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Archive for May, 2011

We as human beings all have a need to be heard, to be validated, and to be understood.  Without necessarily agreeing with someone’s position or sharing the same interests, we can still be there for people in a positive way and help bring out their good. 

 

Interest-   Take an interest in the other person.  Show specific interest in his/her ‘thing’.  People come alive when they can share their passions and interests with a sincerely listening and caring person.  Ask questions to hone in what they’re saying.     

Praise–   Specific praise goes a long way in making someone feel deeply known and valued.  Not the generic words, nice or good; but rather words that describe the unique person and his/her attributes and strengths.   Reflect back the good qualities you see.  Nothing feeds the soul like sincere, descriptive and specific praise.    

Support –   Emotional support is very strengthening.  Expressing verbal or written support is heartwarming.  “I’m here for you” with joy for the good times and with big shoulders for the rough times, stated and acted upon, says it all.      

Encourage–  Being a cheerleader by encouraging someone to embark upon something new; to take that next step; to see what they’re good at and highlighting it for them; this is all so very  helpful and empowering.  We all need people to believe in us and oftentimes to positively push us to our potential.  We all can do so much more than we’re already doing, but for so many reasons we stop ourselves short.  Having someone who truly knows our strengths and cares enough to encourage us to ‘go for it’, or to point us in directions we may not have seen on our own, is tremendous.

Knock, knock, are we there for each other??  Is the good shining through??

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I recently realized that during two major life-altering times in my life, I tried out something new.  And nineteen years and nine years later (respectively), I am still actively engaged in both.  They have become an integral part of my life.

The summer I got separated (from my then husband), 19 years ago, my friend came over and told me about the gym she had just joined.  She invited me to come and try it out a couple of times.    Something different, something new.  At that time exercise was not a goal of mine or even anything I thought about.  I was active enough raising my 3 young children, working and running here, there and everywhere. 

But I said yes to going with her to this small neighborhood gym.  It quickly became the beginning of my life-long exercise regimen.   I eventually got my personal trainer, Steve, through the gym, who I worked with for 10 years.  He later started working with my daughter, Nava, and a few years later with my husband, Alan.   It was an all-in-the-family deal.

We now all work with our new trainer, Rick, whom Nava, through her good PR skills, found through her job at Trader Joe’s. 

Nine years ago when Nava was critically ill and in a rehab hospital, where I also lived during her 9 month stay, I discovered hiking.   I was already a walker, so when somebody mentioned a hiking group in that neck of the woods (fun pun), not far from the hospital, I was ready and very willing to give it a try. 

It was springtime, Nava was coming along and seemingly out of the woods (fun pun), and I therefore felt O.K. about leaving her for a few hours at a time.  I wanted nothing more than to be outdoors in beautiful nature away from hospitals and sickness. 

Despite the fact that I had never officially hiked before, I excitedly set out on my day’s outing by myself and met up with the Wednesday Hikers in Harriman State Park.  A good workout climb up, a beautiful view for lunch,  an easier downhill climb, interesting conversations with upbeat, healthy life-style people.  Working the body, calming the mind, while being mindful of every step along the trail, engulfed in trees and small water streams, made for a wonderful day.

I  started meeting up with the group every Wednesday.  Once Nava came home and I went back to work, I became a summer Wednesday hiker.  Whereas they hike 52 weeks a year since most are over 60 and retired, I, in my 50’s and still working, hike only in the summer when I’m off from work.

 My dream vacation grew into a hiking trip to the Swiss Alps.  I had been there once but not as a hiker.  Now I wanted to experience the gorgeous Alps by being amidst them. 

And so for our 50th birthdays and to celebrate Nava’s miraculous survival, Alan and I went on our first hiking trip with a group to Murren and Grindelwald.  I climbed and felt the honor and awesomeness of Nava’s climb to her complete recovery.

Taking steps toward trying something new:

  • Be open to trying
  • Be willing to go for the experience
  • Push yourself beyond the status quo
  • Push yourself beyond the doubt and fear
  • Go beyond the usual and customary

 

The worst is you won’t like it. 

The best is you will, and then you will have discovered something new and exciting.

What new thing have you taken on during a trying time in your life?

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I just had the wonderful experience of being interviewed in an online radio program called Live On Purpose, hosted by Dr. Paul Jenkins.  This was a first for me.   I stepped out of my comfort zone to do this.  It was done on the phone and went live online within a few minutes. 

I was nervous about getting my words and thoughts out right and speaking well.  The content was all in me.  It’s what I live and how I live.  So when my husband, Alan, told me to go over my notes to calm my bit of jitters, I said, “I don’t need to look at notes, this is my life, this is me.”  I just wanted to be able to answer coherently and get my message of living well out there.

I hope I did and I hope whoever listens to it in full (30 minutes) will think so too.

I think it’s really cool that I’ve been reaching out to people to interview for my blog once a month and now someone asked me to be his interviewee.  That’s how this stuff works – put yourself out there and see what evolves.  Unexpected surprises!   

“And the day came when the wish to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”  Anais Nin

 

So check out the Podcast at:

http://www.liveonpurposeradio.com/radio/2011/05/16/rebuild-your-life/  and perhaps even comment.  Thank you.

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Divorce is too high – yes

And too many kids are being messed up through divorce – yes

I’m not here to help lessen the divorce rate; but I am here to help kids adjust as well as possible, with as little scarring as possible, to their parent’s divorce.

Kids don’t ask to be a tool or a weapon used in a battle of the spouses.

Parents need not fight their spousal wars on the children’s front.  Children don’t deserve that.  They ‘rightfully’ should have both their parents in their lives. 

Realistically, the two fronts will often overlap and there will be damage on both fields – spousal and parental.  It often cannot be avoided, but it certainly can be minimized, For the Sake of the Children.

For the sake of the kids:

  • Keep spousal issues separate from parental issues in order to co-parent as much as possible. 
  •  Do not involve them in the adult world of divorce.   Spouses divorce; parents don’t. Children are the by-products of divorce.  Try to keep that line bold and distinct.
  • Talk to the other parent.  If need be, learn how to communicate around kids’ issues with the help of an objective third party. 
  • Avoid spiteful, revengeful and punishing actions towards the other parent.  In the end, it’s the kids who get hurt the most by this.
  • Set limits.  Don’t indulge out of pity.  There is no place for the “sugar daddy/mommy”.  Divorce is not an excuse for misbehavior.  Pity yields spoiled kids.  Understanding and loving, but firm and consistent parenting is crucial. 
  • Teach by example.  You’re the role model for handling a difficult situation.  How are you managing your own negative emotions?  What are your kids seeing?  What are your coping skills when this “ain’t” what you bargained for?
  • Keep extended family members involved.  Children are deserving of loving from both sides of their family.
  • Commit to creating a peaceful home environment.  We choose the negativity and toxicity we hold onto, and we can choose, for the sake our children, to let go of much of it and embrace all that we are grateful for – our children.     
  • Be good to yourself.   Be kind and gentle. You will have more goodness to give to them.    
  • Breathe in the positive and breathe out the negative. 

Divorce is hard on all.  It represents a huge shattered dream.  It takes time and patience to move forward and create new goals and dreams. 

“Some people think that it’s holding on that makes one strong; sometimes it’s letting go.”
Unknown

 

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In my most recent interview with author Ann Hood, she stated that knitting helped her cope and get through her day-to-day grief.   She wrote a best-selling novel, The Knitting Circle, about women coming together to knit while discussing their losses and problems.   Knitting was a source of comfort. 

When my daughter, Nava, went through a medical crisis, I lived up at her rehabilitation hospital for nine months while she went through intensive work to relearn and regain her functioning skills and levels.  Within my 14 hour days of being by her side, cheering her on and encouraging her through the difficult therapy sessions, I did manage to take off an hour during her schooling time (when I finally felt secure enough to leave her side for the hour) to do my walking. 

Walking was my respite – out in the open, breathing in the fresh air and feeling my body move in long strides; away from the sickness, away from the hardship of rebuilding bodies.  It provided my body, soul and mind with renewed strength and much needed vigor to help sustain me through the long days, weeks and months of ‘being on’ for Nava.    

Not knowing much of the surrounding area outside the hospital grounds, I asked staff people for some places to venture out.  I eventually felt comfortable leaving during Nava’s entire school morning.  After wheeling her down to class, I had about 2 hours for myself. 

I was told about this great fruit market – Apple Farms.  But after a few outings of buying beautiful crisp snap peas, bright red, yellow and orange Holland peppers, and juicy sweet seedless watermelon, I needed something else on which to focus my attention and distract myself. 

And so I was directed to TJMaxx.  I had never been to one of their stores; I’m not even sure I had ever heard of it back then (9 years ago).  It quickly became my haven of distraction.  Clothes, picture frames, bags, household goods, funky mugs, shoes – everything in an easy to find, neat arrangement.  Now, I was never one to enjoy shopping.  I shopped when I had to.  Leisure and enjoyment was found in fun excursions and activities, not shopping.

But for whatever reason, TJMaxx became my place to go for mindless enjoyment.  I never went in looking for anything specific.  I needed nothing that year except my daughter’s health restored as fully as possible.  However, I did often come out with some fun items –  giraffes to add to my collection, cute outfits for my new grandchild (overseas) who I’d be seeing that summer; and I bought Nava some clothes which the therapists suggested – large button-down shirts that she could practice buttoning,  elastic waistband pants that she could just pull up and down.  I even bought myself a purple bathing suit with the new hope of going to the beach that summer. 

I’d go back another day to return something and I’d stroll around the store again for an hour or so.  I’d walk out with cute note paper and Monet thank-you cards.  This went on for the better part of Nava’s last 3 months at the rehab hospital. 

I alternated my leisure activities between walking a nature trail and going to TJMaxx.  Both were my respite during a most difficult and critical point in my life.  They brought me many moments of pleasure.  Walking allowed me to clear my mind so I could hear myself think and feel.  And Maxx gave me colorful windows into a possible hopeful future once again, where I could connect with things that brought me simple joy. 

To this day I am a TJMaxx junkie, only going in when I’m not looking for anything specific, and walking out with a bit of fun.

What is your constructive form of comfort?  What is your positive means of distraction, away from your troubles?

Thank you for reading this post.  Please subscribe at Rebuild Your Life Coach.

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Welcome to my interview with Ann Hood.  I am thrilled that Ms. Hood accepted my request for this blog interview, especially in light of her busy traveling schedule with the paperback release of her newest book, The Red Thread.   Ms. Hood is a noted author of the best-selling novel, The Knitting Circle and the memoir, Comfort – A Journey Through Grief,  among her many other books and short stories.   

A few years ago, I read her memoir, Comfort, about the tragic and most untimely death of her five year old daughter, Grace, to a rapid strep infection.  I think of Ms. Hood as someone, who despite the worst possible loss- that of a child- has been able to rebuild her life and continue on in a productive and meaningful way.  Hence, my reaching out to her now.

What personal qualities have helped you carry on and move in a positive direction?    

I think the curse of being an optimist has helped keep me moving in a positive direction.  Also, I was raised to push forward, no matter what.  I remember when I was 19 and had mono, I came home from college to recuperate and my mother allowed me just enough time to do that.  Then it was: Get off that couch and get back to the business of life.

Did you go through a period of self-pity?  What helped lift you out so you could see beyond?

I think one big misconception about grief is that we move through it in some orderly way.  Instead, it’s a messy business.  Even now I can go through times of self pity or despair or any of the other emotions that together make up grief.  Knitting, hugs, family and friends, my other fabulous kids, books—the same things that help me through everyday lift me up at bad times.  But I also learned it’s ok to experience all the bad feelings too.  Too often we beat ourselves up for feeling self pity, or really any negative emotions.  Part of moving through them is to feel them.

Was there a specific moment, thought or epiphany that helped guide you to a better place mentally or psychologically?

Oh, no epiphanies, though that was what I hoped for: one THING that would make it better.  Unfortunately, it gets better in baby steps, with lots of sliding backwards and dark periods.  It’s important in those times to know that it will be better.

What were/are your day-to-day coping skills that kept/keep you afloat?

I knit almost every day.  In fact, I can tell when I’m going through a bad spell because I knit a lot.  Luckily, I have a strong support system of friends and family and I call on them often.  Knowing that I have a coffee date or a dinner set up with someone who understands helps me move forward.

What thoughts propel you forward?

I’m a take it day by day kind of person, so I tend to focus on what is up next rather than dwelling on large questions and projections.  This attitude has actually helped me move forward.  I wake up in the morning and take stock of that day.  Usually that in itself propels me forward: get kids to school, dog to groomer, coffee date with friend, visit Mom, work on novel, speak at knitting store…that is my day today; and thinking about it, tackling it, not only propels me forward but also makes me feel necessary, loved and creative.

In general, how have you managed to rebuild your life after your tragedy?

One stitch at a time.  It is slow and often painful;  and an ongoing process.  Accepting that helps you do it.  No magic wand or potion, no healing flash.  Really it’s just putting one foot in front of the other every day and going about the sometimes messy, sometimes glorious business of living.

What advice would you offer someone going through a very difficult time in their life, in the hope of being able to come out of the darkness intact?

Learn to tell people what you need.  Do you want to be left alone? Do you want to visit a faraway friend?   Do you want company?  I have found that people want to help but don’t know how.  When I give voice to my needs, I am never let down. 

Attack something new.  For me it was knitting, which was anathema to anything I would have ever learned.  For my husband, it was masonry.  He re-did our entire front and back yard with gorgeous stonework, teaching himself as he went along.  For others, volunteer work has helped.

Although I know how hard it is to remain hopeful during difficult times, find a mantra or talisman or something that you can hold or repeat when you feel hopeless, some tangible symbol of a better time.

Giveaway Details:

To win a free copy of Ann Hood’s book , Comfort:

1. Leave a comment on this post and

2. Tweet the following:

RT @rebuildlife Book Giveaway! Comfort – A Journey Through Grief http://t.co/9T7Ei8K

You must do both to be eligible to win!  Enter until midnight EST on Wednesday, May 4th.

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