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A Bouquet of Dandelions

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What does Mother’s Day look like for you?  For some of us, this is the first Mother’s Day to be a Mother…and that is exhilarating, and maybe even a little exhausting after a short night with the baby’s feedings.  For some, the days leading up to this weekend are painful—maybe we are unable to have children, so we only hold in our hearts the child we so yearn to hold in our arms.  For some of us the weekend is an exciting and full day of celebration—children coming home or taking Mom out to dinner.  For some of us, the weekend is a time of fear that hits hard because of our Mother’s recent diagnosis.  For some, we just realized it is Mother’s Day and are wondering if the store has any cards left. Some of us have made a special card or gift for our moms and can’t wait to present our token of love to her.  For some of us, it is a day of great laughter and fun and for some of us, this is the first Mother’s Day since our Mother’s death.

For others, this time of year is about just being together and celebrating family.  For some of us the only way we are “together” is through the internet and we yearn for more “real life” times of togetherness. For some of us, Mother’s Day is another work day.  For some of us, it is a reminder of the ache in our heart we feel as a Mother because of the death of our precious, beautiful child. For some of us, Mother’s Day as a single Mom doesn’t look much different than any other day.  For some, the emphasis on mothering is a reminder that our Mom was not there for us—maybe we are still waiting for our Mother’s approval, or maybe our Mother watched us being abused and never was able to stand up for us and we are deeply hurt by her silence. Maybe we are in a current struggle of communication with our Mom. Maybe we are celebrating the beauty of the value of the relationship and what we have learned from our Mothers—often our first teachers about life and laundry and love and Legos and laughter and lots of other lessons. Maybe we are in tears because our son just presented us with our first dandelion bouquet.

Oh, what a beautiful thing, that first dandelion bouquet.  The simple, heart-felt gesture of an innocent child with the idea of an extravagant gift for Mom.  The child brings all that he has to give in that moment. An allergy-inducing invasive weed to most, but a gorgeous offering of love and relationship in the eyes of the mother.

One of the reasons Mother’s Day is so wide in the array of experiences is because whether it’s Mother/Daughter, Mother/Son, or Mother/Father, these are all relationships, and relationships can be messy.  Because of the reality of the imperfections in our relating, we are often hurt or we hurt others.  Even in a relationship that is often idealized there can be very difficult and very trying times.

Deborah Tannen, a professor of linguistics specializing in sociolinguistics in her book, You’re Wearing That?, Understanding Mothers and Daughters in Conversation, says “Words exchanged between [young] daughters and mothers – in the moment or in memory – can carry enormous weight.  The same is true for conversations between mothers and grown daughters, even though both are women and in many ways speak the same language – indeed, partly because both are women and in many ways speak the same language:  a language in which intimacy and closeness as well as power and distance are constantly negotiated. Improving communication between mothers and daughters, much like breaking down barriers to communication between women and men, requires, above all, understanding:  seeing the situation from the other’s point of view.”  I recommend the book as a catalyst for discovering the value of the words in the mother-daughter relationship.  Even if you do not have a daughter, you have a mother and this book promotes deeper reflection and understanding of a significant relationship.

May our celebration this Mother’s Day be in the small steps that we take towards our Mothers and children, our fellow human beings.  And in the working to improve our communication, the extending and accepting of dandelion bouquets.

This blog is intended to be educational and supportive. It is not to be considered a provision of therapy or counseling services. Submitted by Dianne Morris Jones, LMHC who is an individual and marriage counselor with Family Legacy. You are invited to check out her website at www.DianneMorrisJones.com or https://www.facebook.com/DianneMorrisJones
Looking at life through a hopeful perspective today…

Whole Hearted Living Workshop

be.YOU.tiful

As today is the first day of spring and there is still snow on the ground in Des Moines, we are longing for some beauty in color.  The Des Moines Botanical Center was the site of my photo expedition for the week. What beauty there is in creation!  What creation there is in beauty!

 

What beauty there is in you!  The plaque in my counseling office that reads “be.YOU.tiful” is a favorite to many of my clients.  Why do we find it so difficult to be ourselves?

Is there some end-expectation we have in mind?  Is it when we’re thin enough?  Smart enough?  Good enough?  Together enough?  Caught up enough?  Beautiful enough?  Mark Nepo, author of The Book of Awakening, says, “Perhaps the hardest thing I’ve learned, and still struggle with, is that I don’t have to be finished in order to be whole.”

 

Transformation.  Change.  Process.  It is the process of being ourselves that is the struggle.  My email signature line features varying perceptions, and yesterday’s was: “Looking at life through a ‘struggling is a strength’ perspective…”.  I know that I am not alone in “struggling with struggling,”

 

So often we compare ourselves with others.  “Comparison is the seed of discontentment.”  -Anonymous  It is through the lens of our perspective that the seed of discontentment can grow or we can re-wire our thinking to value the beauty of who we are.

 

As we take off the comparison glasses, we can choose to put on the lens of gratitude for who we are made to be.  A new lens and creativity is unleashed, anxiety is calmed, the “musts” and “shoulds” become “maybes” and “coulds.”

 

Can we value the “be” of be.YOU.tiful?  Notice that it reads “be,” not “do,” as in dutiful.  We are often more comfortable with the “doing” than the “being.”

 

Being ourselves requires courage and vulnerability.  And yet when we are able to be ourselves we are most radiant.  Seems like a bit of a juxtaposition, doesn’t it?  As with the flower, it is in the process of opening up and being vulnerable that we become real.  Then, we are be.YOU.tiful.

 

In the beloved children’s book, The Velveteen Rabbit, by Margery Williams, the Skin Horse and the Rabbit are having a discussion.

“What is REAL?” asked the Rabbit one day, when they were lying side by side near the nursery fender, before Nana came to tidy the room.  “Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?”  “Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse.  “It’s a thing that happens to you.  When a child loves you for a long, long time not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.”  “Does it hurt?”  “Sometimes,” said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful.  “When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.”  “Does it happen all at once,” He asked, “or bit by bit?” “It doesn’t happen all at once, “ said the Skin Horse.  “You become.  It takes a long time.  That’s why it doesn’t happen to people who break easily, or have sharp edges or who have to be carefully kept.  Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby.  But those things don’t matter at all, because once you are real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”

 

May you be encouraged to struggle against what is mechanical and sharp and struggle towards that which is lovely, what is true, what is be.YOU.tiful within you.

 

This blog is intended to be educational and supportive. It is not to be considered a provision of therapy or counseling services. Submitted by Dianne Morris Jones, LMHC who is an individual and marriage counselor with Family Legacy. You are invited to check out her website at www.DianneMorrisJones.com.

 

 

Childhood fears

Which of us as a parent, hasn’t had to deal with the inevitable: a frightened, out-of-control child with hardly an idea of how to quell their storm within? What we may try, not only doesn’t help, but may tend to exacerbate the “storm.”

To enable us to better help our children progress through normal, developmental fears, it’s important to understand a few things about the nature of fear in children:

  • First, childhood fears are not only inevitable, but helpful. Such fears are necessary for growth. Children won’t develop emotionally without them. There are predictable developmental fears at each stage of a child’s life that must be allayed lest they reappear in subsequent stages surfacing again in different form-usually bigger and more powerful.
  • Second, parents need to understand the difference between fright and fear. Most of us do an adequate job of allaying a child’s frights, but fall short in dealing with their fears. Fright is a physiological response to an immediate danger:  the 4 year old who screams savagely at the approach of a large dog. We think the child is afraid of being bitten, so we elaborately explain how this gentle dog would never bite them. But the terror persists. The real fear is that of being overpowered. Understanding the fear, helps our response to be different: we may move in closer or pick up the child to allay the feeling of being overwhelmed. In other words, fright is what the child fears, and fear is why he/she is afraid.

WHAT DOESN’T WORK:

  1. “I’ll do this for you.” We search through drawers looking for monsters or lay down with children until they go to sleep. Children are masters at deciphering unspoken messages even though they can’t articulate them. The inadvertent message: “There is something so scary here that you need me to prevent the monsters from getting you.”
  2. “Daddy is afraid, too.” We don’t want children to believe that the perceived threat endangers the adult also.
  3. “There is nothing here to be afraid of; just go to sleep.” The parent is addressing the fright, not the fear. You will probably see a greater demonstration of the fright response.

WHAT WORKS:

In their book, Things that Go Bump in the Night, Drs. Paul Warren and Frank Minirth advocate a helpful 3-step strategy to help children deal with fears:

Empathy: It validates the fear, lets the child know you understand, and helps him to see the fear is survivable. “I see how scared you are; I felt that way, too, when I was your age. I’ll walk you back to bed, pray with you, then it’s time to go to sleep.”

Balance fear with facts: “The truth is, the doors are locked, the alarm system is on, and I know how to dial 911 if needed.”

Be a journeymate: Assure the child that you are nearby, ready to walk through the entire night with him, not for him—to keep him safe.

This blog is intended to be educational/informative. It is not considered to be a provision of therapy/counseling services. Submitted by Deb Gipple, LMHC, who is a child/adolescent therapist with Family Legacy.

Marriage Does Not Self Correct

There is no such thing as a perpetual motion machine.  If life teaches us anything it is this…nothing ever stays the same.  If it is good now, that will probably change, if it is bad now, the good news is that this will probably change as well. Nothing stays the same.  It is the same in marriage. All those good and meaningful moments that brought you to the place of making that commitment to get married have launched your life and your spouses in a new and exciting direction.  If it is to stay exciting and meaningful it must have a way to make adjustments and self correct or it will drift off in a destructive direction. How do we keep it on track?

 

Marriage has a way of correcting itself, though it is often misunderstood and often undervalued.  Marriage corrects itself through complaint.  Old radios use to have two knobs. One to find the station and a  fine tuning knob, which  you needed to tune out the static.  Complaint is designed to help tune out the static in your marriage.

 

Couples often laugh when I say this, they think their marriage must be in great shape with all the complaining going on!

 

Complaint is an honest attempt at expressing a discomfort or a disappointment. A complaint is trying to communicate that something needs to be adjusted.  I often ask couples that when they express to me what is troubling them in the marriage do they expect me to believe them?   They always answer, ”Yes.”  I then inform them that the problem is not whether I believe them but that they don’t believe each other.  Nobody sits around all day at the office or at home thinking how can I make my spouse miserable today!! If you are there is a bigger problem going on than learning how to self correct.

 

Let the beginning of change start here.  Believe your spouse and see what you can do to make an adjustment that can keep your marriage going in a positive direction.

Submitted by Dr. Ed Ashby,  LMHC

The Ripple Effect

As I reflect on the picture of the swan, causing a ripple in the water with its beak, I begin to wonder. What is the ripple effect? What stirs in my heart that comes out in my words and my actions….who does that “ripple” to? What is the “effect”?

Ripple effect is defined by Wikipedia as “a situation where, like the ever expanding ripples across water when an object is dropped into it, an effect from an initial state can be followed outwards incrementally.”

As we look to a new year, my desire is to go deep, to understand the internal workings of a heart, a mind, a soul. Its too much to know, I quickly tell myself. And then, I settle in. I take a moment to ponder. How do we get our arms around what stirs in our hearts? The stirrings that propel us, that move us. And if, by the very slight internal movement within the heart, there can grow into something bigger, something more impactful, something more felt, more powerful…wouldn’t it be worth it to sit and listen for that stirring?

As I think of the ripple effect, I visualize a sound wave and think of the impact of listening deeply. As I think of the ripple effect, I visualize the sound wave of a voice and think of the treasure of a friend or family member or client being able to recognize and share his/her voice. What does the ripple effect look like if we give voice to the internal stirrings of the heart?

On a body of water, the ripple effect isn’t as easily visible when there is wind. When we are at the lake cabin, often the best time to find the lake in what we refer to as “glassy still” state, is first thing in the morning. If the desire is to water ski on the still water, the benefit of getting up early is worth it. For me, the time when my heart is “glassy still” is also first thing in the morning. I find this is the time that my mind is not distracted by the “to do” list of the day, by conversations, by thoughts. And for me, a calm mind is what allows me to understand my heart. When is the time your heart and mind are most likely to be still? Glassy still?

What is the reflection you see? What ripples out? Can you see your worthiness? In Henri Nouwen’s book, Life of the Beloved, he writes to a close friend, “All I want to say to you is, ‘You are the Beloved’, and all I hope is that you can hear these words as spoken to you with all the tenderness and force that love can hold. My only desire is to make these words reverberate in every corner of your being – ‘You are the Beloved’.” Reverberate is another good word for ripple. As we embrace our belovedness, the ripple effect of our love is expressed.

The challenge to us is as Brennan Manning states in Abba’s Child, “Living in awareness of our belovedness is the axis around which the Christian life revolves. Being the beloved is our identity, the core of our existence.” The core of our heart, the place where the rippling begins.

Isn’t that how things work sometimes? A gentle stirring in our hearts can be transformed into an incredible rippling if we can be still and listen to the beat of our heart. If we can but catch a glimpse of our belovedness at the center of our heart, then the ripple effect begins.

This blog is intended to be educational and supportive. It is not to be considered a provision of therapy or counseling services. Submitted by Dianne Morris Jones, LMHC who is an individual and marriage counselor with Family Legacy. You are invited to check out her website at www.DianneMorrisJones.com.