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One Month To Go! The Purge Continues.

I am hunkered down in a coffee shop as my husband and children are hawking all of worldly possessions that we don’t want anymore. Sounds pretty sad in some ways. However, we have been divying up jobs for months. This, the Great Yard Sale, is one of the worst jobs for me. Being a salesperson to my personal belongings is like having a root canal. In many circles, I am considered by some to be a ‘sensitive’ soul so, I attach a lot of meaning to things and that bites me in the bum from time to time.

My husband was very patient with me as I poked through boxes I was helping set outside and pulled things out saying, ‘Really, we are giving up this?’ IMG_2945A saint, the man is a saint.

Don’t get me wrong, sorting out our house and reducing our belongings feels good and liberating. Only, I am a product of a pack rat mom and with both of my parents having now passed on, there are little things of theirs that I attach enormous meaning to. It is a bit crazy since I know these things won’t help bring them back but, they spark a bit of memory in me as I consider them.

My parents would have loved this round the world journey. They taught me that the world is more than the neighborhood around you. I grew up in a town of 5826 people with one stoplight, one movie theater and one newspaper published once a week. Yet, I knew of the magical lands beyond our borders.

My father was a businessman who travelled to various ports in Asia and Europe at least once a year. Mom, traveled with him and wrote a food column based on the foods and adventures from their destinations. Interestingly, us kids didn’t travel with them but, we had the spark to follow our own paths.

In 1980, my sister was a Rotary exchange student to New Zealand at age 16. I remember the day she got the call informing her where she was going. She covered the phone and yelled at us to quiet down so she could hear (likely, my brother and I rough housing in the background). She hung up and announced, “I am going to New Zealand”. I stared at her as I had no idea where that was. We pulled out an atlas and I gasped. The vast distance across the Pacific Ocean marveled me.

I winged it to Europe the summer of 1989 and was in the Netherlands for a year while witnessing the Velvet Revolution that winter. I was hooked. Since then I have lived, studied or worked abroad for five years of my life. However, the last 14 have been in Portland, Oregon. So, I got all tied down again with things, places and meaning in routines.

These are not bad things, just a different allocation of energy. So, we are ready to shed our skin of living here. At least for a while.IMG_2949
As I have written before. I have been feeling a great responsibility to our kids to make sure they are okay. And now they are chatting up folks on our front lawn convincing them that their Spiderman costumes and Elephant and Piggie books would be a great addition to their lives.

I am learning to let go and be again. And my kids are helping show the way.

 

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To Do – Part Two – Feels like A Bit of Scrambling. Just Breathe.

Okay, remember when I said we were working on our list of To-Dos? That was nearly a month ago and now we are down to two months (OH BOY!). I have learned that we need to break these steps into time frames i.e. housing needs and doctors appointments now and travel plans in South East Asia later.

HEY, side bar… What do you think of our new logo! Thanks so much to Zoe at Zoe Pdx She hooked me up with a great new logo and she has a lot to offer. I met her through a connection from TEDx Portland. Check her stuff out!

Here are the next steps on my list.

13. Set up First Aid/Medical Kit: We are going tomorrow to get our shots for travel and are negotiating what that means for the kids (extra shots!?!?) but, we also need to plan for upset stomachs, general medical care and the management of allergies that many in our family navigate everyday. I understand you can get most medications on the road but, when and where might be daunting if we have a sick kiddo in the middle of the night or in a rural area. BTW, my husband won’t like that medical stuff is listed under number 13 but, we’ll keep tabs on it.

14. Special Toys for the Boys. I don’t mean big gadgets (that is a later conversations). More about how to help the boys with the transition and feel connected to home. Oakley is often the one who wants to ‘just stay home and play with my toys’. He has this lovely and magical imagination where he creates worlds out of his legos, figurines and other small toys (you remember Toy Story). So, we need to bring a small selection of toys to bring with that help them both feel connected and happy.

Both boys have Kindles and that is amazing and wonderful but, we will use the environment around us as well to explore.

15. Frequent Flier Miles. Signing up every family member for miles is a bit tedious but, can have some great benefits. We are flying with rock bottom deals as it is but, every little helps especially many months in when we may need that boost of miles to get us where we need to go.

16. What to do with Mail? We are still wrestling with this one. I have my business mail and then our personal mail. I have found a couple of places that take care of your mail and scan items that may be important. One is Traveling Mailbox. They charge by pieces of mail and what services you need such as deposits of checks, re forwarding on etc.

17. Special IDs for boys and safety kits. No one likes to think of things going haywire but, sometimes they do and we have to plan with our boys about what our plan is if we were ever separated and IDs for them to keep them safe and officially, noted to us without having them carry their passports all the time. Boots and All has a great article that goes through the basics.

18. Sort our Finances. This is a big one as many countries don’t treat credit cards with the same frequency as we do in the States. Also, there are all those pesky fees, currency trading fees and all that. A lot of that is on the road information. That is another task all in itself and I’ll come back to that on a later post.

We are looking at sorting our money now on this side. We are paying off any balances we have, ending subscriptions and memberships we won’t be using (Netflix will stay!) but, it is amazing how much that all adds up. We are also taking the Money Cleanse through the Paradise Pack we are a part of.

19. Move out of office. For nearly four years, I have had a private practice in a lovely house with other helping professionals and I am sad to leave that space. That move in itself is going to be a doozy as I have all my files, supplies and many, many, many books. I  need to sort how to manage that while I’m gone in the event that someone needs access to those files. My colleague Hillary Mondry is going to be my custodian while I am remote. She is a gem and a great counselor if you are in the market.

20. I also have to finish my CEUs (no time like the present!) to keep my certifications in check while on the road.

21. I am setting up my practice so, I can work from the road with folks who are in ‘maintenance’ mode. I want to have a true ‘holiday’ and I will but, I also want to work some from the road to keep me fresh and of course, for a source of income. That means using video platforms that are safe and confidential and scheduling resources that help with helping us ‘show up’ on time. Gen Book is used by a lot of folks.

22. Set up a good bye BBQ. We are already joking (but, seriously considering) having a grab bag at our good-bye BBQ. Folks get to take a bag full of stuff to use, sell or donate. Ha! We actually have wine glasses from our wedding that will we be giving away as good bye gifts. This is going to be a night fraught with mixed emotions. We are coming back but, really will miss so many. We are going to have one in Oregon and one in Idaho where a lot of family live and we will spend our last week.

eryk-fudala-129284

Photo by Eryk Fudala on Unsplash

23. Last night! We are going to spend our last night with a good friend (of 38 years!) who will also be loving and caring for our cat while we are away. Staying with a friend on that last night will be so important even though we will get up at an ungodly hour to take off.

24. World school Supplies. We have a lot to sort here. We have feedback from the boys’ teacher and we are starting to firm up our details of how it will look from the road which  supplies electronic and paper. I’ll write more on this in another post.

Well, that is this update and check in! Whew…so much we are working on. Thanks for joining us and staying tuned. Feed back is welcome!

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World-schooling, A Whole New Responsibility

One hundred and seven days to lift off and all the tasks are piling up and colliding. Many of them taking up all the extra space in my head between all the responsibilities of now..such as work, getting kids to and from school, food, shelter, etc. 

So, the big worry on my mind today is our kids eduction. This might be the biggest fear for me about this travel (so far!). IMG_1700I have never seen ourselves as people who home school their kids. We have always sought out the appropriate education philosophy for our boys and embraced our school as they plan for our kids.

The Montessori approach has worked really well for us, especially with the sensory challenges we have had along the way. We love the student led teaching style, how students learn concepts from accessing working materials, free movement around the classroom, small group or individual instruction and independent follow-up.

The ‘going out’ philosophy of approaching research in the world is an aspect we really love .In this Going Out activity, the kids are encouragejan-mellstrom-242087d to research and seek out a way to investigate their question. The steps to find out the answer to their question has the child find out the place where one would learn about that interest.
For example, one would go to an aquarium to learn about the Pacific Octopus (this was one of Canyon’s interests). The kids (usually two or three at the most) have to figure out how much it costs to go, they have to call the place to see what the hours are (no internet searches!), who could help them when they get there, what are the directions to get there and so on. Then they write out the questions they have to ask and how they will write down what they learn. At the end of their outing they report back to the class what they learned.

We are looking to apply this approach as we maneuver the world. However, I get scared that we won’t be able to keep them on task with their math, reading and writing skills. roman-mager-59976I realize how much we depend on our schools to keep our kids ‘on track’ for their learning. It is their professional job! I am not a professionally trained teacher. Kelvin and I both have skills to share, like any parents but, the responsibility of being in charge of a year’s worth of eduction feels very daunting to me.

I don’t want to screw this up! We have met with our kid’s teachers and they are giving us some guidelines to help us as we go through this year. It also tells me that I don’t want to be in charge of this educational part for all of their education! I have always respected teachers and now I am particularly aware that I am a bit out of my depth. We also have plans to Skype in with the class about once a month to keep up connections as well as foster enthusiasm for learning and sharing.

People are very supportive in saying our boys will be fine. “No worries!” says a friend, “you’ll be learning so much on the road.” Okay but, I also don’t want them to be behind their learning levels when we return. Our kids teacher has given us some material to use as we go along. gaelle-marcel-8992We already started a practice of writing in a small journal at the dinner table after our meal where we each write a little bit about the day. Oakley will write one sentence and Canyon a couple. Kelvin and I also write and we all check each other’s work. We generally write down what we are grateful for that day. Noting small, notable things that happened that day.

We started this journaling exercise last October and are not doing this daily due to the crazy schedule of sports, work and occupational therapy being some of the many things that rearrange our schedule every day but, we get some practice in. We plan on doing this every day on the road. Hopefully, this will help all of our writing skills and create a wonderful journal of our experiences in the world.

If you are following this please let us know what you think, what you would do and how you would caretake your childrens’ education.

 

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OMG! We ARE really doing this!!

The last couple weeks pieces of our plan have officially fallen into place. Kelvin’s new passport arrived. Yay!! Then we had a flurry of activity as we set up two house/pet sits in September in Brisbane, Australia. And we got our tickets to fly!

So, here is a rundown of recent events. Over the last months, I have been searching for a good fit for a house sit in Australia. Trying to make sure that where we choose or get chosen is where we want to be but also, logistically a good place to be.

In the US, we are used to driving long distances but, it is a big deal to try to drive 1400 kilometers between housing opportunities. hugo-villegas-174015And an even bigger deal when we try to do it in three days in a country we haven’t driven in together (Kelvin was there on his own in 2001), driving on the ‘other side of the road’ for us Yanks and in a camping vehicle we have yet to rent or even select. The situation gave Kelvin and I some pretty funny conversations as we were trying to rationalize a mammoth drive to get in between locations for a place to stay.

The organization we have been working with Trusted Housesitters to find the best matches. We have had lots of conversations, Skype chats and emails with potential matches and I was beginning to feel like I was online dating as I was proposing matches for our family as being the ‘best match’ for others on the other side of the world.

We finally sorted a match with a woman near Brisbane, Australia to care for her three kitty cats and bird. She is also, generously, allowing us use of her car while we are there. She is actually going on two trips with an eight-day break in between and she asked us if we could do the first leg as well. jesse-collins-92501It sounded good but, we were coming from Hawaii and wouldn’t be there for the first two days of her trip. She, again kindly, offered to make her trip work with ours so we can be her support and she ours.

I then started scrambling to figure out our tickets to Australia from Honolulu. I have been playing around online with searches for the ‘perfect’ ones and had yet to officially commit.

This is where things got really interesting for me. We have been planning this trip, at least in theory, since last August. A good eight months ago and just like a woman in denial of her pregnancy, I didn’t actually believe it was all happening until I had visual proof. For me, it was the tickets.

I have flown around the world many, many times, however, I have never been responsible for two little humans in the process.john-cobb-14130 It’s one thing to throw things in a backpack and dig out my passport but, an entirely different kettle of fish to be arranging four flights to another country with visa applications, baggage requirements, thoughts about timing, food accessibility, world schooling plans, accommodations and time changes for all of us.

We were up very late at night. It was the only time Kelvin and I could effectively talk about these plans without the’ regular’ day logistics happening around us. My brain froze as my hands hovered over the ‘Click to Purchase’ button.

This is after several more searches in Google Flights and Momondo as well as the airline Jet Star where we eventually bought our tickets. I was breathing heavily. I looked at Kelvin and my eyes grew big. He looked at me questioningly.

“Yes….?”, he gently asked. “What’s going on?”

I stared at him and said, “Are we really doing this?”

Here is where my very patient and kind husband could have said any number of unhelpful things. Instead, he just said, “Yes, we are and it is all going to be okay”.

At that moment I had all the details of our trip that I have been pouring over in my mind, on paper and on the internet swimming around in my head and I thought, ‘Where is the adult around here that we can check with?”

Then I realized, WE are the adults! Yikes! This just got real.

I had a similar brain freeze when I was seven months pregnant with our first son, Canyon and my friend Wendy was driving me home from michael-waters-105757Baby’s R Us with the crib my in-laws had bought us.

I knew it was going to happen. That baby was going to be coming soon.  But, I didn’t really know it until that moment. I was looking like I was nine months pregnant as it was but, it was that crib being brought into our home that really hit it home for me. It was real.

Wendy was reassuringly hilarious as she calmed and comforted me that we would get through this, the baby was indeed going to be here in about eight weeks and, that it would all be okay.

So, that night last week, we officially bought our international tiIMG_2002ckets that will transport our family to the other side of the planet.

And it will all be okay. Right? Of course, right.

The day after we bought our tickets my husband left me a bunch of flowers and a note that read, ‘Australia, here we come! I love that we are doing this!’

He is my elixir, yet again.

Onward and upward to the planning…. more to come. Thanks for joining us on this journey and we prepare for our journey.

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Giving Up Our Safe Spaces and ‘Things’

Five months to go to lift off. There are a hundred scattered thoughts in my head. Things happening in our world distract me endlessly and I am working on pulling myself back to our trip. It feels like wrestling with the alignment in my car. 

So, what’s next? Well, still trying to pare down our possessions. Mostly, this feels like it is happening in my head as I walk from room to room and think about what I really need and what I can let go. IMG_1716I get caught in this struggle to find the ‘best’ place for my stuff. I think, ‘I really should sell that book’ rather than just give it away. So, then I get caught in the crosshairs of finding most economical solution and what is that, really? If I clean out the metaphorical cobwebs doesn’t that have a plus on my well-being?

Recently, I have discovered Let Go and Offer Up and I
love the concept of them. The idea of being able to see what you are buying or post attractive photos of what you are selling appeals to me. I get that Craig’s List is similar, however, the immediate visual works better for me. Now, the problem is not scrolling around for things I don’t need to gather. Just sell. Just let go. Don’t accumulate.

Then the challenge in renting our house out. I so wish we could leave our furniture but, understand it is a risk in having it taken care of in a way that we would. I cringe in paying for big storage unit while trying to rent out our house. Hence, the desire to reduce our ‘stuff’. How willing are folks willing to rent out a house for a year, knowing they will not be able to extend the lease? My hope is yes folks will. So, there in lies the challenge. To find the right rental match for us and our house.

IMG_1700Did you know you have to pay taxes on your rental income? Some of you are hitting your forehead with your hand and saying, ‘YES, I knew that!’.
Well, I am catching up, just give me a chance. There is the magical pricing of getting a rent to pay the mortgage, the fees for someone to ‘manage’ the house while we are gone and then adjust to make sure we can pay taxes and I’m not paying to have someone stay at our house. It is a bit of math wizardry.

I’ve been looking at  Zillow to help figure that out. Found a good article on finding renters. The things to include in a rental agreement. Feels a little fool hardy to leave our most important purchase in our lifetime in the hands of strangers for year but, this whole venture is a risk. Jumping into plans to completely rewire our reality for a year feels scary. And leaving our house is a giant step of vulnerability. It’s our place of safety, comfort and, quite literally, home.

Keep tuned….more mind bending contemplations to come.

 

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Perfectionism and Sensory Overload

Every day closer to our departure, I am getting more excited and, honestly, a bit more freaked out. Reading other travel blogs excites me and then sets a new bar of ‘I wonder if we could do that’ to ‘Should we do that’ to ‘Are we supposed to do that?’  Trying to avoid the quesitons in my head that have a should, ought or must in them. Trying to reword them into maybes and that could be interesting. I have a lot of articles on my reading list tab and an other dozen in open windows on each of my devices. I have to consciously remind myself to read and enjoy and not read and add to my FOMO (fear of missing out) list.john-mark-arnold-42898

Trying to be careful to avoid perfectionism, I have to dig deep and ask myself what choices would mean in the long run and avoid that biggest annoying, perfectionism question ‘What would other people think’. That is a big one that we all grapple with and sometimes succeed in out running. I reach to Brene’ Brown’s work on vulnerability and perfectionism and it helps me ask myself reasonable and helpful questions. I am striving to be more internally motivated rather than externally so.

Overall, my husband and I have had a lot of positive feedback to our travel plan. Yet, this is a plunge into the unknown, for us as it is for most folks. We can read a lot about what travel is like for families in Laos but, what will that really be like for our family. We have two boys with sensory struggles so, all our parenting life has been learning how to navigate seemingly routine situations with a new eye on how this will play out for our boys, each of which has a different threshold for specific sensory input and output.

Personally, I’ve encountered some narrow-minded feedback on what our kids are dealing with, from ‘Is that (Sensory Processing Disorder ) even really a thing?’ to the equally unhelpful ‘You are over reacting and no wonder it effects your kids’. With a deep breath and shake of my shoulders, I move on.

Our boys are contemplating thoughtful questions about travel that one with experience in clemente-ruiz-abenza-134561leaving the country might overlook. I love the simplicity of their queries about ‘Are bathrooms available where we are going?’, ‘What is the likelihood shark attacks in Australia?’ to the far-reaching of ‘What if I miss my friends?’ and ‘Where will we sleep?’

Kelvin and I are both seeking solace in knowing we can’t answer all the questions and many not until we get to where we are going and that is okay. We can find basic answers to help the curiosity but, we are realizing that we are teaching our kids that predictability is not necessary and is, in fact, a wild goose chase. We are learning to contemplate that some steps have to be taken with a leap of faith and that it will all turn out the best it can for the situation we find ourselves in.

This doesn’t mean we are not working to soothe and calm each other in the face of the unknown but, we are going to work to avoid exacting answers that may change.kristopher-roller-188180 All while understanding that trying to make other’s happy with our choices doesn’t always make us happy and ultimately we can’t control others opinions anyway.

Big lungful of air here. We are all going to be okay.

So, sensory awareness and perfectionism shake off. These are things to contemplate as we move closer to our departure.

 

 

 

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5 Things to Do Before We Skip Town-Cleaning out the Mental Cobwebs

We hit the six-months-to go mark yesterday. Whoa, yikes!..I just caught my breath when I wrote that. That means about 180 days to ready, steady, go. In my whirling life I realize I have a lot of loose threads I am constantly picking at. Some are reasonable and others are just plain, annoying time sucks. So, while I am trying to ‘clean house’ literally I also need to do it figuratively.

These are the things I am working on.

Kicking Toxic Relationships to the Curb! I am a human, non-sociopath (thank goodness) but, that also means I am a deeply feeling person. While this is not a bad thing, I find that I invest in relationships that are clearly not helpful, kind, symbiotic or healthy for me.kristopher-roller-188180

I spend a lot of time trying to craft a response from someone I care about and ache for them to like me back. I spend too much time, energy and, quite frankly, pieces of my soul in the output of others without receiving a balanced, authentic connection in return.
I am practicing turning towards the ones that have shown up and have earned the right to hear my story.

Say No When I Feel I Should say ‘Yes’. How many times a DAY do I mumble out an ‘okay’ or squeak a ‘yes’ when I know, in my heart of hearts, this request is not what truly aligns with my value much less, even have time for. It feels like a must but, at what cost?
dikaseva-34987Now, I don’t mean shirking my responsibilities but, rather saying yes to a time commitment that ever shrinks my sliver of ‘me time’ that have on my calendar. No one is making me do this. I do it. And I need to cut it out. Now.

 

Paying attention to the ‘shoulds, oughts and musts’ that rattle in my head.  Or otherwise said, stop ‘shoulding’ on myself. I say this to my clients all to time and like other  psychotherapists, I don’t always practice what I suggest (shock!). I think of these words as threads from someone else’s rule book, goals and they hijack my own dreams, hopes and intentions.

jared-erondu-15318I find myself surveying the room to find the ‘best’ choice or solution for all involved and meanwhile my voice, and often, my values get muffled.

Pushing others agendas to the front of the line will get me nowhere and often, it is not reciprocated

Resetting my Expectations of Others. Also, something I talk a lot about with clients. I am trying to do this more in my own relationships and, luckily, I have a very supportive and intuitive husband that often takes me by the shoulders and tries to redirect me to the more realistic path.

When we have an event, gathering or interaction coming useemi-samuel-15564p, my husband and I will talk about what the minimum expectations are (seriously shooting as low as possible), what is reasonable and achievable and then, the dream scenario.
All the while, becoming abundantly aware that I can only control myself as I am hoping for some crazy, magic, Jedi mind trick to get others into knowing and doing what I want. Often without saying it out loud.

Minimum : Low, low, bottom of barrel e.g. I show up at an event, I have a coffee
Reasonable and Achievable: e.g. I see the person, have a couple of connectingwords. 
Dream Scenario, aka, Lottery, Bonus, Gravy: The names says it all, expecting the best!  

unknown
I am setting simpler expectations. Dream Scenario will not likely happen but, if it does, what a pleasant surprise! It’s a lot shorter fall from high expectations and landing splat in a pile of disappointment and resentment to saying ‘that was unexpectedly awesome’.

 

Slow down and Look People in the Eye. In our technologically focused society we are often bumbling around the streets, coffee lines and even traffic lanes with our eyes angling down at a device. We are missing connections around us that are as authentic as anything we desire from those we are following on social media. jon-tyson-77013Simple eye contact is a deeply personal, human experience.

Now, I am not saying I am trying to see into stranger’s souls. No, I am merely saying we often feel so alone while surrounded by dozens of people. And a simple head nod and eye connection can boost our serotonin and release a few healthy hormones in blood stream to battle the anxiety and cortisol spikes we get while scanning click bait online.

 

Whew…so, what are you working on? Is this helpful to you?  These are not going to be accomplished immediately. These are all practices that are like pulling the car alignment into place. It takes attention and management. Saying them out loud makes me more accountable for them as well. So, how about you? No high expectations, just the minimum please.

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Here’s Your Notification: Turn off Your Notifications!

As I write this in the middle of the night, I am not struck by the irony of my thought or suggestion. I was tossing and turning tonight as I churned thoughts after attending at talk by Michael Lewis. He is known for his works The Big Short, Moneyball, The Blind Side among others.

In his varying topics last night, his talk included the new Trump Presidency.  I was really struck by his discussion with Hanna Rosin about what is going on in our country. Hanna asked, ‘Are we going to be dumber in four years? He said it’s like Patton standing in front of the American flag in movie theaters in the 1940s with the statement.

“There is one great thing that you men will all be able to say after this war is over and you are home once again. You may be thankful that twenty years from now when you are sitting by the fireplace with your grandson on your knee and he asks you what you did in the great World War II, you WON’T have to cough, shift him to the other knee and say, ‘Well, your Granddaddy shoveled shit in Louisiana.’” ― General George S. Patton, Jr. to his troops on June 5, 1944

Then WWII. Now, 2017, our new reality. Get involved. And make it count. And we’ve seen this over the weekend.qc6vnbe4jqs-jerry-kiesewetter Millions out walking, marching, speaking out for a multitude of reasons.

Yes, it is good (I know, there are plenty of competing thoughts on this) however, your involvement has got to be balanced or your going to end up in my office. This week, I found the tone of many sessions came back to and unpacked angst, fear, anxiety, worry, anger and grief.

In only a week and how many times have I been bounced around the blogosphere, social networking sites with topics and events from inauguration, women’s march to minute by minute updates of what is being done or said in Washington and, therefore, bouncing around the world)?

My clients and I discussed this and pondered, maybe we are not only online too much but, we are being ‘pinged’ too much.otedkfse3j0-anete-lusina My work is hearing about what is taking up space and interrupting people’s lives and making it not work as well – it frequently comes back to – too many notifications.

This week I have been talking with clients about a media diet and that delicate balance between FOMO and awareness. During sessions, my clients are aware that my office is one of the few places where they don’t look at their phone for 50 minutes. I see them carefully put their phone at the other end of the couch or hesitate in their handling of their devices as they settle in.

I had to take deliberate steps to reduce my access to information and I am doing this imperfectly. My morning routine, for nearly 30 years, has been listen to NPR. It is as much a part of my day as my coffee, and getting dressed. This news cycle is ruining my everyday experience. I used to find it grounding. Now, I find my own levels of agitation are raised before I leave the house. Then I may take it out on my kids, or in my driving or my stress eating. I can’t do this. Not every day. Not for the foreseeable future.

I think of Stephen Colbert’s Election Night speech. Before the outcome was fully decided, Stephen encouraged us to get back to our lives and reminisced about when he was a kid and politics was a once in a while topic at the dinner table. Now, it can be several times a minute depending on how many notifications you have on.

I am also drawn to work by minimalist parent advocate, Asha Dornfest, who has been trying to help us be better parents and humans with her blog and podcast. that-horrifying-moment-when-youre-looking-for-an-adult-but-then-realize-you-are-an-adult-so-you-look-for-an-older-adult-someone-successfully-adulating-an-adultier-adult-fcb44She said in 2015 at the World Domination Summit that sometimes we are searching for someone else to be in charge.

So, given this. What do I recommend? Who am I to recommend anything? Well, I am a struggling  woman, mom, business owner, therapist, friend and human. I have to figure out how to balance it myself or I won’t be able to see you and I don’t want to be in the fetle position in the corner of my bedroom. But, like Brene’ Brown says, we need to embrace our imperfections. Well, excellent I can do that!

Some suggestions include; screen free days or, a at minimum, screen free pockets of time in our days. zajstp1nb88-alex-holyoakeThat is a start. I also recommend a couple of apps Calm and Mindshift that help us distract or rather, be in the moment.

Okay, enough for now. Excuse me while I go crawl back into bed and hope my hot water bottle has a little love left to give. And I will resist the urge to flip over the phone to see what’s happened in the last 20 minutes.

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Leaning into the Discomfort and Looking for Respect

I have an interesting job for this time in our culture. Over the years, as a therapist, I hear people talk about their varied concerns.  These last two weeks, I have more about the same subject, the election. Thoughts, concerns, worries, musings, humor, fear, agitation and indignation.

Living in a Blue state in a metro area, it is not surprising that most of the people I hear from are talking about their shock, sadness, anger and dismay. images-3.jpegPeople have various ideas on how to proceed with their feelings; get involved, avoid the news, protest or barricade themselves at home.

In the last weeks, I have heard the some words repeatedly; echo chamber, the bubble,  phone bank, the media, donation…among others. One thread I am following is confusion and desire to know and understand. It slowly comes out that we need to talk more and that doesn’t just mean to the people whose answers we already know. It is time to lean into the discomfort.

The weekend after the election, I was at a locally owned store we frequent and the owner and I have a friendly banter. I asked him if we was one of the 59 million who voted for Trump. He looked at me a bit sheepishly and said, ‘I don’t talk about it much for fear of being judged’.

I stood back in took him in. ‘Oh, okay’, I said. ‘Tell me, how did you decide?’ He told me it was for his business and thought that change is needed at the higher levels of governing.images This man has a disability and has family member that is also disabled. Somewhere, he feels disenfranchised with the current system.

I nodded, thinking that this seems like a reasonable, political point, especially if you are fiscally conservative. That being said, I asked, ‘Well, okay, but can you explain him to my kids?’ as I pointed to my boys who were hovering nearby. He said, ‘That part is harder. I don’t like the behavior of this man..’ and he trailed off. We spoke a bit more and moved on to other topics.

Seems like we are going to have more and more of these conversations. Many likely at the Thanksgiving table this year. I am not picking sides (yes, I am left leaning) but, it seems we all know what our ‘peeps’ will say. We need to lean in ask the tough questions of ‘why and how’. The open-ended, curious questions that show we are not just waiting to talk again but, we are listening. We all want to be heard.

Now, I get it there is a lot of extreme rhetoric out there and it’s hard to know who believes what from a glance but, also we can’t assume. If someone has an opinion we need to ask ‘why?’  Myself, I work hard to teach my kids how to be good citizens and that means a lot of explaining about differences, privilege and the varied things that make a person and I don’t have all the answers. images-2I don’t always get it right. Sometimes I really screw it up but, I try to circle back and revisit the best I can.

While living in a progressive, lefty city, I grew up in rural Red State where Reagan was a God and my Dad was the preacher. My Dad was not a religious man by any conventional standards but, he was definitely the spokesperson (and financial contributor) for the importance of the Republican party. He had many flaws (like all of us) and one if his big ones was that he didn’t have room for discourse.

There was no space for an exchange of pluralistic views at our dinner table and many times he called me a ‘tree-hugging, fish-kissing’ liberal. Whether that label was a friendly jib, earnestly or not, my exploring views were not well tolerated in his presence. So, I stopped sharing them.

We moved on to less political topics and we rarely opened the door on these thoughtful, provocative topics. We played it safe. I believed I knew him and his rhetoric and I imagine he thought I was crazy or at least misguided. We didn’t ever say, ‘tell me why you think that way’ or ‘help me understand’.

Sound familiar? Again, we can find the people to agree with us but, to sit through the dialogue of those with which we disagree, that is the hard part. There is no guarantee that it will feel good or we will feel heard.images-1 That part is called vulnerability, as Brene’ Brown says, ‘it’s scary and brave at the same time’.

I don’t have the solutions, the method or the way out of our conflicts but, I am a listener of others and I see that when we respectfully listen people usually feel heard. When we feel heard we can then move on to problem solving. We  obviously have a lot more conversations about how to deal with racism, homophobia, the haves and have nots, the 1%, equity, xenophobia, and that is just a start.  Let’s start with leaning in.

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An Experience of Grief-Elections

All over the world we still are talking about this election. It took me until today to feel like I could write something down. I wondered about why it has taken me so many days to write as I have a lot buzzing in my head and then, I realized, this is because I am still going through stages of grief. Several stages a day even.

In my work, my clients and I frequently talk about grief. We discuss that grief can be not just the loss of a person but, the loss of an experience, an opportunity, a thing or an idea. images-3The example I use is by looking at your dead car battery.

Say you wake up in the morning and get ready for school or work, go out to your car to get to work and the car battery is dead. The first thing you do is to try to start it again. You are in denial that it won’t start. ‘Of course, it is going to start”, you think to yourself. It hasn’t passed your mind that anything is wrong. You think, the car is starting and you’re going to do whatever it was what you were expecting to do. It would function. You shake your head, ‘huh?’ you think. You try to start it over and over. You don’t really believe that it won’t start.

Then you move into bargaining. You plead with the car to start, you beg and you coax. You may say that you will take the car to get high-octane gas, go to church next Sunday, anything to get the car to start. You may even fiddle with the air, music or other levers in the car to see if that will change the outcome and help it spring to life.

But the battery doesn’t start and then you move into anger. You are hitting the dashboard and yelling at the inert engine to start. You are pissed. You use choice words either under your breath or loud enough for the neighbors to hear and yet, the battery is still dead.

Sadness comes next. You moan, collapsing in your worries about how the day has gone to pot and if you don’t get to work or school on time everything else is also is going to fall apart.

Then, acceptance. You pull out your phone to get AAA, a Uber or race off to catch a Trimet bus to get going. You get it and understand the battery is not going to come to life and fire up the engine.

This week millions of people of all diversities and majorities have been progressing through these stages. I kept refreshing my screen to the 538 website which I had been using as my barometer to help balance my stomach clenches over the last couple weeks. Tuesday morning, I thought that a 70.2% certainly of a Hillary win was pretty good. Then when the numbers fell and the states were too close to call I was definitely in denial. I couldn’t compute in my head that this could actually be happening.images-2 As I cuddled with my boys on Tuesday night, as per our ritual, I cozied up to my seven-year old’s sleepy form while hoping against hope that the next time I refreshed my screen it would show better numbers. It did not. As I lay in the dark talking to myself in my head, I really thought that it was just a bad moment, denying that anything could really go wrong.

That night, I stayed up holding my phone, listening to NPR and watching CNN until I heard that Clinton had called Trump. As I kept switching sources, I felt I was truly watching a horrible crash that I couldn’t tear my eyes away from. I willed the outcome to be different. I went through bargaining, anger and a lot of sadness. I woke up my husband to tell him the news and we held each other, we talked and I cried for the better part of two hours. images-1We scrambled our approach to tell our boys the outcome in the morning. The night had started out with us having a civics lesson on coloring in a map of America was the states were called out for the electoral college numbers. Those red states are still stained on our dry erase place mat as a reminder of a bad night.

I went back to hanging out in bargaining for a while on Wednesday since all the votes had not yet been tallied and was trying to convince myself that maybe, just maybe the electoral map could change. I have a problem with chronic optimism when faced with bad odds. Later I sunk back down into sadness with smatterings of anger and, I suppose, acceptance. I know what has happened is true but, I really can’t stomach processing it all.

The rest of the week I was the witness of several client’s experiences of grief in the process. Emotionally washed up at night, I took to baking, listening to musicals and treating the radio like a hot potato. imagesI would turn it on for a bit and then suddenly flick it off.

So, here we are five days later and we are all still processing. I think if Hillary had won there would be another 50 million or so going through their own experience of grief. We are a nation in conflict and grief. It will take more than a support group to help us get through this. I want to be hopeful but, my well is a bit dry. Today was #WorldKindnessDay and I checked in with a couple of friends who had big events in their lives and that felt good.

Over the weekend, we watched Les Miserables and Fiddler on the Roof. I explained to my children the grief of those stories and it helped me to see them confused by such horrid behavior, racism and anti-Semite rhetoric in the story lines. They, who have grown up with the only president they have known being a man of color, were shocked to learn that pogroms existed for decades and not too long ago. I felt I took a little of their innocence in explaining these stories, however, I also loved that they instinctly knew that it was not okay to act like this as a human today. This gives me hope.

In my grief, and this week they have seen me process a lot of it, my boys have supported my new acceptance in ways they don’t know yet. Yes, this has happened but, the story does not end here. We have work to do to continue to teach, learn and practice empathy. They don’t know it but, my boys are already guiding me in this process.