Thursday, March 21, 2013

It's official, I'm a PAX widow.

It's that time of year again.  The gaming convention known as PAX-east.  Sixty thousand hard core gamers gather in Boston to get their fill of every type of game you can imagine for a full three days.  Many apparently roam the floor in full, authentic costume and take their alter-persona VERY seriously.  They don't sleep, they game.  All day and all night.  Board games, dice games, card games and video games.  They attend seminars and panels.  They meet the makers of their favorite games.  They learn what the newest games are.  They get all manner of nerdy swag.  They flirt with booth babes.  They gather with 'their' people. It's like coming home to the mother ship. It's geektastic!

How do I know this?  Because I am a PAX widow.  I am married to a life-long gamer.  Many of his, and now my, friends are also gamers.  They have played games together for years, some of them.  There is a Dungeon Master extraordinaire among them.  He is on one of the panels.  They are all in their glory right now, gathered in a swanky hotel suite, preparing for a slumber party of epic proportions.  They all arrived with a sack full of their own games.  Tonight I am sure they will return to the hotel after their dinner at the closest restaurant possible (time cannot be wasted when there are games to play!), discuss strategy for 'working' the floor when the doors open in the morning and stay up all night gaming, laughing and re-connecting.

They will walk miles in the convention hall during the day and get their fill of everything they have to offer. When the convention floor closes at night, the gaming simply moves to the hotel room!  Hopefully, they will remember to eat now and then. There is but one brave geeky gamer woman among them this year.  Her husband is there as well. I love her.  She is brave.  She is geeky in her own right and not in as much of a minority as you might think.  I doubt she'll be as into the booth babes as they are, but imagine the odds otherwise!

Being a PAX widow is not as bad as you might think.  People ask why I don't go.  I answer, for the same reason my husband doesn't go to a convention about birth or a scrap booking weekend.  He's just not into it.  Don't get me wrong.  I like to play games.  I wish we were able to have family game night more consistently.  I prefer board games and some card games.  One at a time.  I don't enjoy video games.  I don't enjoy many of the games he likes to play with his friends   I can't play for 3 days straight.  I wouldn't enjoy it.

Some people ask me why it doesn't bother me that he is gone for 3 days.  Really?  I'm going to bed early.  No one is stealing my covers in the middle of the night!  I have a to do list a mile long I need to attend to.  I have plenty to do!

What about the kids?  How do you handle them yourself?  Well, I've been their mother their entire lives.  I've managed them by myself for most of their lives.  I can handle it.  I'm mom.  It's what I do.  :-)

He needs his 'guy time' as much as I need girls night.  The favor will be returned some day.  We understand and value the importance of fulfilling our need to hang out with our friends, to bond, to connect and to have fun together as well as on our own.  I'm psyched for him.  He's like a kid at Disneyland.  He was so excited this morning!

Being a gamer widow is short lived.  He will return Sunday evening, exhausted and giddy.  He will show me his swag like a kid brags about their birthday and holiday gifts.  He will tell me about the costumes and the seminars and the games with the excitement of a child.  He will re-live his favorite parts because it's that important to him.  I will listen, laugh and maybe roll my eyes in jest a bit.  He knows that already.  I can only hope he will have taken off the Jedi costume before he comes home.

He will crash hard from 3 nights of little sleep.  He will resume his one night a week dedicated gaming with his buddies on Monday.  He will continue to be Batman, a Jedi or some hot chick in a first person shooter game once I fall asleep at night.  It's part of who he is.  I knew this going in.  Just like he knew about my quirks.  He thinks birth is gross!  can you imagine that?!  :-)

I love that we have this balance and fun in our relationship and in our lives.  It's part of why we connect so well.  It's part of why we love each other.  Who knows, maybe he'll get me to go to ONE day of the conference next year.  Don't tell him I'll spend most of it at the hotel spa!  :-)

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Pondering Poison Prevention

Poison Prevention

It’s National Poison Prevention Week!  Time to do a safety check with regard to often overlooked dangers in your homes and yards.  The potential poisons lurking in every room of your home.

In 2011, 3.6 million people in the US called Poison Control.  Approximately 2.3 million were regarding an accidental exposure, the rest were requests for information.  Half of those calls were in regard to exposures involving children under the age of 6.  That means half were for individuals older than 6, including teens and adults.

Toxic chemicals are all around your home, your garage and your yard.  There are dangers to your children, your pets and even to you!  Many of which you may not even be aware of!   Exposure and the effects can be instantaneous, or can evolve more slowly over a period of time where the dangers gradually build up in your body unbeknownst to you, disrupting normal processes years later and perhaps leading to cancers and other diseases later in life.  The choices you make today definitely have the potential to impact your health and safety now and in the future.  Awareness and prevention are the key.

Knowing what substances are poisonous, knowing how to prevent exposure to toxic substances and knowing what to do in the event of an accidental exposure is something every parent needs to know.  There are toxic substances in every room of your home!

The very first thing you need to know is who to call in the event of a known or suspected exposure to a poisonous substance.  IT IS NOT YOUR PEDIATRICIAN!  I know, it seems counterintuitive, right?  It’s actually the National Poison Control Center and the number is the same no matter where you are in the USA.  It’s 800-222-1222.  Right now, program it into your cell phone and put it on or next to every single phone in your house.   If you call your pediatrician, they will tell you to hang up and call poison control.   Don’t waste precious time!  Call the pediatrician after you call poison control.  The exception is if the child is not breathing, in which case you would initiate CPR and call 911.

When you call poison control, it will help them to know what the substance is (read from the label or describe it in as much detail as you can), how much of it you think your child was exposed to, how they were exposed, how long ago it happened and what the child is exhibiting for symptoms.  If you are not sure, make your best effort to identify what it could have been. They will then tell you what to do to treat it.  Do not do anything until you talk to poison control.  Don’t give your child food or water or try to induce vomiting unless poison control tells you to.  Doing those things could actually make it worse depending on what the substance is.  Follow the instructions of the poison control.  They will advise if you should go to the pediatrician or the ER. 

Now that you know what to do in the event of an exposure to a toxic or poisonous substance, let’s talk about what some common ones are and then what steps you can take to prevent an accidental exposure.  It’s important to understand that there are different types of exposures and they can all be dangerous.  Exposure can be through ingestion (eating or drinking), inhalation or by breathing in the chemicals or through absorption through the skin.
Common household poisons:
·         Cleaning supplies
·         Medicines both prescription and over the counter. 
·         Vitamins
·         Plant food and lawn care products
·         Pesticides, including those on the foods you buy.  Check out this Shopping app
·         Air fresheners and room sprays
·         Perfume
·         Personal care products including common children’s bath products.  This includes shampoos and conditioners, soaps and body wash, toothpaste and oral care substances, hair care products, hairsprays and more.
·         Laundry detergent and dishwasher packets
·         Make up, nail polish and remover
·         Certain common household and yard plants
·         Carbon monoxide
·         Radon
·         Raw or undercooked foods or those not properly refrigerated (bacteria and food poisoning)
·         Alcohol (both the kind you drink and the kind in hand sanitizers and mouthwash)
·         Recreational drugs
·         Insect and snake bites
·         Antifreeze, windshield washer fluid, gasoline, car care supplies, lighter fluid, lamp oil
·         Recreational drugs, particularly for teens (including ‘newer’ drugs like ‘bath salts’, cinnamon challenge, synthetic marijuana)
·         Misuse of foods/chemicals like nitrous oxide, helium, energy drinks/caffeine
·         Heavy Metals like Lead (paint, some personal care products), Mercury (light bulbs if broken, fish) and Arsenic (can be in water supply, especially well water)
·         Mold

The Massachusetts and Rhode Island Regional Poison Control Center has some great resources for you and your family on poison prevention.  Some of my favorites include Top 10 poison exposures to children, Safer Alternatives to Household Cleaning Products, What is Carbon Monoxide poisoning, Safe Plants, and Poisonous Plants.

Some other great resources include the Environmental Working Group’s Cosmetics Data Base where you can look up your family’s personal care products to find out how toxic they are. It is also a wonderful way to search for safer products for your family. The EWG’s Healthy Home Tips for Parents is another great resource.  Many of the ingredients in everyday products are made with known carcinogens, endocrine disruptors and other dangerous substances.  Repeated exposure can contribute to many illnesses and disorders.

Don’t forget keeping your fur babies safe!  The ASPCA Pet Poison Prevention Center is a great resource for keeping your pets safe.  Many of the same things that are toxic to our children are also toxic to our pets.  Some common household items that are not dangerous to humans can be deadly to pets. 

In order to prevent accidental exposure to toxic substances be sure your home is properly childproofed.  Here are some helpful tips:
·         Keep all dangerous chemicals and medicines both prescription and over the counter out of sight, out of reach and in a securely locked cabinet away from children. 
·         Never put chemicals in an unlabeled container, always keep them in their original container. 
·         Never tell a child that medicine is ‘candy’.  Explain what the medicine is for.  Don’t flavor medicines to taste good to get kids to take them.
·         Be careful with look-alike substances.  Medicine and candy, colored beverages and medicines/cleaning supplies and personal care products packaged, named or flavored like foods can be confusing and potentially deadly to children who think they are safe to eat or drink.
·         Be sure children know to always ask you if it’s safe to eat something they’ve found or been given by a friend. 
·         Know CPR and First Aid. 
·         Choose products that are free from toxic or dangerous chemicals using the EWG’s Skin Deep Web site as a guide. 
·         Purchase carbon monoxide detectors for every level of your home. 
·         Test your home for radon, kits are found at home improvement stores. 
·         Don’t leave your purse or diaper bag where it can be reached by children, you’d be surprised the potential dangers in them!  
·         Educate your children about the dangers of recreational drugs and misuse of OTC and prescription drugs from an early age, including alcohol. 
·         Never leave alcoholic beverages unattended when children are around. 
·         Be sure everyone who cares for your children knows the Poison Control Number 800-222-1222

How to save a life.

Do You Know How to Save a Life?

Here are some sobering facts:
·         Over 600,000 people suffer out of hospital cardiac arrests (their heart stops) outside of hospitals every year, usually in their own homes or work place
·         Once your heart stops, irreversible brain damage happens in 4-6 minutes
·         In most places, it can take longer than 6 minutes, and sometimes 10 minutes or more for EMS and to arrive once 911 is called
·         The survival rate for an out of hospital cardiac arrest is only about 6%
·         Good quality standby CPR can increase survival rates to 50-close to 70%

So what does this mean for you and your family?  That YOU may be the only person who can save the life of your child, spouse, mother, father, friend or even a neighbor or stranger.  It means that the more people who know CPR, the greater the survival rate will be and anyone’s family would be so grateful for the gift you gave them in knowing what to do and acting fast. 

The more people who know how to properly perform CPR, the more lives that can be saved. Every parent, every babysitter, every grandparent and really, any child over the age of 10 ideally should know how to perform CPR and what to do if someone is choking.  Younger children are very capable of learning how to dial 911 and how to open the airway and even perform the Heimlich maneuver or  hands only CPR (more on that later).

So why don’t more people know CPR?  Is it fear of doing it wrong?  Is it that you learned it years ago and it was too confusing or complicated?  Is it the expense of the class?  Is it that you don’t believe it’s really necessary to learn because someone else will do it should the need arise? Are you afraid that you’ll do it wrong?  Are you afraid you’ll hurt the person? 

I promise you, it doesn’t get worse than dead.  I know that’s harsh, but if you are doing CPR, that person is essentially dead and YOU are their best chance of survival. Doing something is better than doing nothing.  If you know how to do CPR, even if you think you’ve forgotten, once you start, it will come back to you.  Especially if you’ve practiced in a class and periodically review the steps.

You should know that unless you are a first responder or mandated by your profession to perform CPR, you always have the option to start or to stop once you are doing CPR for any reason.  If you are uncomfortable initiating CPR, or start and then stop, please at least call 911 and stay with the person until EMS arrives.  It’s OK if you forget how or don’t perform CPR perfectly, the most important thing is to do your best and at the level you’ve been taught. Don’t do what you saw on TV, do what you’ve learned in an actual CPR class.  

If you call 911, the operator will talk you through it; even if you’ve never done CPR before (put your phone on speaker so you can use both hands). You will be more confident and effective if you’ve taken a class and actually practiced on the manikins so you know what it feels like to go through the steps.  Most people learn and remember best by doing.

You might have heard of Hands Only CPR.  This is a campaign to encourage people who are untrained in full CPR or who don’t want to do the mouth to mouth resuscitation how to help people.  It’s most effective in adults and in situations where the person’s collapse was witnessed.  It’s quick and easy.  You can learn more here.

It’s also important to know that the Good Samaritan law protects you from being sued by the person or their family if CPR was unsuccessful, provided you are not a mandated professional.  As long as your intentions were for the greatest good, you are protected.

The good news is CPR is easier than ever to learn!  I’ve known CPR for 28 years. I’ve been an American Heart Association BLS Instructor for over 4 years.  It’s changed several times over the years, most recently in 2010.  The new guidelines were derived from new science and technology that taught those who study the effectiveness of CPR what the most important steps are in the process.  It resulted in a significantly simplified process. Many of the steps have been eliminated.  There are still differences between adults, children and infants but they are fewer and for good reason.  The mantra is now to push hard and push fast in the center of the chest.  The steps to determine if someone needs CPR are quick and easy.  Additional emphasis is now placed on obtaining and using an AED (Automated External Defibrillator).  I promise, you, it’s all easy and you can do it! 

So, if you have learned CPR in the past, good for you!  If it was before 2010, you should definitely take a new class.  If you have never learned before, now’s the time!  Make it a priority on your to do list and vow to learn!  Search for a class near you and sign up!  Search online for the Red Cross or American Heart Association Instructors, contact your local police or fire department to see if they offer instruction or contact local hospitals as they often offer community based classes.  Many places that offer childbirth and parenting classes also offer CPR.  The classes are not expensive and for an hour or two and the cost of a few lunches or instead of your daily coffee drink, you can learn to save a life!

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, knowledge is power.  Thinking ‘it’ can’t or won’t happen to you or thinking ‘someone’ else will save your loved one could be the worst mistake you ever make.  No, CPR doesn’t always work.  We don’t always know how long the person has been without a heartbeat or not breathing.  We don’t always know why their heart stopped or why they are not breathing.  Sometimes, no matter what anyone does, including doctors in hospitals, there is nothing that can be done to save a person.  The important thing is that you try.  If no one does anything, the chances of that person surviving are very, very low.  If you don’t know what to do, the chances are by the time EMS arrives, it will be too late. 

Learn to save a life!  It’s as easy as CAB!  Someone, someday, will thank you.

~note~  This was originally written as part of a series of guest blog posts on child safety per the request of Angie at Glorious Imperfections.  I am grateful that she chose "March is for Meghan" as her theme in an effort to help raise awareness of the importance of a safe and secure home for everyone.  

Monday, March 11, 2013

Parenting is hard

Ever wonder why few, if any, people ever tell you how challenging being a parent can be?

I suspect because if they did, and we thought about it more than the ticking of our biological imperative clock, the human race might cease to exist.

Don't get me wrong.  I love being a mom.  Well, most of the time.  I have been blessed with 3 beautiful children.  They've all brought me great joy and a good deal of emotional pain not to mention the physical challenges of growing and birthing them, particularly the 2 for 1 package deal.  :-)

The tough part is in finding your parenting mojo.  Finding, and keeping, a degree of confidence in yourself that yes, you really do know what you are doing.  That you really do know what is best for your children.  Finding your voice to stand up for what you believe in.  Sometimes that means doing things differently.  Advocating for your children, after all, you know them best.  Finding the resources and the time to research, ask questions, learn, and choose the best way to feed, nurture, and grow your children into the beautiful and functional adults you dream they'll become some day.  Figuring out how to provide for them physically, emotionally, spiritually and beyond and as their parent, not as their friend.  To be comfortable setting boundaries, sticking to them and enforcing them even when you just want to throw in the proverbial towel, pull the covers over your head and cry.

Tears are cleansing for the soul, right?

I've had a challenging week.  It's only Monday.  Not a good sign. In my quest to be more mindful of how I feel and why.  In trying to figure out why I react the way I do and think about why my children are acting they way they are, I'm discovering new things and new ways of parenting.

Still, it's hard.

I know as parents, we never want to discuss how 'bad' we are at it or how bad we think we are at it.  God forbid someone agree with us!  We want others to think we have it together.  We want our kids to be the ones everyone else wants their kids to be like.

Yeah, my kids ain't that.  Well, sometimes they are.  One more so than the other.  Although it depends on the day.

Really, it's about the lessons we can learn from them as much as it is the lessons we strive to teach them.

The process I went through this evening went like this:

  • Teenager and I get into a dispute (the same one we have many times a day) about his responsibilities and consequences of not doing them.  It started as an amicable conversation and quickly deteriorated to an oppositional defiant teen vs. attempting to be rational mother.  Those battles are never 'won' by anyone, still it's a pattern and it plays out the same every time. 
  • Teenager goes to tutoring session visibly angry and near tears, frantically texting the girlfriend he says he doesn't have about his horrible life and mother.
  • I drive home, first wondering what I did in a past life to deserve the challenges I've been dealt in this one.  My eldest and his behavioral challenges, the twins, the loss of a child, having to parent a twinless twin, a messy and contentious divorce, being a single mother for essentially the duration of their lives until very recently and the impact all of those things had on these boys...Easy to drift into "I suck as a mother for all these things I've done wrong" land.  The 'why me?' demon tried to rear it's ugly and self-deprecating head.  Especially when I dwell on the negative aspects of their personalities and how they challenge me.
  • Then, I started thinking about how that heated conversation could have played out differently.  I concede he had a point about one of the topics of dispute.  I pondered the disability he has with his ADD and ODD.  I pondered the dynamic that has developed between us over the past 14 years as a result and the fact it doesn't help he pushes the same buttons in me at times as his father always has. I pondered that humor is something we value and have lots of in our family and he responds well to it.
  • I started thinking about the wonderful qualities he possesses   He's brilliant.  He's funny.  He's pretty handsome (yeah, I'm biased, but he's handsome!). He's loving and caring.  He is great with younger kids even though he complains about them all the time.  He wants to much to express himself but doesn't know how or isn't comfortable doing so in any other way than negatively.  He's sensitive.  He's sweet.  He just wants to be loved and accepted like everyone else.
  • I revised 'the contract' - a behavior contract we drafted for and with him that clearly outlines household rules, privileges and consequences of not following the rules.  It is lengthy and detailed because he needs everything spelled out or it doesn't exist in his world.  I realized that his point about the thing we were arguing about was not clearly spelled out and was an oversight in drafting the document.  So I fixed it. 
  • I picked teenager up.  He was in a significantly improved mood (distraction can be a good thing sometimes).  We went to the grocery store to get some ingredients for a project he has.  We discussed my decision to amend the contract briefly.  He seemed pleased at the perceived 'win'. 
  • We got home.  I asked him to do the same things that led to the argument a few hours earlier.  I threatened to hold his stuffed Chicken or his cat hostage until it was done. He was silly.  He did it.  With humor and very little encouragement.  I only had to chase him around and try to get the stuffed chicken out of his shirt where he 'hid' it for a short time.  :-)  
I know it won't last forever.  Chances are good there will be a new disagreement tomorrow and the contract will be brought up and ODD will return.  It's so hard to determine what the best way to deal with it is.  It really just depends on the moment.  It changes with the wind.  

Maybe, someday, I'll have that fantasy day with my family.  You know, the one where everyone gets up on time all by themselves, does all their chores, does their homework without being reminded, cleans their room, and hugs their mother, thanking her for everything she's done for them.  All the hard work, the sacrifices, the good food, the love...

Just in case, anyone have a fairy godmother I can borrow? 

Friday, March 8, 2013

Good enough or enough is enough?

Ever wonder if you are good enough?  If good enough is indeed, enough?

Are you an exemplary human, spouse/significant other, parent, co-worker/employee, child or friend?  Perhaps you are the best at all of those things.  Maybe you are the worst.  Maybe you are perfectly average.  Or maybe, you are just plain good enough.  Who decides that?  You or them?  Does it matter?  It's different for everyone, right?

We tend to be a society that likes hierarchy.  There are levels of everything.  We compare ourselves endlessly.  Many want to be the best.  We want to be loved, appreciated, complimented and rewarded for our 'goodness'.  We want to be remembered for being wonderful.  No one wants the eulogy at their funeral to be 'they were a schmuck and that's the best I can say'.

Women in particular obsess about being smart enough, pretty enough, skinny enough or sexy enough.  We *think* others want certain qualities in us that we never think we have enough of.  Perhaps because of the media and the often unrealistic portrayal of societal roles and expectations in love, work and life.

Men seem to obsess on being attractive enough, funny enough and successful enough in work, sports, love and life in order to feel as if they are good enough.  They tend to focus more on the material 'stuff'.  The higher up on the corporate ladder, the hotter the wife, the cooler the car, the better they feel about themselves.  Granted, not everyone feels this way, but many do, whether they admit it or not.

Why?  Why can't we just be happy with who we are as we are?  Provided we are not negatively impacting anyone else intentionally, and doing the best that we can with what we have, why can't we just be who we are?  Why isn't that enough? At the end of the day we are so much more fortunate than so many others in this world and yet, we always seem to want more.

As humans, we have consciousness and emotion.  Our intellectual self sometimes has a difficult time reconciling with our emotional self.  We can't always fully comprehend why we feel the way we do.  We just feel the way we feel.  It complicates the human experience tremendously.

Feeling is one thing.  You can't help how you feel.  Action is another entirely.  You CAN choose how to act on those feelings.  You SHOULD consider how your actions potentially impact others.

Enter ego.  It's like an addiction sometimes.  We get a little praise, a little more money, a few people to compliment or flirt with us and we want more.  We want more because we feel what we have is not enough.  Otherwise, we wouldn't want more, right?  It becomes a game for some people.  Seeking relationships in which they get their ego stroked, changing jobs frequently to try to get more money or prestige, changing the way you act, dress or who you hang out with or where you choose to hang out because it makes you feel better about you, seeking status through personal or material change and gain.  While in theory, that can be good if done with purpose and good intention, and we should all be the best person we can be, it can become a dangerous game if you are not aware of what drives your actions.

It is often our own feelings of inadequacy and insecurity that cause us to think we are not good enough.  Consequently, it often drive us to seek situations and relationships that fill that void rather than stopping and being grateful for what you have right now.  More isn't always better.  Nothing we do happens in isolation or in a vacuum.  Everyone whose lives we touch and whose lives they touch are impacted by our choices and actions.  All too often we don't consider that because ego is too busy thinking "me, me, me".

Other people's opinions shouldn't matter.  We can certainly listen to them and consider them, but we are masters of our own destiny.  We need to be responsible for our choices and aware of the potential impact of our choices on others, intentional or otherwise.  It's great to want to better yourself, but for YOU.  Not to impress or appease someone else.

I challenge you to think for a day about every choice you make.  Notice what you say when interacting with others.  Your words, your body language, your intention.  Think about what you eat and why, why you drive the way you do, who you talk to and who you avoid.  Be mindful.  Be honest with yourself.  Go about your typical day but be mindful of what you do and why.  Notice how you feel with regard to what others say and do and ponder why.

Our 'issues' with other people are really about ourselves.  It's eye-opening and insightful.

So, are you good enough?

Thursday, March 7, 2013

If you can't control it, embrace it or let it go.

Hi.  My name is Kim. I am a bit of a control freak.

*phew*  I admitted it.  I already feel better.

My entire life I have been a type-A multi-tasker who likes a plan.  I like to *know* what is going to happen and when.  I don't like uncertainty.  I don't like flying by the seat of my pants.  I can't stand indecision. I'm a rule follower.  I have a strong sense of right and wrong and of justice.  I want to be master of my own destiny.  I need structure, consistency and organization.  Of course if you saw my desk right now, you'd question that statement.

Over the past several years, I've mellowed a bit.  I still like a plan and I am still more type-A than not.  Something about being a parent, especially a parent of twins, teaches you to let go a little.  Having three children under 3 will also help you prioritize what's truly necessary and important in life.

When you face a crisis, or several, you are presented with choices.  Losing a child gives you tremendous perspective.  Divorce and the loss of prior friendships or changes in the dynamics of relationships because of those losses presents the opportunity to learn important life lessons.

What it has amounted to, in a nutshell, is that I've learned I can't control everything.  In fact, I am generally much happier when I just let each hour, day, week and in fact my entire life simply happen.  I've learned to go with the flow, if you will.  Sure, I still have relapses.  Especially when over-scheduled  or when unexpected things happen.

Which brings me to today.  We live in New England.  It's early March.  It's snowing.  Again.  It happens.  Every winter.  It's happened a lot this year.  That's what we signed up for by living here.  By the comments on my Facebook feed, you'd think it was unheard of.  The negativity of the comments is actually palpable.

Because of the snow, school was cancelled.  Again.  My plan for the day has had to change.  Again.  I still need to work.  I have no child care.  I can't leave my boys together at home alone.  Stressed?  Surprisingly not.


I cannot control the weather.  I can control how I react to it.  I can change how I choose to look at it and how I let it impact my mood.

So I choose to be grateful for the snow.  It is water and it is needed for spring to come and flourish.  No drought here this spring! Snow is white, peaceful and purifying.  Remember, kisses from Heaven!  The wind moves the stagnant air, it brings change.  Positive change.  It literally blows away the old and brings in the new.  It's a sign of the changing seasons and how lucky are we to have that?  It's a reminder that we are not in control of Mother Earth or maybe, our choices have angered and changed her.  Think about that.

We can be further grateful for those who keep our roads safe, who plow the driveway and who alert us to what to expect so we can prepare.  They take their jobs seriously.  They may not be perfect or 100% accurate, but unless you can truly do a better job, think before you speak.

I choose to be grateful for the roof over our heads, the heat in our home, that my children are safe and warm and that instead of having to take an unexpected day off from work (which I'd love but can't in good consciousness take) I can juggle my schedule to make it work for all of us.  It's not ideal, but it works.  I could let it stress me out, I've chosen not to.

This is a huge transformation for me and has been literally my entire life in the making.  How you choose to look at things makes all the difference in your experience of them.  I'm all too aware how short life can be.  I might as well enjoy the ride while I still can.  People who are stressed and who wallow in negative energy live shorter lives and have more physical and emotional ailments.  Why would you choose that?

So all you New England peeps complaining about the snow, lighten up!  See the lessons in it.  See the gifts.  Embrace it or at least let go of the stress and negativity, you can't do anything about it anyway.  Besides, it's good creative snow.  Go find your inner child and make a snowman, snow fort, or a snow angel.  Have a snowball fight with your kids or significant other.  Be creative.

If you can't control a situation, you can let it stress you out while you run like a mouse in the wheel or you can let it go.  Embrace it for what it is, make it work for you.

Spring is 2 weeks away :-)

Saturday, March 2, 2013

The healing power of sound

Sound healing resonates with me.  Pun intended.  :-)

Last night I attended a workshop on the power of sound at the Robin's Nest in Bellingham.  It was facilitated by Jenna and Doug Greene of Greene Lady Music.  Doug is a gifted percussionist and Jenna has the voice of an angel.  They have such a beautiful energy about them.  Check out Jenna's albums and sample the music on her Web site.  I recommend a listen to the affirmation chant.

This workshop focused on the use of Tibetan and crystal bowls and one very mighty gong.  One of the crystal bowls was tuned to the vibration of the solar plexus chakra, the lovely place where we hold our 'junk'.  The other, tuned to the third eye chakra, our inner wisdom and place of intuitive knowing.  Added to the mix was chanting, which in it's own right, is a powerful healer.  Especially when coupled with intention and affirmation.

Sound healing has always been a powerful vehicle for healing for me.  It is for most people.  Think about how you use music or sound in your life?  What sorts of music do you listen to when you are sad, angry, stressed, happy?  What instruments do you play or like to listen to?  How does music affect your mood or make you feel on an emotional as well as physical level?  Ever pay attention to that?  Ever wonder how it works?

It's vibration.  When you sing, it's vibration.  When you speak, yell, chant or use your voice, you create vibration.  It can be a vehicle for release as well as for healing.  Adding intention amplifies the effect on you and those around you.  Think about it.  How do you feel when someone yells at you or speaks negatively about you or someone you care about?  How do you feel when you are the one using negative tone of voice, words or volume? How about when someone uses a soft, loving voice and says positive things to you or about you?  How do you feel when you are the one speaking in a positive manner and using positive words.  They are two very different feelings, quite literally mind, body and spirit.

Your entire body vibrates, right down to your DNA.  Certain areas of our bodies vibrate at different rates.  We can change the vibration to cause positive (or negative) change.  Sound is energy.  There are a bunch of research out there that shows the power of sound and intention on everything from how water molecules form and plants grow to how our bodies get and recover from dis-ease.  Gregg Braden has written about and made a YouTube video about the Science of Miracles and it speaks to the healing of tumors and other medical ailments using sound and intention.

Muddy or negative energy is low vibration.  It bogs you down.  It manifests physically as dis-ease and emotionally as stress, anger, depression, anxiety or perhaps apathy.

Positive energy is high vibration.  It lifts you up.  It makes you shine and sparkle.  You feel lighter, happier, capable, confident and more at peace with yourself and your life.

Your intention can change your energy.  It can change your life.

Since most physical ailments are rooted in the emotional, music or sound therapy/healing also provides for an alternative therapy if you will to resolve physical symptoms as well.  On the physical level, I walked in there tired, stressed and with a headache that I've had all week.  By the end of the 2 hour workshop my headache was gone, I was grounded and centered and felt like I'd slept for days.  I was full of energy and felt more in balance than I have in a while.

On the emotional level, music or sound provides an opportunity for release of that which no longer serves you.  You can purge the negative, heavy thoughts and energy that literally bogs you down and let it go.  Then you can use sound, intention and affirmation to bring in and create a more positive, healthy and happy state of well-being.

Recently, I've been more drawn to chanting or using my voice as a healing tool.  I am NOT a confident vocalist.  I hate the sound of my own voice.  I love to sing, I always have, but I'm pretty sure no one wants to hear it.  Thus, I generally sing when I am alone in the car.  Loudly.  :-)  I love to express how music makes me feel through dance and movement. This I am more comfortable with.

As I've expanded my awareness and experience of metaphysics and modes of healing over the years, I've become more drawn to chanting.  The sacred and safe space created by the community of people who are drawn to the alternative and healing arts provides an environment in which we all feel comfortable experimenting with and embracing our gifts and expressing our needs.  Slowly, I've found my voice, I've experimented with sound, I've found chanting to be grounding and a source of stress relief.  Most chants are coupled with affirmation or intention.  Sometimes I just listen to them, for instance when I run.  It's meditative.  Sometimes I chant along with them.  I notice the vibration within my own body that is created by the different sounds I make.  It's fascinating.

Last night we were able to use the power of sound, affirmation and intention to release and heal ourselves and then used focused intention and energy to facilitate others in their healing.  It's a powerful experience.  Almost tribal in nature.  When guided by the powerful vibrations of the crystal bowls and gong along with the vocalizations of Doug and Jenna, it was easy to 'get into it'.

As I continue my spiritual journey, I was reminded that I end up in the right place at the right time for the right reasons, even if it is not what I thought I needed or wanted.  Last night was necessary for me on many levels.  I didn't really *get* that until I was there.  I went because I actually had the ability and time to and I love The sound of crystal bowls.  At least that's why I thought I went.

In actuality, I went because that was exactly what I needed to process some emotional  and physical 'baggage'.  It provided a vehicle for a release I desperately needed. It provided an opportunity to shift my thoughts, energy and affirmations to continue to focus on the intention to manifest the balance I seek in my life.  It wasn't the crystal bowls I needed.  It was actually the powerful sound and energy of the gong.  It was the beautiful sounds of Jenna's voice singing affirmations.  It was the chanting from my soul that cleared some of the muck and brought in the light.  It was being a part of that tribal community for just one night for the greater good of those who needed to be there.

Everything happens for a reason.

Being mindful of the sounds in your life is something we just don't do.  If I sit and listen right now what do I hear?  The hum of my computer.  The wind chime outside and the tiny one on my desk simply from the vibration created as I type.  I hear a bird singing outside.  The cat snoring in his bed on my desk.  The click of the keyboard keys as I type.  What I thought was silence, is really a bunch of 'white' noise I edit out.

It's fascinating how much you notice and learn when you actually pay attention.