The S word

There is one word that I despise in the English language almost more than any other word.

I think of it as “the S word.”

The problem with this word is that the person who’s saying it feels good – and the person to whom it is being said often feels bad.

Attending a masterclass earlier in the pandemic, I learned of new scientific research on what lights up different areas of a person’s brain.

When we tell others what we think will be in their best interest, pleasure centers in our brain light up.

In other words when we are giving advice, that’s when the pleasure centers in our brain light up.

If that advice has been solicited – in other words, if the person on the receiving end of the advice has asked for it – the pleasure centers in their brain light up too.

But when someone gives unsolicited advice – advice that was not asked for – the pain centers in the recipient’s brain light up.

Perhaps you have had that experience of being given advice that you did not ask for. If you’d like, in this moment, call to mind a situation where that’s what happened.

The situation I’m thinking about: when someone close to me tried to give me advice on my skiing. I was going along, happily skiing, and thinking that all was right with the world when suddenly this person pulled up next to me and told me “You really should…”

Boom. Pain centers immediately came to life in my brain. Continue reading “The S word”

What I’m really doing while I am knitting

For months I have been knitting a pair of socks. Last fall I wrote about my current sock dilemma (which you can read about here.)

In a nutshell the sock dilemma is this:
I can no longer get my favorite merino wool socks. Not only were they affordable, they were warm, they fit right, and they came in all sorts of lovely and fun colors and patterns.

So this winter I tried hard to conserve them. Instead of wearing them on a chilly day I found myself putting on my summertime ankle-high socks. And then I’d be cold and crotchety.

Here’s what I wrote about the sock situation last fall:

“I’m finding that I don’t want to wear the socks that I have, because I don’t want to wear them out.
So even on the coldest days I am putting on those summertime ankle-high socks, depriving myself of the warmth that the 80% merino wool, wonderful wintertime socks give.
Out of fear.” Continue reading “What I’m really doing while I am knitting”

I graduated yesterday

Yesterday my therapist retired.

We had worked together for seven years. It was a sad day for sure. (For him, as much as any of us patients… He is spending this week saying goodbye to people he loves. As excited as he is to move into post-therapy life, it was a hard day for him, too.)

As I prepared for our last session together – by making biscotti, and writing my therapist a heartfelt letter of thanks – I realized how far I’ve come in seven years.

In spring and summer 2014 I was at my lowest ebb.

I was in tremendous pain; I had almost no use of my hands due to the tendon disorder that I still live with today.

I had multiple symptoms of anxiety, everything from full out anxiety attacks, to pain and tingles all over my body.
I did not know what was causing them, and I had no idea how to recover.

I was as close to suicidal as I’ve ever been. I felt like such a burden to my husband Ben, and our two sons, who were then 13 and nine years old.

And then I met my therapist (whom I think of as “Dr. G.”)
When my primary care doctor recommended I contact Dr. G, I felt some trepidation. I had had some pretty bad therapists over the course of my life by that point! Trying the therapist-patient relationship once more felt truly scary. But I knew I needed something. I knew I needed help. Continue reading “I graduated yesterday”

Valentine’s Day with kiddos

Valentine’s Day is a bit different when you have little ones running around, isn’t it?

In my dating years I was never a fan of Valentine’s Day. I was much more likely to band together with a gang of college buddies and listen to a lot of Melissa Etheridge…

Until I met Ben (the 22-time winner of the Husband of the Year award – that’s how you’ll know him if you listen to my show.)

The first Valentine’s Day we were dating, I was offered a housesitting job in a sweet, tiny little hill town in western Massachusetts.

Mostly, I was dog sitting, for this great big dog named Susie. Before the owners left they told me “we’re expecting snow, so feel free to crank up the wood stove, use the snowshoes in the mudroom, and if you’re dating somebody they are totally welcome too!”

The expected snow turned into a massive blizzard – and somehow, Ben found his way through it, driving all the way from Boston, scraping snow off street signs in the tiny little hill town, and ultimately finding the house’s dirt road by almost sheer luck.

And we had the most romantic, fun, and memorable Valentine’s Day!

Fast forwarding a few years and two kids, it got a little harder to cultivate that same sense of romance.

But we enjoyed the heck out of our Valentine’s Days with little kiddos, and I wanted to share some of what we did, so that you can enjoy your Valentine’s Day, with your family!

1. Make it as un-commercial as possible.
Try to get yourself back to the basic elements of fun time with family: the coziness of spending time together, snuggled up and reading books on the couch in pajamas. Or bundling up and spending time outside together, in a snowball fight or snow fort building, or just a walk to a favorite place in nature (if you don’t have any snow).

2. Bake something together.
Heart-shaped pretzels, banana bread, sugar cookies, or something else that feels a little celebratory.

3. Put the kids to bed early.
One great thing about little kids: they totally can’t tell time! So if 730 is their usual bedtime, back it off by an hour and give yourself some extra grown-up time, whether with your honey, with old friends listening to Melissa Etheridge, or cozy and quiet time with yourself.

I wanted to get you thinking about Valentine’s Day a little early, so you’ve got a chance to plan.
Because if you don’t plan, oftentimes a special day feels rushed, or is gone before you know it.

Also! This coming week I have a Valentine’s Day gift for you!
I will share details in the midweek newsletter. I am very excited about it and I bet you will be too : )

Wishing you a great weekend!

PS – Will you be my Valentine? I have a special Valentine’s gift exclusively for newsletter subscribers… You can get newsletters just like this one directly into your inbox, too, and it’s all free… Click here to subscribe!

Mistaken beliefs about temper tantrums

Happy Wednesday!

FYI: This is the fourth newsletter in my “Kids gone sideways” series, about how we can get back on track when our kids drive us crazy .
Click here for the first in the series, about the intersection of our own self-worth and our children’s hangry meltdowns, and click here for the story of my second-worst day of potty training ever. Next week we will dive into dealing with disrespect in the final installment, so stay tuned!

What do you believe about temper tantrums?
I wouldn’t blame you if your answer was: “I believe they should not exist!”

It is super frustrating that temper tantrums are a thing in the world.

It feels as if they do no good at all.
They are an intrusion into a happy family life, right?

But here’s the thing, temper tantrums are stepping stones on the way to a happy family life.
They are developmental necessities, key milestones in the social and emotional development of children.

I know that’s hard to believe, but it’s true.

Consider what’s happening in your child’s development, when the temper tantrums really get rolling:
– A tremendous increase in understanding of the language spoken around them
– The acquisition of new vocabulary words at a seriously rapid rate
– A much larger ability to take in information, than the capacity to express themselves using language

It’s that last one that I want to bring your attention to. Continue reading “Mistaken beliefs about temper tantrums”

Kindness and conversation from the perspective of a curmudgeonly Bostonian

I should revise the title… but “formerly” curmudgeonly Bostonian seemed like something of a mouthful 🙂

This Parenting Newsletter is about the value of kindness, and how kindness has changed my life in ways I could never have foreseen.

I started thinking about this thanks to Robin Abrahams, the Boston Globe Magazine columnist (who writes under the alias Miss Conduct, and has been a guest on my show as well).

Recently Robin wrote “How to be kinder in Boston, America’s 5th rudest city,” an article I got a lot out of, and I highly recommend you go and read!

One part especially was compelling to me, about how conversation – simple conversation with the people around us – can make us feel better.

Robin’s essay helped me extend my thinking in a different direction: the importance of being kind to ourselves.

I have a tendon disorder. I’ve lived with it for eight and half years, and it started with my right leg.

I used to tell that leg mean, horrible things.
I would say how much I hated that leg. I would tell it how useless I thought it was.

And much worse.

But what I failed to see was that my poor leg was just doing the best it could!

It was only when I started treating my right leg well, treating it kindly, that I started to feel better.
Continue reading “Kindness and conversation from the perspective of a curmudgeonly Bostonian”

No respect, or, the basics of successful potty training

Happy Wednesday!

FYI: This is the third in my “Kids gone sideways” newsletter series, about how we can get back on track when our kids drive us crazy .
Click here for the first in the series, about the intersection of our own self-worth and our children’s hangry meltdowns, and click here for the story of my second-worst day of potty training ever. And stay tuned for next week’s where I’ll share a critical tool for handling those meltdowns!
“Mom… You’re always making me!”

That’s what 3-year-old Jason said to me one day while he was potty training.

We were at a big family gathering, and he was resistant to the idea of coming to “try” on the potty.

I couldn’t understand why it was such a problem for him – his big brother had been fine with trying!

Why couldn’t he just amiably come to the potty, have a seat, and see if any potty action happened?

This had been going on for weeks, me bringing him to the potty to try, and him being very unhappy about it.

Even if he succeeded at trying, the being made bothered him to no end. He hated that I could assert that kind of authority over him.

At this particular family gathering, I was stressed out. I had these horrible visions of Jason, wetting one of the immaculate dining room chairs – or heaven forbid even the carpet – amidst all these people.

I worried for little Jay’s feelings of embarrassment and humiliation.
But I mostly worried for my OWN feelings of embarrassment and humiliation.

All I could think was, if the worst happened, who would be to blame?
The parent, that’s who.

Hence the “trying.” Continue reading “No respect, or, the basics of successful potty training”

My second-worst day of potty training ever

FYI: I am sharing my BEST, most successful potty training strategies in a Free Online Parenting Class on Thursday, January 30, 2020! Click here for details and to register for the class (and the replay, available for free through the following weekend.)

What follows is the story of my 2nd-worst day of potty training ever… I’ll get back to that worst day towards the bottom of this newsletter.

Picture our little family, my husband, Ben, myself, and are seven and three-year-old boys, visiting breathtakingly beautiful parts of Oregon: The Cascades, Mount Hood, Trillium Lake.

In one day we got to hike around beautiful waterfalls, play in the snow at the top of Mount Hood, and fish in the pure, clear waters of Trillium Lake.

All with the whole of Ben’s family, which was completely amazing, because they are amazing people.

Until… Our three-year-old, Jay, wet his diaper. Since we had purchased supercheap, bottom-of-the-line diapers, for this visit so far from home, it went clear through his pants and all the way down into his socks.

THAT was while we checked out the Cascade waterfalls.

So far, so good. We had extra diapers and clothes.

But then it happened again, at Mount Hood.

And then AGAIN at Trillium Lake.

We were now 3 hours from “home,” Ben’s brother’s place near Portland, because we had hiked in around the lake, and at least two hours from anyplace that might sell diapers, or socks, or pants to replace the wet ones.

Continue reading “My second-worst day of potty training ever”

One Word for 2020

Happy Wednesday!

This is the last in my series on “exercises to help you overcome feelings of failure;” click here for last week’s installment, debating between two words for 2020. Or, read on to find out which word I chose : )

Each year, for the last three years, I’ve chosen a Word of the Year:
2017 = SERVICE

For weeks, I’ve been trying to decide what 2020’s word would be. Here are my two candidates:

2020 = ENOUGH

I thought of 3 possible ways it could be used. Here is what I wrote about that in last week’s newsletter: Continue reading “One Word for 2020”

Only one of these two words

I’m doing a year-end series on how to overcome feeling like a failure; click here for last week’s installment, in which I share my Reverse Bucket List – and how it made me remember all the good in my life.

Each year, for the last three years, I’ve chosen a Word of the Year:
2017 = SERVICE

I’ve chosen them based on how I wanted to live my life… But they’ve ended up largely being about what I do, as opposed to who I am.
(Yes, even THOUGHTFUL – it’s been all about ways I can be thoughtful, as opposed to how I could be thinking.)

When I read Audrey Monke’s fabulous blog post, “5 Simple Year-End Reflection Activities” (this week’s exercise, and also last week’s, are based on Audrey’s year-end activities), I was excited to read that Audrey chooses a word of the year too!

Audrey’s words are different from mine – not a surprise, as Audrey and I are different people.

But they are fundamentally different in an important way: Audrey’s words are not about what she does.
They are about who she is.

In her version of the exercise, as Audrey puts it, “your one word isn’t a constant reminder of what you “should be doing”. Instead, it stands to inspire how you want to live. Think about who you want to be, and choose a word that will help you become that.”

Her rules:
“Focus on being rather than doing.
Be authentic.
Don’t overthink it.”

As I went through this exercise, one word bubbled up to the surface immediately.
Continue reading “Only one of these two words”