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Wednesday, October 27, 2010

SEO, organization, privacy = a spinning head from Bloggy Bootcamp in ATX

Aside from spending a lot of time at the hospital last week, over the weekend I spent my Saturday at Bloggy Bootcamp hosted by SITS Girls. By  lunchtime I felt like I had gotten my money's worth ($125). And by the end of the day, my head was whirling with information, new relationships, and then, there was a cocktail party to go to! Aside from all the education, it was also nice to be in a room full of women and NOT be talking about breastfeeding and potty training.

When I was telling Toyin about it, I told him I felt like I'd just had a semester's worth of classes crammed into one day. It was an incredible experience for many reasons, one of them being the knowledge that blogging is still highly uncharted territory in the world of communication and media influence.
There's no telling where the blogosphere will go in the future and I'm excited to be a part of it.
The information shared by six speakers, along with host/organizer Tiffany Romero was so much I worried that I would get home and forget some very important things...... if you'd like to read more please visit www.momsoap.com

Monday, October 25, 2010

Mothering my mother

Last week it became clear to me that I am now a part of the sandwich generation. The sandwich generation is the time of life when you are taking care of children and elderly parents. Some of you may have wondered where the heck I've been. I've been at the hospital. Not literally all week, but during much of my usual down time, I've been there, or at my parents' house, helping prep it for her convalescence.

My mom has been in the hospital for a couple of months now.... If you'd like to read more, please visit: http://www.momsoap.com/2010/10/mothering-my-mother/

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The tempestuous 2.5-year-old

Annika is going to be 2.5 soon, and it shows. I've heard from various parents that during the toddler years, the half years are when the kiddos show dramatic personality development. And by dramatic personality development, I mean, they start doing new shit when you are least expecting it.

Now, I try to be fair when writing about Annika and I don't want to be one of those mom bloggers who snarks about her kids. But Bejeezus! Annika has been turning the tables on me for the past few weeks. Her autonomy is rearing its head, for sure.

Normally, I try to take the playful approach when trying to get her to do something. But lately it hasn't been working.

And it's getting old, really fucking fast. And we're still early on in the game. I need a new approach. And fast.

A few days ago we were getting ready to head out for the day, but I had some trash to throw away so we walked down the sidewalk to the large trash bin sitting in the parking lot of our apartment complex.

Lately, every time we do this, she's been asking to stay on the grassy patch under a tree, just across from the trash receptacle. I can still see her, so I have been okaying it. So, I hurried over to throw the trash away and came back to where she was running in circles around the tree. I told her it was time to go.

No, she didn't want to go.

Okay, so I let her play for a little while longer.

Okay, it's time to go.

Here's where I screwed up.

Usually I can get her to follow me by saying, "Chase me, chase me!" She'll come running after me. We have a fun little game and then we can move forward. So I did this, and when I turned around, she wasn't there.

I went running back to the grass patch only to see her running in the opposite direction, across the parking lot to the tree on the opposite side of the parking lot.

I won't deny that it made me really angry. Maybe I over reacted, but she knows that it's not okay to walk in the parking lot by herself. She knows this.

I snatched her up and took her screaming back inside. Where we had a long tearful discussion about the rule of "Annika doesn't walk in parking lots or streets alone." And I made up a new rule. "When mommy says it's time to go, you come with me."

Even as I was saying it, I thought, "Don't be a jackass." But I couldn't help myself. I am just sick of the constant, "It's-time-to-go-It's-time-to-go-It's-time-to-go." 

The second rule seemed to take much longer to sink in. She kept agreeing to it, but when I'd ask her to repeat it, she just said, "Annika doesn't walk in parking lots or streets alone."

My little lawyer. 

"I a'int agreeing to shit Mommy. You can't make me say it. I'll defer to you on the first one, but that second one, uh uh. No way."

I think I am expecting too much from her. Now that she's verbal, it's hard to know exactly what she's capable of remembering. And even if she remembers it, can she always avoid the impulse? Probably not.

I went to the South Austin API meeting after this instance and the speaker was Bethany Prescott, a local parenting coach. During the Q&A portion of the meeting, I asked her what to do when the playful stuff stops working.

She said, (and I'm paraphrasing, because I wasn't taking notes), 'It's okay to give a simple, definitive no. In fact, at this age, toddlers are looking for you to set clear boundaries.'

I felt a bit of relief because I had been feeling kind of guilty for all the nos I had been doling out lately.

No, you can't keep playing when you're exhausted and it's 30 minutes past your nap time. It's time to go.

No, you can't push the grocery cart because it would take way too long to finish the shopping and you'll get bored and I'm not chasing you around the grocery store with a half full cart of groceries.

No, you can't just take stuff from other kids.

No, you can't boss strangers.

But, even so, I still think it's good to say yes as much as possible.

Yes, you can run around and around the tree once we get the groceries loaded into the car.

Yes, you can stay in the car and "drive" while I unload the groceries.

Yes, we can play kick ball after your nap.

So, I'll keep using the playful method, but when it doesn't work, I suppose saying no won't hurt her. As long as I'm consistent with my reasoning.

For those of you who have traversed the treacherous waters of the 2-year-old, I'd love to hear from you. What were some of the methods you used to keep the peace without losing your sanity?

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

A closer look at maternal violence: Part XI: A Series on Attachment Theory, a summary of A Secure Base

Thus far, chapter five of A Secure Base, by John Bowlby, has proven to be the most interesting to me. In the last part of the chapter we learned that childhood anxiety, rejection, abandonment, and simply fear of abandonment, can affect dramatically a person's likelihood to abuse their own children.

It makes more sense to me now that I have my own child. But as a young person, I always assumed that people only became physically violent if they grew up in physically violent homes. Now we know better. So on we go.

If you're new to this series and want to catch up, click here.

The (next) part of chapter five on violence in the family.

Even though Bowlby studied violent mothers, he never treated one. But one of his patients, whom he calls Mrs. Q, came very close to becoming a batterer. Here is her story.

Bowlby met with a new patient at a well baby clinic. She was concerned because her 18-month-old son was refusing to eat, and was losing weight. She was, and had been since his birth, anxious and depressed. She was worried that her son would die, so she had been pestering him to eat. She had felt urges to throw her baby out of the window. She also had battered his carriage and smashed dishes. While talking to Bowlby she fully expected him to become angry with her. He suggested weekly psychotherapy.

During therapy she gave him fragmented bits of her own childhood, but her story remained consistent enough that he was able to piece together the picture. He learned that her childhood, which is typical of abusive mothers, was filled with parents who fought angrily and often. They assaulted one another and threatened murder. Her mother threatened to leave repeatedly. Twice, Mrs. Q had come home from school to find her mother with her head in the oven. And her mother often pretended to desert the family by disappearing for half days. Mrs. Q was terrified that if she did anything wrong, her mother would leave. Her mother made things worse by insisting that the family keep quiet about these events.

Mrs. Q had been a successful technician before motherhood. She was skilled person, friendly, and a sociable neighbor. She made every attempt to be a good wife and mother. Her violent outbursts were puzzling to herself. Bowlby concluded after much therapy that her outbursts were the result of her deeply held anger toward her mother that she had never been able to express growing up.

This type of theory has been expressed by many other professionals in the field of psychology, but its simplicity is not all appreciated by many. This theory also fits a situation where a husband abuses his wife and she turns her anger toward her children. 

The effects of personality development in children who have been assaulted are usually not the only problem. Along with physical abuse, these children are also often rejected, verbally and physically. The results vary depending on the consistency of the outbursts.

These children are often described as depressed, passive, inhibited, dependent and anxious, and also as angry and aggressive. These children do not play and show little or no enjoyment. Expressions of feeling are often barely noticeable or very ambiguous and contrary. Crying is prolonged and unresponsive to comforting. The children are easily angered, and the anger is not easily resolved. These patterns tend to persist.

Some literature suggests that the reason some parents become abusive is because of a child's prematurity, ill health, or negative temperament. Bowlby does not believe these are reason enough for abuse. He says they may be factors that encourage the cycle, however. The cycle is more likely to continue, he says, because of lack of support and a negative upbringing.

Abused toddlers often present as a picture of frozen watchfulness, as if waiting to see what might happen. But these children are often hyper sensitive to their parents' needs.These signs show potential for the argument that children learn early on how to placate a disturbed and potentially violent mother.

I'm going to stop here. There is still much left in this chapter, but I don't want to gloss over it because it is all very fascinating. Also, it's late and the words are blurring on my screen. My apologies for the late post, it's just been that kind of week.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Setting intentions can make this ordinary life beautiful

Every single choice we make affects our lives for the long-term. This is a lesson that has been hard for me to grasp. I'm a procrastinator. I've spent much of my life thinking of the someday. Well, someday never happens unless you make a choice. Someday isn't going to just happen.

We can make our lives ordinary by settling. Or we can make our lives beautiful, by setting our intentions toward our life goals.

Let me explain.

I had a recent stint as an Avon lady. Stint is probably over-selling it a tad. I signed up, avoided it for a month and a half. Went to two training session where the leader of the group pronounced jewelry as jewrree. Then I bought several bottles of lotion, shower gel, nail polish, and bubble bath, thinking I'd just sell it out and about.

Then I decided to quit.

Not because there's anything wrong with selling Avon. Not at all. I signed up because a close friend of mine had signed up to do it and for a brief moment, it seemed like a good idea. I figured it'd be easy. I mean, who can't sell lotion and shit? Right?

Ummm, me.

For those of you who know me in real life, or if you've been reading my blog for very long, you're probably having quite a chuckle right now. That's okay. Go ahead. When I announced it to a group of my friends, they laughed. I laughed along with them. I mean, what the fuck? Me, selling fucking Avon? It's wrong on so many levels. Not that I can't sell. I can. But I can't do it unless I believe in what I'm selling. And ladies, I just can't sell wrinkle filler. Can't do it. Plus, this shit's priced higher than I would personally pay for that kind of stuff. I have no idea what the hell I'm going to do with these $8 bottles of lotion. I guess everyone knows what they're getting for Christmas.

The reason I'm telling y'all about this is because it totally fits with last Sunday's talk at my Buddhist program at Miira Suniita. The group leader spoke about the beauty of preciousness of ordinary life.

She talked about how our intentions are all we need to ensure that our lives reflect our goals.

The fact is that selling Avon doesn't reflect any part of my life goals and it is a poor intention for me. 

In order to live your life every day, the way you want, you set your intentions. She suggested setting weekly intentions. And even intentions for your sleep, right before you go to bed.

So that's what I did this week. I made a list of all concrete things I'd need to do this week to set me down a path of goals that have been hovering around my brain for months, years, hell, some of them, all my life. I set intentions in my head for having good sleep and productive dreams.

Last Sunday, our group leader talked about how powerful our brains are, we imagine our lives. She said how very important it is to maintain a positive mind, because a positive mind will lead us down the path toward our intentions. A negative mind is something to be avoided.

I couldn't agree more. I've spent way too many years allowing the negative thoughts to control my life. Thoughts like, "Oh, it sure would be nice to have that, but I can't afford it." Or, "Well, I'd love to do that, but it would be too hard." Then I forget it. It's done. See how a negative mind shuts down dreams?

Not trying is worse than trying and failing. Because at least if you try and fail, you've learned something.

As she spoke I thought about how easy it is to shut down my own dreams and wishes with one fell swoop. I wondered if I allowed myself to have that dream. To say, "It sure would be nice to have that thing that I want. I can't afford it right now. But someday, maybe I will." Or even better, "It sure would be nice to do that thing, It's going to be hard, but I wonder what I would need to do to make it happen."

Because really, our lives are pretty damn amazing. We have everything we need. No matter where we live or how much money we have in the bank. We live in a free country, where we have so much power. We have control of our government (in theory). We have power as consumers. We have free speech. We have freedom of religion. We have an almost absurd amount of choices in what we eat, drink, wear, and do. We can change our lives without any interference from anyone.

I think that in itself can be a problem. When you have an infinity of choices, it can be paralyzing. So much so that we often give ourselves excuses of why we can't do it, simply so we won't have to make any decisions.

Decision making is hard. It paralyzes me over and over. All the what ifs get in the way of making clear choices.

But what ifs aren't concrete. They aren't bold statements. They are possibilities. And possibilities aren't that great unless you make a choice and move forward into a clear path.

I've settled for mediocrity too many times because I was afraid of the "bad" what ifs. Taken jobs I really didn't want because I thought it was all I could get and I was afraid of getting behind on bills. So, I got what I intended. I set my intentions. I just didn't realize what I was doing. I thought I had time to change. I thought I had time to make things different. I was just settling, "for now."

But what I was really doing was making habits for myself. Steering myself away from rejection. Playing it safe.

When I signed up to sell Avon, it was just another way of avoiding what I really want. Because it's scary, to define yourself with what you really want in life. Because if you fail, then you've lost your dream. Failure to sell Avon isn't taking a chance. Because I can blame the product, or the lack of availability of customers. Or a poor economy. It was a safe choice straight into failure.

What I really want in life is to make it as a writer. To get paid to write. And I don't want to just settle for writing mediocre mass-produced crap. I want to write things that really make a difference to people when they read it. I want to step boldly into new territory, and make possibilities spring to life. I want to give gifts to world with my writing.

And hell, if I lose my dream. Maybe I'll find another one. Life is full of choices. Because, as cliche as it is, if you don't try. You'll never know what could have happened.

In the mean time, while I come up with world changing topics to write about, I'm offloading some overpriced lotion and shower gel. Let me know if you want some. (See? Just can't do it.)