And so it is…

Some time ago, a friend suggested that one day, when I was ready, I should share this story. I guess today is as good as any other day.

Exactly two years ago, our family’s world was rattled with the weight of a word that is defined as “a developmental disorder that appears in the first 3 years of life, and affects the brain’s normal development of social and communication skills.”

Autism.

For any parent, this word is heavy enough to nearly drown you. Cam abruptly stopped communicating, engaging in eye contact, and began to retreat into a shell that felt like there was a divide the size of the Grand Canyon between us. This, I can tell you first hand, was the greatest heartbreak I have ever known. When the changes happened it was so quick, so we sought the best medical professionals in the field and came home with a diagnosis that changed everything we knew about our world.

We made the painful decision to sell our home, and leave our community, jobs that we loved, and our friends & family in Austin, TX to pursue the best intensive early intervention that could be offered. Luckily, my knowledge of autism was based on interest and love, which stemmed from teaching some of the most spectacular students I have ever known. We knew that Cam was at the critical point in his development to make the decision relatively easy. That doesn’t mean our hearts didn’t break when we left…

chaos

New York, possessing the reputation as one of the states with the best intensive early intervention services, offered us a promise of a brighter future for our son. This promise came to us via an amazing full day preschool based on Applied Behavioral Analysis as well as speech therapy and transportation needed to and from school. Cam loved getting on his school bus each morning and going to school. We ALL fell deeply in love with his teachers, who are some of the hardest working professional educators and therapists I have ever had the pleasure of knowing.

QSAC, Cam’s preschool, came through on the promise. When Cam arrived to NY, he was three years old and achieving one word utterances in order to meet his basic demands. “Milk.” “Snack.” “Up.” Today, Cam can look you dead in the eye, and speak in complete sentences (almost consistently) including attributes, adjectives and pronouns. Please, re-read that last sentence. Thanks. I need this to sink in.

In the beginning of this adventure, my endgame, my ultimate goal for my son was for him to become indistinguishable from his peers. I wanted him to be just like every other child. I didn’t want anyone to know or guess or insinuate that anything was wrong with him. Today, after experiencing my own ridiculous amount of growth on our adventure, I know that there IS absolutely NOTHING wrong with Cam. If you know him, you are already aware that he couldn’t possibly be indistinguishable from his peers, well, because he’s Cam!

Cam1Allow me to explain…
The other morning as he “played” his toy piano, he began to sing “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.” He stopped mid-verse and switched to “Baa Baa Black Sheep.” He began to giggle and started singing his “ABC’s.” OK, I realize that I’m a grown, educated adult and all but it had honestly never occurred to me that these three songs have the same melody. Cam figured it out, like he does. He is four years old. He also knows more about the solar system than most 12 year olds. He figured out how to count by two’s without instruction. He can learn and master most academic material faster than his teachers can teach it, and can figure out how things work faster than you can try to keep said things out of reach. Most importantly, he has a loving, affectionate and goofy heart the size of Texas… He is nothing short of magnificent.

Cam wavesOver the past two years, our adventures have led us through the murky seas of intervention, parenting, love and reflection. We have grown more as a family than I ever imagined possible. Between the early intervention, the exposure to the city, the ocean, and the love and support from my NY friends and family, we are in an entirely different place than we were two years ago.

This weekend, we are able to return to all of the things that we left behind in our beautiful community of Austin, where the support that we received when Cam was diagnosed has NEVER ever faltered. Such love has been sent from afar that has kept our hearts tied to a place that we hadn’t imagined we could return to. Rob and I haven’t been able to imagine anywhere we would put down our roots again, and we couldn’t quite commit to “here.” We now know, that this is probably because we already planted those roots and they are still growing where we left them.

#TeamCam (All of you, all over the world) has been the constant light in our darkness, the shoulder we’ve cried on, the support that was immeasurable and the voice that has given us the courage to press on even during the scary parts… We couldn’t have done any of this without you.Cam horse

The past two years have been the most challenging, frightening, beautiful, difficult, awesome and incredible years of my life. These days, my endgame is simple. I want to give my child all of the tools and skills that he will need to become the best possible version of himself. I want to use my voice to help other parents who may have experienced similar challenges, and MOST importantly, I want to help people understand what autism is, and also what it isn’t. I want to build a community of love and support so that my child always understands that it he’s got a village and they have raised him.

I want people to look at my son and truly see CAM.

I want my son to feel celebrated, supported, cherished, loved and proud of who he is. I want Cam to look in the mirror and see ALL of the parts that make up who he is. I want him to see himself and think, “I am autistic. I also have reddish hair like my mom, I’m tall like my dad and I am awesome.”

Because, if you know Cam, he really is.

cam cowboy

“Kids today are SO lazy. They just don’t care!”

I love being a teacher. I LOVE the job inside the walls of my classroom.

Now, there are things, along with every other job, that drive me crazy. It can be a thankless and exhausting job. At times, it can be an impossible job to cover all of the curriculum in a limited amount of time, and the tests? Don’t even get me started on the standardized and meaningless tests. I hate what they do to my students and my friends who are, if I do say so myself, exceptional educators. It doesn’t pay much when you compare the hours put into the job, and the summers “off” are notwhatchathink!

BUT, it’s a calling and it called to my heart loudly!

Some of the things that I dislike the most about my job are the common misconceptions. #1 on my list is the statement that I’m pretty sure adults have been saying since the Paleolithic Era.

“Kids today are SO lazy. They just don’t care!” 

bored students

They AREN’T simply lazy.
And they DO care.
They have LOST their enthusiasm.
They are in NEED of a proper motivator.

And guess what? Sometimes the best motivator is their teacher. Sometimes the fact of the matter is that we care more about their education than anyone else in their entire world.

The power in motivating today’s students to learn (and to WANT to learn) might just mean changing what we do everyday.

GASP!

I know.

If what we’re doing is suddenly not working, and it continues to not work, doesn’t it make sense to explore other options? We would expect it of our students, why not of ourselves?

Growth mindset, people.

I get it. As busy teachers who put our heart and soul into teaching, our time is sparse. BELIEVE YOU ME, I’ve met a whole host of teachers who PUNCH into a time clock at 8 o’clock and PUNCH out at the end of their day, doing a limited amount of work in between and absolutely NONE after. This message is NOT for them because they don’t want to elicit change.

This message speaks to the educator at the end of his or her rope… Who hasn’t thrown in the towel, and mostly, this message is for me.

The last time that I afforded myself the time to reflect on my profession… (Is this very moment while I type this blog… The last time before this that I truly spent reflecting thoroughly on my job, my methodology, my efficacy?)

I have no recollection. I honestly cannot remember. And that makes my heart heavy…

In our society we place high expectations on professionals in other fields to stay current in order to maintain their relevancy. We, as educators, try our best to do the same. Of course, we are faced with doing so on our own time, as many of the most relevant aspects of education aren’t often provided to us with any meaningful depth in arenas of professional development.

Granted, I make it a point to attend every cutting edge training, read every article that grabs my attention, and share ideas with colleagues at every turn. HOWEVER, time to reflect on the efficacy of our own individual practices, data collection, wonderings, etc. Well, that needs to happen outside of our PLC’s
(This is the BIG buzzword, non-teacher peeps… Professional Learning Communities).

As a life-long student of psychology, I am fascinated by behavior. What once was a hobby or interest for me has become a central component of my life, having a child with autism who greatly benefits functionofbehaviorfrom Applied Behavioral Analysis. It’s a complicated and multifaceted approach that one of our first therapists, Denise, would say, “is the practice of applying behavioral principles to everyday situations in order to understand behavior and bring about behavior change.”
It doesn’t just work for autism, it doesn’t just work for children, it WORKS, period. (But please don’t tell my husband that I’ve become so adept!)

I try to carry this practice over in my classroom by always attempting to find the function of any given behavior first and foremost in order to figure out how to best change it… OR TO reflect upon what needs to change within MY practice!
IF change needs to occur it is helpful to figure out what is going on before, during and after that moment of “UGH!” Identify it, and then modify as needed.

I’m not going to lie, this takes a lot of time and effort but it is absolutely invaluable.

I am not an expert on motivation, behavior or education for that matter. I like to think that I am an effective educator and that my love for learning about psychology, the science of behavior, and education has brought me to a place that I feel confident in sharing tools that have helped me greatly along the way.motivationshark

The following are some very helpful resources that have helped to remind me of what I probably already know, but am forgetting to do… The painfully obvious, yet enlightening material that we tend to put on the back burner when life gets hectic or we become complacent.

(You know, like waking up in the morning and KNOWING that you should have taken off your makeup and brushed your teeth before you crashed from a 18 hour workday the day before grades are due and you’ve graded so many projects that your eyes are crossing involuntarily – which is a topic of another blog, for another day.)

Teaching could very well be one of the most important and difficult jobs I have ever held. It would be nice if that job came with an instruction manual with tips and tricks of how to best troubleshoot when things go wrong… This list is part of my soon to be released New York Times Best Seller, or, more likely, the much needed next entry on this dusty ol’ blog.

Strategies for Helping Students Motivate Themselves
One of my current favorite platforms for educational articles on motivation, learning and a plethora of strategies is EDUTOPIA, which was founded by George Lucas. Need I say more?

How Writing Down Specific Goals Can Empower Struggling Students
Data Collection?  NAH! In this article, “students reflect on important moments in their past, identify key personal motivations and create plans for the future, including specific goals and strategies to overcome obstacles.” WRITING as a combination of goal setting and creative expression. I can’t think of a single individual that I know who wouldn’t benefit from a form of this exercise! 

Teaching Strategies: Motivating Students
I particularly enjoyed reading topics such as Motivating Student’s BEST Work and Capturing and Directing the Motivation to Learn

Student Motivations and Attitudes: The Role of the Affective Domain in Geoscience Learning
I really loved the part about offering choices and the statement,
“When students are struggling with poor academic performance, low self-efficacy or low motivation, one strategy that may help is to teach them how to learn.” So obvious, and yet… So NOT.

Vanderbilt University’s Motivating Students
This website is my FAVORITE go-to for clarity, resources and refreshers.

And lastly, Texas Tech provided this gem, which is a long and deep read but AMAZING!
How Do I Motivate My Students?

 

When you’ve lost track of who “you” are

create yourselfSometime between the birth of my first and only child three years ago and the creation of this blog, I realized that I had been struggling to find myself.  I hadn’t felt like “me” in a very long time and while
I yearned to feel like the “old” me, try as I might I just couldn’t find her.

You see, as the major roles in my life have changed so have I.
I started as individual me and eventually became married me.
While the major components of my personality stayed pretty much the same in this transition, a few trace elements of my “self” were changed. Mostly, for the better.  When I changed careers from a multitude of jobs in the music business to becoming a middle school teacher, many roles in my life were drastically changed.  No more beer at lunch?  Ha!  The least of my worries.

After becoming a mother, any shred of the old me was left in the dust.  My new self was in survival mode, trying merely to get by.  There was no “me time” in the equation.  Not for a lack of wanting it, but because as a full time working mama, the sacrifice I made to be the best mother I could be was to sacrifice myself.  I know now that this was an error on my part, but I didn’t have anyone to help me out.  Oh, there were plenty of people to throw me a line like, “You HAVE to take time for YOURSELF!” But, VERY FEW people threw me a line that was attached to a life preserver… And, for the record, time for yourself as a new mother should come in regular, predictable, planned doses.  These occurrences should (in my honest yet humble opinion) be in the mother’s best interest and according to her availability.  Don’t expect or ask a new mother to get up an hour earlier to work out at the gym.  Don’t expect her to give up the SACRED sleep (that can be all too elusive) to do anything. Don’t expect a new mother to want to do anything other than stare at the wall or lie in the bathtub, for that matter.  Phew!  Now that I’ve gotten THAT off my chest… Where was I?

So, between marriage, a major career change and motherhood, my life changed drastically between 2006 and 2010 and I never really allowed myself to pause and appreciate the changes.  One day I simply woke up and felt like something was amiss… Because it was.

Although, I am pretty liberal in my beliefs I found myself becoming as (on the outside ONLY) conservative as the district that I was employed by.  One day this startled me as a co-worker shrieked in terror, “You have a tattoo?! I had NO idea!”  I was in more shock than her, I promise you.  It occurred to me that I had been working in the same building for seven years and very few people really knew who I was!  Wait.  Who I WAS.  I thought to myself, “Who AM I?” I repeated this question to my closest friends, my dearest relatives and my sweet endearing husband hoping to hear something close to enlightenment.  Mostly everyone laughed and passed it off as if it was a silly thought, “You’re YOU, duh!”  I secretly grieved over this feeling of losing myself.  It started weighing very heavily on my heart and eventually led me to seek out a counselor who could assist me in finding that girl I had once been.

So there I sat, across from my counselor (coincidentally I HAD to seek one out for my master’s program in counseling, so it was pretty timely that I had an issue… But then again, don’t we always have SOMETHING to unload?).  We were pondering a question and there was a lengthy pause in the conversation.  The question he had asked me was, “If you could sit across from the old you, what would you want to ask yourself?”  I opened my mouth to speak and realized that I had nothin’!  I came up dry.  “There’s nothing that I want to know from THAT me,” I said.  “I know her inside and out.”

He asked, “Then why do you want to get back to being THAT you?”

And that was the moment that it hit me… “There is no more THAT me.  THAT version of me doesn’t exist anymore.  I couldn’t be THAT me in THIS life.  It wouldn’t work.”  And it was true.
While I look fondly back upon the vivacious, adventurous and strong spirited former self that was once me I have since then become something different, and in a sense something “more.”

His last question that day was, “So what do you do now?”

Now… NOW I figure out who I WANT to be. Above all else, I want to be the best version of myself that I can be.  For my son and for my husband (who hasn’t given up on me in all my manic soul searching) but really this is for me.

Frankly, it’s a little overwhelming, and somewhat terrifying to be honest.  But, hey, it’s a start.

On Motherhood…

As I watch all of the beautiful and sentimental updates from my friends who have entered the adventure of motherhood I am reminded of the words that I wish someone had uttered to me during those stages – and that I had the clarity to absorb them.

Dear Self,

Being a mother is one of the most challenging and difficult jobs you will ever have (and you’ve had some REALLY crazy jobs!). But, like most things in life you TRULY get back what you’ve put into it:) The learning curve seems steep at first – more the learning how to find balance than the learning how to mother (your needs vs. the needs of others and trying to fit those needs into the impossible 24 hour day). Just know that you are not responsible for balancing the WORLD.

We each do the best with what we’ve got in front of us, and trudge on with the occasional lean-on provided by friends and family.

Ask for help when you need it. Say no, a LOT.
DON’T let anyone tell you that your concerns are not valid, they are probably led by your intuition.
Your intuition is probably right.
Don’t judge yourself by other people’s parenting skills and don’t judge others by yours. What we see on the surface is often so blurred by our own experiences and perspectives that the vision is jaded.

Take care of yourself. Eat healthily, get as much sleep as possible – seriously, when they sleep you MUST sleep. Exercise. Take time for yourself even if it means begging someone to sit with baby while you sit in silence staring at the wall.

Get off the internet, hang up the phone and turn off the TV. As much as possible. These first years are so incredibly fleeting that you don’t want to miss a thing, trust me.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIf you have to work, know that when you are done with your work day and you are speeding home to see your bundle of joy – that you are NO LESS OF A MOMMY than one with the ability to care for their child at home.

If you are caring for your child at home, know that you have a very important JOB and you also need a reprieve here and there. Don’t judge yourself based on this decision, either one. Again, we’re all doing the best that we can for our given situation.

No parent is perfect. If you mess up, make a mistake, forget something important, chances are that life will go on. As a mother you’re going to worry. A LOT. Try to keep yourself in check by letting go of the things that you have no control of and leaving behind those things that have passed. Learn from them and move on with that knowledge.

However, know this… Now that you have taken on this adventure your truths in life have changed. There is no greater experience. No more important and profound legacy that you could possibly leave to this beautiful world. Enjoy every single moment of struggle, anticipation, joy and most importantly… When you feel defeated by exhaustion and the neediness of others – after all, you are now “mother” and you will (frequently) cry over these tumultuous emotions and then laugh maniacally as your newborn/infant/toddler looks at you with horrified confusion- Remember that you just CREATED LIFE and that makes you a mother flippin’ goddess.

NO MATTER WHAT life throws your way – You got this.

The Weight of a Word

When we least expect it, life sets us a challenge to test our courage and willingness to change; at such a moment, there is no point in pretending that nothing has happened or in saying that we are not ready. The challenge will not wait. Life does not look back. A week is more than enough time for us to decide whether or not to accept our destiny.
~Paulo Coelho

Some stories are very hard to tell… The words hang heavily on the tongue, and the heart weighs even more so on the soul.

The “telling” might be therapeutic to some, releasing the words that can, in effect, create a greater sense of understanding for everyone involved.

But what if the act of telling changes everything? Could you ever turn back, away from the truth? Could you change someone’s perspective? Would what they see overcome what their brain wants to tell them? Would they see what we see because of the immense love that we share?
Sometimes not telling is a kinder action.

Then again…

Sometimes you have to see everything else, outside of yourself. Sometimes you just throw yourself at the mercy of others and pray that they have your best interests at heart.

This is our journey. It is full of love, pain and a heck of a lot of courage. Our journey became a story the minute that I wrote this. The telling of the story is somehow the hardest part.

cam in the tunnel

The choice to become a mother was one of the single most defining moments of my life. There was a certain appeal to being in my 30’s and having very limited responsibilities. Yet, something more called to me. A part of me wanted to prove to myself (and maybe the world) that I could become a loving and nurturing parent, despite a laundry list of reasons that I had convinced myself were against me.

I am not one to believe that having a child completes a family. I didn’t think that it was possible to love my husband any more than I did the day we were married. The day that our son was born – I thought that my heart would burst with love.  It couldn’t possibly grow any bigger. I was convinced that the love we shared couldn’t become any more profound than the deep connection between two people who welcomed another life into their fold.

I was wrong.

The day that our son was diagnosed with autism was the kicker. That day I knew that I loved my husband more than I ever knew could be possible. He had saved me from myself in the journey that we were on, and he helped me to pick up the pieces when I fell apart.

We had been on an emotional roller coaster for two months going from speech pathologists to neurologists to developmental pediatricians collecting data that would shed some light on why our son had experienced such a drastic change over the summer. In what seems like a moment, he stopped talking and the level of interaction that we experienced with him was startling. I don’t know if you can imagine what it is like to desperately wish that the word, “Mama” would once again come out of your child’s mouth. I yearned for his sweet voice.cam laughs

Something was different and we were on a mission to figure it out.  In the meantime, we called in the big dogs and started working toward what we knew to be true. My best friend is a behavior analyst. What are the chances of THAT? Apparently somewhere near 1 in 68

She flew down and completed the VB-MAPP which is an assessment tool for children on the autism spectrum. She was puzzled because he was immediately responsive to her interventions, which was not “typical.” We soon learned that there is nothing typical about our child. What looked like autism, was only present some of the time. But when it was there – there was no denying it. On a good day, you’d never guess. On a bad day… You couldn’t doubt it. He was so quick to respond to behavior therapies that every professional who met with us was left scratching their head.

We started using applied behavior analysis “lite” at home and magically the words started to emerge!  In one weekend, we went from 5-10 spoken words to over 40. In two weeks, we were at 70+ words. Soon we lost count. In two months, our brave boy made such progress that most parents take for granted… On one particularly great day it was all I could do not to grab the mic at Target and declare, “Good evening, Target Patrons! My son has made a year’s worth of verbal development progress in two months. Carry on!”kisses

I say that we practiced ABA “lite” because in reality we were only using discrete trial training and to see a behavior analyst in action is to witness a near miracle. They combine a plethora of strategies and techniques that are individualized for each child and it is so incredibly effective as a form of early intervention that it is miraculous! I don’t know what the formula was for our success. I know parents who worked just as hard, if not harder, and the results were different. At the time we only knew that time was of the essence, so we pushed. Hard.

We started with ABA because we wanted to give our son the tools necessary for him to reach his full potential. We wanted to break down the wall that had unexpectedly risen between us. In no way were we capable of delivering what our son needed to reach his full potential, so we started collecting data that would help us to help him. Unfortunately, ABA can only be administered by certified professionals and we couldn’t afford to hire one out of pocket without the assistance of insurance. Insurance will only cover ABA for a diagnosis of an autism spectrum disorder. And not all insurance.

CamshouldersThe catharsis that came with obtaining the words we feared most in order to get him the help he needed even more… It was indescribable. With three words written down on a prescription pad, we were able to get our son the ABA treatment that he needed.
Autism spectrum disorder.

Three very big, heavy, and daunting words.

But only three.

ONLY three little words used to describe a mere part of the magnificent creature that is our son.

Cameron struggles greatly with two aspects of autism: Social interaction and verbal communication. The desire is there, which is our greatest gift, but we are learning that his brain works differently in HOW it learns. We changed the way we teach.  He began coming back to us.

I remember that there was a very clear and distinct moment where I had fallen apart and was sitting on the bathroom floor in a heap of tears, snot and tissues. I stood up, looked at myself in the mirror and told myself that there was no time for denial, no room for self-pity and that I needed to pull my sh*% together in order to help him become who he was meant to be.

In that moment I made the conscious choice to see Cameron for who he is, and I put my emotions in their place.  After all, autism is only a small part of who he is…

painting pretties

You have to choose to see the child before the exceptionality. You have to choose to acknowledge that autism is the way in which his brain operates, and that he is still the same sweet, creative and silly little boy that he always was.

Well, you don’t “have to.”
But I need you to. He needs you to see him before you see his disability. Because, if you see him first, then you will see that he is a work of art. He is incredible. He is working harder to understand his world than you and I ever could imagine. The kind of hard work that creates such verbal masterpieces as, “Daddy,” “Mama, “”purple,” “open door!” and “Ready set go!” or most recently, “I love you!” These may be scripted, but they are a start.

These words are precious to us. They tell us to keep pushing on, that the little person that we love has something to say, that we need to listen.

And there is absolutely nothing that we will not do to make sure the whole world hears him.

(Please note that this blog post has been two years in the making. There were many times where a sentence was produced, only to induce tears. Others, not one word made it to the blog.)

Adult Friendships Can be Tough…

A few evenings ago Rob and I found ourselves at an impromptu dinner with one of my best friends of over ten years, and a coworker of hers.  My dear friend was in town for a bit of SXSW work, and we took the opportunity to sit down, talk in high speed NY fashion (add to that the CHARMING British accent of her coworker) and catch up over a meal.  Then we meandered over to a show where we hung out ever so briefly with another dear friend who was presenting a huge showcase with about 4,000 people expected.  He was also working, but made it a point to meet us, make sure we were granted VIP entrance, find us inside, share a few drinks and laugh at how far we’ve all come since our days together at Interscope.  It was a fast night, it was a long and late night, but it was one of the best nights I have had in YEARS.

'Scope Reunion, y'all!

See, this is how things are done where I’m from.  You may not have a lot of time to spend together but you make the most of it when you do, and you try to do it as often as possible.  There’s a feeling that no time has passed, and an invigorating sense of community (Anjali, you were so right) just from the encounter.  Yes, in New York and Los Angeles both, we frequently MADE time for our friends so that we could bask in the feeling we got from the connection.  Sure, there are always friendships of convenience… You see them at a common hang out locale, and you revel in each others company until the next time. But the true connection that you get from spending quality time with someone who really understands you, that is GOLD.

I’m not sure if it happened when my son was born, or if it started during my pregnancy, but I have felt a significant amount of social isolation in the past few years.  Some of my closest friends are also new mothers, and frankly its tough finding time to get together on a regular basis.  I live thousands of miles away from my lifelong best friends and my own family, so the regular drop-ins that were a staple of my youth don’t exist.  I never thought that I would miss that so intensely.

But I digress. Another post for another time.

Livin' la vida vino!

I have been blessed to form many friendships with some amazing people that I work with. We frequently invent reasons to get together… Girls Night Out, Bunco, or even Happy Hour.   Maybe this is just how adult friendships work?  I don’t know.  I cherish these women, and wish I could spend more quality time with them for no reason whatsoever!  The precious moments spent among friends seem just too few and far between the rest of the chaos.

More, please!

My husband has been one of my very best friends since we met eight years ago, as a matter of fact, I prefer his company over all others.  He gets the quirks of my personality that most people do not get.  He knows that when I am loud and boisterous about something it is a sign of a burning interest or passion.  Most people just think I am a bitch (NOT the worst that I’ve been accused of lately, but that might be found in a post one day as well). Rob sees my desire to change the world and make it a better place for our son as courageous.  Many people label me an idealist. Through my husband, I have come into contact with some of the people I hold nearest and dearest to my heart.  Friends and family have been added to my life that have lent layers of complexity and value to our lives, yet even that cannot replace the feeling I experienced the other night.  Comradery, perhaps…

I find myself yearning for the quality time spent with friends, not out of convenience or even need to solve many of life’s constant dramas, just out of love for one another. Talking about the newest line of H&M over coffee… Laughing at a memory of an embarrassing moment we witnessed (read: experienced) together.  Sitting on a dock overlooking the bay with drinks in hand and smiles on lips. Memories, that at the time seemed like they would always be current and commonplace.  The lack of these moments in my life has left me feeling pretty melancholy.

Is this typical of adult relationships?  Common for new mothers?  Do we find ourselves so immersed in our family lives and day to day responsibilities that we simply don’t have time to spend on our personal relationships?  Sure, my time is sparse since becoming a mother. The many facets of my day to day life are often exhausting and mundane.  I adore every single minute spent with my two amazingly sweet boys, but something is missing.  I know that life as I knew it pre-motherhood will never return.  I don’t regret or resent the “new” life, but like I said, I’m feeling a bit nostalgic for certain aspects of the “old.”

What do you think?  Is this the normal progression of friendships made in adulthood?  Are our lives too busy to connect at a deeper level or am I simply asking too much?  Speak to me!

Would You Rather Be Right or Happy?

So often in my life I feel compelled to fix things. Broken things, rusty things, tattered, torn and wrinkly things. When friends come to me for advice, its hard not to offer up a solution, it’s the problem solver within me. Most likely this part of my nature is the reason I am working to become a therapist. I’ve learned not to try to “fix” or change the people in my life, as it certainly never works. What does work, however, is adjusting my expectations.

Take a moment and briefly re-read that last statement to check for personal resistance. For me, it has been quite a challenge but one that I am grateful to have taken.

Throughout my entire life I have created an unrealistic set of expectations for myself, and I am forever trying to live up to them. These expectations often include my career, personal life, the standards that I set for myself as a parent, and those that I strive for as a human being. I don’t fool myself into believing that I am ALWAYS living up to them. I’ve become the happiest I have ever been while resting in the knowledge that I am a work in progress. I mess up, I try to reflect and grow from the experience. But that wasn’t always the case.

There have been times in my life where I messed something up so irrevocably that I had to destroy any link between whatever “it” was and myself. Some relationships have gone up in flames because I was too proud or immature at the time to reflect or understand my part in their demise. I don’t regret these stages, because they’ve led me to appreciate the personal growth that I’ve experienced. Sure, I regret some of my actions, but I try to forgive myself and move on.

One of the greatest lessons I have learned was one of the most subtle. The question, “Is it better to be right or happy?” was asked of me one day. The subject matter was so irrelevant that it doesn’t even come to mind, but the question was profound. Not even at that very moment, but later on as I used that question time and again to understand myself and those around me.

EGO… It sure holds a lot of meaning for such a small word.

Does our own ego outweigh the value of our personal connections?
One glance at my Facebook feed could prove that this is undoubtedly true.

“Person A” states an opinion. Argument ensues over the validity and every argument is tainted with sarcasm, not pedagogy.

“Person B” posts a serene image with a profound (for them in that very moment) quote and fifteen people are clamoring to be the first person to tell them that the author of the quote is incorrect.

“Person C” posts about a revelation that that they’ve had and we rush to “put them in their place” because their revelation is in direct conflict with our own beliefs, “Person C’s” past actions, or frankly, we are just making fun of their experience. Are we so ego driven that our desire to be right outweighs another persons happiness? And when did tearing someone else down begin to equate to our own happiness through personal vindication?

Why is it so important to be right, to be MORE right, than anyone else? To be SMARTER than anyone else? To have had more LIFE experiences than anyone else? To be HAPPIER than anyone else? Do we really need to point these things out to feel validated? Maybe for some. And if I am going to be true to myself, I’ve got to concede that its perfectly OK when other people need these validations. Because, IT IS. And at the end of the day, I’m happier not arguing it.

There are things in my life that hold great value to me and I could argue their importance until I’m out of breath… However, I’m learning that my values don’t hold the same worth to everyone else. If what they think or do doesn’t somehow harm the world we share or the people that I love, I can let it go. At the end of the day everyone is really just trying to do whatever it is that they believe will make them happy.

Who am I to argue with that?