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?

References:


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!