Akemi Monster!

This is a blog all just for me. It has no purpose whatsoever except for me to share some of the random nonsense I happen to be thinking about in my day-to-day life. Sometimes it sure is nice not to have a purpose.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Happy Halloween!

Sweet & Spooky Halloween Card
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Wednesday, September 28, 2011

A Card for My Sick Auntie

5x7 Folded Card
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Monday, May 16, 2011

5x7 Folded Card

Happy Day Cocoa Father's Day 5x7 folded card
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Thursday, December 9, 2010

The Practice of Lighting Up

I'm still bouncing around Parenting Your Anxious Child with Mindfulness and Acceptance by Christopher McCurry. Here's a part I really like:
  • "...a child's needs can be pretty basic. To be noticed--it doesn't get more basic than that. Your child needs to know that she matters to you, that she impacts you. And she will impact you in any way it takes to know she's succeeded." (p. 189)
This reminds me of an Oprah episode with Maya Angelou from years back. Angelou said that the question (and I am paraphrasing from memory) we need to ask ourselves is: When a child walks into a room, do your eyes light up? The concept of "lighting up" is so simple, and yet it speaks to an energy that any child can certainly pick up on. Furthermore, this can be expanded from referring to children to people in our lives in general. How do we react when we interact with others? Do we light up? Do we notice them? Do we care?

It is so easy to allow the hectic pace of life to overwhelm us, at least it's easy enough for me. I'm so exhausted sometimes that I know I am guilty of not always giving my children the undivided attention that they need. That is when they certainly find ways to get my attention, and this usually involves some sort of disaster. In fact--between the kids, our crazy cats, and our goofy dogs--our home seems like it is in a constant state of disaster. It has been the case quite often lately that my husband and I have both felt like we're going crazy and live in a mad house! We alternate between feeling like we're about to cry over it and then laughing at the absurdity of it.

Returning to the idea of "noticing" children, this to me is almost like a spiritual practice. As such, I strive to be fully present with my children. Surrounded by the "madness" that is apparently now my life, I am reminded to stop in the moment and really see them and listen to them. And, as corny as it sounds, this means that my children truly are my best teachers since, at any given moment, my level of mastery directly manifests in their demeanor--it turns out they are the most valuable formative assessment tool on the market.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Emotions, Thoughts, and Action in the Modern World

Last week, I came across a list of parenting books on a library web site (yes--people actually use them!). I felt inspired to check out some of the titles even though I've barely had (or, I suppose, made) time to do any reading recently. In the past, I've had mixed luck with parenting titles, but in this batch I've found one so far that really has me excited: Parenting Your Anxious Child with Mindfulness and Acceptance by Christopher McCurry.

I started off by getting drawn into a section from the middle of the book, which I also hope to write about in the future. But, just as I was becoming engrossed in the middle, I thought I should stop and try reading from the beginning lest I might miss other great content. I'm glad that I went back, because I have been captured even from the foreward, which is written by Steven C. Hayes from the University of Nevada. Below are some quotes from the foreword that particularly struck me:
  • "Emotions evolved to elicit action--now...but when emotions become entangled in our more recently evolved capacity for symbolic, predictive, evaluative thought--especially when that capacity is in overdrive due to the age of chatter in which we live--we often experience emotions that do not require immediate action. In a simpler world, we could muddle through the difficulties this creates. But modern technology has made that strategy untenable." (p. xii)
I find it interesting to hear this take on how the modern world is changing the way that we need to handle our emotions and thoughts. This plays upon the now common theme of how we humans find ourselves operating today in a completely unnatural way--that we are truly living mismatched with our evolutionary track.
  • "We need to teach our children more about how to deal with their own thoughts and feelings in a way that is healthy. In the modern world, emotional intelligence is just as important as the more traditional kind of intelligence...suppressive, avoidant and mindless approaches to the experiences within simply will not cut it anymore...[we] need to learn to accept our feelings, without being driven by them and without rushing to removes ones we do not like. Trying to get rid of feelings only drives them underground while simultaneously giving them more capacity to control behavior without our awareness." (p. xii)
It's hard for me to believe that this type of emotional awareness wouldn't have been useful during any time period--being able to face and accept one's feelings is something that I have always stood by. I feel particular resonance with the last sentence from the quote above as I've stood witness to this truth many times.
  • "[We] need to learn to watch our thoughts, without reflexively adopting the world-view dictated by them...Thoughts are easily programmed, and they are nothing to be right about--or wrong about. They are just thoughts. Some of those thoughts will not be attractive because they are constantly being programmed by sources we do not control. We will hear in our own minds the echoes of the fear, judgment, bias, or prejudice to which we are exposed nearly every day. The point is not to feel bad about the existence of such thoughts in our heads, nor to feel self-righteous about the thoughts we have that we agree with. The point is to be more conscious, open, and flexible in how we translate thoughts into action...while being aware of our feelings and thoughts, we must make mindful choices about what to actually do, based on chosen values." (p. xiii)
Yes! I have recently been reflecting upon wanting to control my thoughts better. It has always made sense to me that feelings are something less out of our control. But, I never thought about how thoughts could also be so "uncontrollable." It's no joke. My husband and I have just recently had conversations about trying to work on being less "assish." But, when I do stop and think about it, our assishness really exists mostly in our thoughts--it is good to realize that maybe we're not so off track. We simply need to remember to be conscious of our thoughts and how they influence our actions. I also think there is much wisdom in the reminder that we should refrain from "self-righteousness about the thoughts we have that we agree with." Yet again, I find that the older I get, the more I am reminded to judge less and to instead discern more shades of gray, an ability which McCurry later recognizes as a true "developmental achievement."

In closing, here's a nicely worded summary:
  • "Fear, anger, and desire are part of the human condition. They can sensitize us to what is going on in the moment--but we have to learn how to have them without being had by them. The emotional imperative of "now" is just too automatic and mindless to be trusted in the modern world. Modern minds need to learn to be guided by values and choices, not just by emotional and cognitive programming." (p. xiii)

Dis/equilbrium: Getting to Okay

It's been ages since I've posted anything. It seems that I have a perpetual deficit of time. But, my husband is inspiring me to return to blogging, if even for just some short entries. So, here are some thoughts I've come across lately.

A few months ago, it was as if a light switch had gone off with our three-and-a-half year old son. We woke up one day and he was suddenly having screaming fits like he'd never had before. He was oppositional about nearly everything and made a battle out of the simplest tasks. We felt like we were going crazy and so I started looking around for any advice I could find. Here's a link to a blog posting that I felt matched what we were experiencing: http://planningwithkids.com/2009/11/17/characteristics-of-three-and-a-half-year-old-behavior/. The diagram illustrating how children will cycle through periods of equilibrium and disequilibrium is one that my husband and I recognized from a handout we received at a special parenting conference a year ago. Seeing it again was a good reminder that perhaps what we were experiencing was normal.

Recognizing that what we were experiencing could all be part of a normal phase, though, is not an ending point. First off, I realize that even when our children are in a "phase," the way that we deal with the phase will have an effect on the people they become. Also, I am always hesitant to write things off as being "just a phase." What if we don't take enough or the right action to get our children the help that they may need, because we're waiting for them to just grow out of it? On the other hand, I also worry about making things into a bigger issue than is necessary, creating a complex out of what may actually be normal. In the end, I found that I can boil my worries down to one question, "Is my child going to be okay?"

Luckily, just a few weeks ago, it was as if the light switch went back on and our son seemed to glow sweeter than ever once again, also seeming to have taken yet another huge developmental leap in terms of his language development and capacity for deeper thought. It is as if he had had to break through a barrier like a snake molting its old skin. This is not to say that we still don't have our trying times every day, and we are also aware that more periods of disequilibrium surely await us, but at least for the moment I can take a pause of relief that yes, we're okay.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Pet Psychic!

...or "animal communicator." Years ago, I read the book "Conversations With Animals" and was introduced to the work of Lydia Hiby. We called her when our smallest cat BooBear was having intestinal issues and also out of interest for our biggest cat Koopa. Well, after spending $1100 a couple of weeks ago on saving our third cat Bee-Bee's life, we decided to give Hiby a try.

We were so happy when Bee-Bee survived what looked like was going to be her final hours. The vet hospital we go to has the highest technology out there and so they ran full blood work, an ultrasound and more. The final diagnosis was that she has pancreatitis, although this was accompanied by the inflammation of her other surrounding organs, too. The vet put Bee-Bee on a treatment of pain medication and some antibiotics and we were allowed to bring her home.

Bee-Bee was back to normal as far as sitting and observing the happenings in our house, but she retained the yellow stain of jaundice on her skin and refused to eat. I asked the vet about her failure to eat and he simply made the comment, "Well, if she doesn't start up again, I guess we'll be seeing you back here again." What is that supposed to mean? How much more are they going to charge us just for some simple advice about what we might try next?

So, rather than pay more money to go back to the vet again, I decided that we should give Hiby a call. It's a $40 consultation by phone, but that's cheaper than a vet visit and so I decided it was worth a try. My husband and I sent a check on Saturday and then were anxious to call last night since Hiby's normal phone hours are only on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. We got a busy signal for over an hour, but it turns out she was on the phone helping someone in Germany all of that time! Imagine that person's phone bill!

To begin with, all that we told Hiby was our cat's name, that she is a long-haired gray cat, and that she's about 5 years old. We tried not to give away any other information to begin with to see what Hiby would come up with. Almost immediately, Hiby said that Bee-Bee was communicating that she doesn't like the smells of cleaners in our house and that they make her sick. We do use carpet deodorizer, ironically enough because Bee-Bee pees on the carpet and makes them stink! We have also been using vinegar to clean the urine and Hiby explained that vinegar is just as difficult for cats to bear as ammonia. She suggested we try another cleaner like Nature's Miracle and plain baking soda instead of carpet deodorizer.

Hiby said that Bee-Bee has a small bladder and that she does not have accidents on the ground out of spite or to make a statement. She said that they are accidents because she does not make it to the box in time and when she does get there, she is sometimes intimidated by our big orange cat, Koopa. We ended up telling Hiby that Bee-Bee was diagnosed with pancreatitis and she said that this is a disease associated with low self-esteem. In Bee-Bee's case, she thinks we can correct this by allowing her to have some private time during the day (away from Koopa). She suggested keeping her in a closed room with her own private litter box and food. We'll have to give that a try.

Hiby also said that Bee-Bee is very sweet. She does not want to "tattle" on Koopa, because she doesn't want him to go away and she doesn't want to leave our home herself. She's happy being in our home. My husband asked if Bee-Bee is perhaps upset because BooBear has a hurt leg and has been closed up in a dog crate. Hiby said that this doesn't really bother Bee-Bee, and that it's more intimidation from Koopa that bothers her most of all. She also said that Bee-Bee does not mind the children in the house--that they do not bother her, despite the fact that Hiby could easily hear Kaz causing ruckus in the background.

I don't know if Hiby is really psychic or not, but I do think she cares a lot about animals and that she provided us with more helpful suggestions than our vet ever did. She suggested we try feeding her baby food. She said any food should be safe if it is made of chicken or turkey and that we just stay away from fish and beef. She also suggested that we try a Nutri-cal paste if Bee-Bee is not eating so that she gets some nutrients. Hiby explained that Bee-Bee is probably not eating because of the antibiotics that she was prescribed and that she is feeling nauseous. She said that once cats stop eating, it becomes a cycle of not eating rather than of growing hunger.

Hiby also reiterated that we have rights to our vet records and that we should not hesitate to request them to get a second opinion. She recommended a vet that is also in our town who does acupuncture for animals. She's worked with him over the years and so he won't think we're crazy if we mention that we talked with her...a big plus! Oddly enough, Bee-Bee seems to be doing a little better. The jaundice looks less intense and she seems a little perkier. If anything, we're feeling a little more hopeful. Hiby said that the infection she had is gone and she didn't indicate that Bee-Bee was on her death bed. It is always possible that it's false hope, but I'll take anything right now.