandpa realized as an older man that he was actually homosexual, and how hard that was for the family, but also how it was probably such a relief for him not to feel like he was hiding his true self anymore.  How her great grandmother grew up in poverty but became a Women's Army Corps member and learned skills and got a great job as a switchboard operator and was able to provide for herself even after her divorce.

Giving our children the good stories along with the bad can steel them for the tough times in their own lives.  From our family stories, Flannery could learn:  that families take care of one another, that families work hard to stay connected, that our family values education, that it runs in her family to love animals, that children are a gift not a burden, that sometimes scary changes work out well in the end, that you need to listen to your heart and be true to yourself about who you are from the beginning, that it's smart to work hard and be independent and always be able to provide for yourself. It's hard and scary to talk about difficult things with our children, and we definitely need to wait until they are old enough to understand the concepts, but it's important to be bold enough to tell our tough family stories as well as the good memories.

What family stories do you think have shaped who you are as a person? What stories do you want to be sure to pass down to your children or your children's children?


Fivush, R., Bohanek, J. G., & Zaman, W. (2010). Personal and intergenerational narrativesin relation to adolescents’ well-being. In T. Habermas (Ed.), The development of autobiographicalreasoning in adolescence and beyond. New Directions for Child and AdolescentDevelopment, 131, 45–57.

Westby, C. & Culatta, B. (2016, Oct.). Telling tales:  Personal event narratives and life stories. Language Speech and Hearing Services in Schools, Vol. 47, pp. 260-282.

Friday, January 20, 2017

New Year, New Goals

It's a new year!  A new year, in a new state, in a new home, with a new job, and new routines, and new everything! Which, if you know the self help literature, means I have a clean slate--a brand new start! An easy new blank page for creating the life I want!

You know, right after I unpack, and hang photos, and pull weeds, and find a new doctor and new dentist and new salon and new eye doctor and...oh, eek, suddenly it's almost February and I still haven't decided on my New Year's Resolutions!  (Which I love to do, by the way!  I love goals and objectives so much that I write them both for work and fun!  Are you with me, my fellow allied health and special education peeps?!)

Anywho.  I always find that if I write my resolutions down where I will see them every day, I am much more likely to stick to them.  So, here they are for this year, below.  I've also written them on my Chick Fil A calendar in my kitchen.  And I'll rewrite them each time we switch to a new month, until they are etched into my very core.  ;)

1.  Just add music.
2.  Write.
3.  Call peace.

The first two resolutions are easy!  We have moved to Macon, GA, the Song and Soul of the South, so there is music everywhere in my new home and new city.  And as for writing--I have a blog that I am hoping to jump back into, and a zillion journals on my nightstand, and a writing group that will hold me accountable if I just ask.  But the last resolution is the kicker.

I was going to make my third resolution to practice pilates, but when I searched deeper, I realized that it's not just that I want to do Pilates--I want to feel the calm and peace and connectedness to my body and the earth that I feel when doing Pilates.  And really, I don't have to be doing Pilates to feel that.  I can call forth that peaceful grounded feeling anytime I want, just by breathing, and correcting my posture, and noticing the gifts around me.  So #3 will be the toughie but goodie that I think I can do a zillion times a day as I walk through the daily hurdles of this world.  How we need peace right now!

 I will start tomorrow, by loving on my precious daughter and husband and patients and families and calling peace at every greeting and parting throughout my day.   It's not much, but peace grows from a small seed.

What about you?  What are your goals for this new year?  Write them down in a comment!  You'll be more likely to keep them if you do!