Three Signs You May Be Over-doing the Ostrich Bit

When Does Self-Protection Become Denial?

A week ago I wrote how sometimes being over-exposed to negativity from the media merits turning off the television.  Like anything, this can be overdone.  Twenty-four hours of a media moratorium is enough, tempting as it may be to go into hibernation until next year.  So when do we know when it's time to open the newspaper again?

1) When your friend calls you up and breathlessly says, "Did you hear [insert latest national scandal here]…." and you have no clue what they're talking about.
2) When your middle school child, whom you want to be a good citizen, asks how you stand on the economic crisis and you smile and say, "The fundamentals are good, honey. Now go play Guitar Hero with your brother."
3) When it comes time to make an informed decision, such as vote, and you couldn't  define a hot button issue to save your life, much less know how the candidates stand on them.

Does any of this matter?  Of course it does.  Maintaining good self-esteem isn't about being happy all the time, it's about being resilient.  It means facing the responsibilities of adulthood even when it's uncomfortable.  Overcoming the impulse to run away is courage, and that makes us proud, and that, my dear friend, results in happiness.

The Teen Years & Those “I hate you!” Moments

Editor's Note:  This post is from guest author Michele Slater

Let's face it, it's the rare teenager that doesn't have some form of rage. Whether it's because you've said no to something they want or want to do, or you can't afford the latest in technological gadget, the anger is there, underlying and waiting for the next obstacle they perceive you throw in their way.

To navigate these stormy waters it might help to sit and think about your own teenage years. What set you off? The problems may not be the same, but you can remember how you felt at the time. This exercise will help you respect how they are feeling even when what they are saying sounds ridiculous.  Keep in mind teens don't want to listen to long diatribes on when you were a teen and what you did or didn't have. They can't relate to it and in general, aren't interested. Their world is their universe and they aren't interested in yours, so it's important to remember this when talking to them or maybe more importantly, when listening to them.

Focus on them, give them lots of room to tell their story in their time.  This quality of respect goes a long way with teens.  Both of my children, my daughter more than my son, were combative and angry. By constantly reinforcing my love and respect for them, they became more loving and less combative. Today, both of my children live out of the house. My daughter moved to Boston for school and my son lives close by. Both of them are loving, helpful and respectful. Both of them quickly and honestly share with me their activities and who they are spending time with. This is the ultimate of peace of mind.

Teen anger and hostility, the "I hate you" moments will come, but with love and understanding, they pass quickly.

Wall Street Virus Attacks Self-Esteem

Finances can be like weight for the tender self-esteem.  When my weight is up beyond a point of critical mass my ego deflates like a day old party balloon.  It's not right, and I try to work on it, but it's true.  When finances feel out of control the scent of panic is in the air.  And isn't it just lovely to have every newspaper and cable news talking head scream doomsday so that even if I have every logical reason to feel secure, forget it, I worry and don't sleep so well. 

By Friday last week I thought I might be sick.  I was exhausted for no good reason, head-achy, concentration was an effort, my throat felt a little scratchy.  Saturday I woke up before dawn and decided not to fight it.  Usually a news junky, I needed a media break: no radio, newspaper or TV (except for seeing 'The Devil Wears Prada' for the gazillionth time.  I never tire of Meryl Streep in all her silvery superciliousness.) I read my book club book and puttered.  By Sunday I was feeling my old self.

After 9/11 I had to stop watching the news and gave my clients the same advice even though at the time it felt 'unpatriotic'.  Seeing the towers fall over and over was re-traumatizing, not helping.  Later, many crisis intervention experts said they should have recommended the same thing. 

It's not denial, protecting yourself from being hammered by negativity. It's smart.

What I Love About Western New York

And I never once mention sports!

During the global and national insanity of the last week I found myself grateful for my little neck of the woods on the banks of Lakes Erie and Ontario.  Why?

  • The Lifestyle. A person can live within their means here and live pretty damn well. Being in a chronic recession since the '70s has its benefits. We didn't get hit hard by the mortgage crisis because there was no real estate bubble to burst. I'm not crazy about the value of my house but it's better than the current alternative.
  • The Weather. Yes, I said the weather. We get really tired of outsiders making fun of our weather or worse, not taking a job offer seriously because they are afraid of the winters here. The winters are a lot milder here than in Kansas (where I grew up so I know) and the snow is just enough to make the landscape pretty, not grey and bleak.  Summers are lovely. The growing season could be longer but the gardens are gorgeous!
  • Wegman's. At the risk of sounding shamelessly commercial…We have people from all over the country visit and they all go gaga over Wegman's. Being a gourmet foodie married to a gourmet foodie, I love it that we can find the weirdest ingredient at Wegman's. When I can't, they take it personally and will find it for me.  So cool!
  • It's Home.  We are transplants from NYC who have grown roots in WNY. My kids were born and are very happy here, we've made deep life-lasting friendships and found community support for our business ventures. My mother relocated here to receive wonderful care at Roswell and after they did everything they could, she passed away here. That makes WNY sacred ground as far as I'm concerned.


The Science of Happiness

via Los Angeles Times

ACOAs and The Common Human Experience

Last week I wrote a post about adult children of alcoholics.  This is a very important subject and one that I am passionate about.  My intention was not to box anyone in or slap a label on a person's experience.  Yet that post left me feeling like I missed something.

Because I wanted to inform I think I missed the common human experience.  It sounds cheesy to say that underneath it all we all are ACOAs but damn it, that's exactly how I feel! 

How many of us had parents who gave us conflicting messages?  My hand's up.  Who had a mother or father who was the best parent in the world one day and didn't  know you existed the next?  Or shared with you information that was totally inappropriate for a child to know?  How many of us were thrust into too much responsibility too soon?  Taking care of others when we should have been playing flashlight tag with the neighbor kids?  That wasn't me but my older sister didn't like me for a long time because she was stuck with me when I was a baby and she had no choice.

Thank God more is known about parenting today (a word that I don't believe even existed when I was a kid) and about how we effect our children's sense of emotional safety in the world. Our parents did the best they could (as we do) and I've learned that forgiveness goes a long way to recovery.  If you are an adult child of an alcoholic please know that I respect your struggle and want to help.  Call me.

For California Mom Relaxed Equals No Shoes

What Equals Relaxed For You?

Editor's Note:  This guest blog is from Southern California Mom

You know how
when you reach for the leash your dog knows it's time for a walk?  Whenever I put my shoes on my daughter says,
"You're going out? Where are you going?" She has me pegged.  I walk in the door to our
house and the shoes
come off. 

It isn't a cleanliness thing.  I am not trying to keep the outside dirt
outside.  Dust gets tracked in by the
dog, three cats and two children. My shoes can't compare
to a long haired cat that has just rolled in the dirt
as a conduit of dust. Nor is it a conscious
thing. I only realized I am normally
unshod at home when my daughter began to point it out.  

There are those who say that it is important
to put your shoes on as you are getting dressed in the morning and keep
on.  It is supposed to psyche your body
and mind into being ready to face the day or something like that. But it
doesn't work for me. I've come to
believe that I need to be shoeless or in slippers in order to be completely
relaxed, perhaps because
my feet spend a lot of time tucked under me, or
because I love to dance.  I just can't
get a good twirl going in a pair of street shoes. Ultimately I think it is
a ritual I was not previously aware of.  Relaxed equals no shoes. And, probably, if I
am seated, there is a dusty cat on top of me.

Listening to Your Kid’s Big Poop Stories

During a phone call, my friend Steve apologized when his nine year old son interrupted our conversation.  What was remarkable to me was that Steve took the time to listen attentively to his kid even though what he was reporting was beyond trivial.  No need to apologize, I said, the time you take now encouraging your kid to share even the mind-numbingly boring stuff will pay later.

That night on email:

Steve:  "That talkative third grader of mine just got done telling me about what
a huge poop he just had. I'm trusting you that his communication is a
good thing. You are the PRO!!!"

Me:  "Sometimes it's tmi, I know, but in my experience with communication with my kids it's like the old timers sifting riverbeds for gold.  For every 100 big poop stories you will get one bright gleaming gem that is worth it all.  My jaw drops in disbelief at how our almost sixteen year old will, out of nowhere, share with us his inner thoughts or volunteer how his day went without prompting.  And we haven't heard a big poop story for a few years now."

Being a pro has nothing to do with it. Especially when I remember all the detailed plots of Sponge Bob episodes I heard while internally gritting my teeth.  True love gives us the strength.

Sex Every Night!*

*with your spouse.

Some people will do anything for a book deal.

Sex with your husband/wife every day/night for 365 days.  Good or bad idea? 

Comment amongst yourselves.

Honestly, just the thought tires me out but maybe having sex every night is like running.  The more you do it the more energy you have to do more.  Hummm, something to think about.

via New York Times article: 'Yes, Dear. Tonight Again'

photo courtesy Phoney Nickle via flickr

Heartsore: The Adult Child of an Alcoholic Parent

The title of my dissertation was "Sons of Alcoholic Fathers."  After graduating from college and before applying to graduate school I needed a break from book learning.  With some persistence and luck I found a good BA level job at an alcohol residential treatment facility in Johnson County, a suburban district of Kansas City, Kansas.  That's where my education really began. 

From the men in recovery, and excellent supervisors, I learned there but for the grace of God go I.  Open AA and Al-Anon meetings taught me humility and respect for my clients.  The Twelve Steps gave me an appreciation of the power of spiritual faith that years of catechism never did.

And I learned that many of the alcoholics in rehab were themselves sons of alcoholics.  At that time, the early eighties, research in this area was just beginning.  In 1982 Claudia Black, an adult child of an alcoholic (ACOA) herself, wrote It Will Never Happen To Me, placing a new focus on the special nature of ACOA problems. 

A few years later I started graduate school and I had my dissertation research topic.  Today I see the depth of hurt and pain an ACOA can bury in their hearts only to have it resurface in the form of crippling low self-esteem, difficulty with intimacy, issues with authority and total confusion about what's "normal". 

If you struggle with any of this, do not struggle alone.  Go to an Al-Anon meeting.  Find a counselor to help you sort out how growing up with an alcoholic parent effects your current and future happiness.  With fresh insight there is hope you can gain true, secure and healthy mastery of your life.  Start by educating yourself with good books like Claudia Black's.  Here are a few suggestions:

Adult Children of Alcoholics, by Janet Woititz

Recovery: A Guide for Adult Children of Alcoholics, by Herbert L. Gravitz

A Place Called Self: Women, Sobriety & Radical Transformation, by Stephanie Brown

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