Monthly Archives: January 2013

It’s tough to be present when lice are in the house

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Warning:  this post may produce irrational itching of the head.

Soon after I wrote a blog post on my new year goal to be more present, we realized that lice were in the house.  We had received that dreaded note from the school a while back and had been keeping an eye out for the little creatures.  After the obligatory notification to the brothers and grandparents who had been with us during Christmas week, we set out to kill the bugs.

A bit of backstory.  About 18 years ago, I got head lice and took a swan dive off of the deep end.  Dwelling in a more psychologically tenuous place, I became obsessive, compulsive and convinced we were going to have those blood sucking housemates forever.  When I recently told my husband that I was pretty sure we had lice in our midst, he looked like a deer caught in headlights and quickly admitted to me, “I’m having flashbacks” – flashbacks to my mental instability, that is.

Dealing with lice puts an internal magnifying glass on certain common everyday behaviors.  People scratch their heads with astounding frequency – at the grocery store, at the dinner table, just walking along minding their own business.  Current lice science reports that lice are almost exclusively transmitted by head to head contact.  Just watch elementary age kids interact and play – they constantly touch heads.   This scientific knowledge doesn’t stop the tempting irrational thoughts of, “if I just wash and scrub and clean every square inch of our house, maybe those little suckers will beat it”.

There is a bizarre brand of shame that goes along with being in the lice club.  No one wants to make that call to parents of our kids’ friends, teachers, or others who might have come in contact with the little buggers on our heads, thus they spread and spread.  It invokes a level of courage to take a risk, a step of vulnerability and spit out the news.  Responses vary – from physical distancing to true empathy with a healthy dose of “I hope that never happens to us!”  If we meet up with someone who has had the louse in the house experience, a time of bonding ensues.  Everyone in this exclusive club wants to be able to speak of their story, after the fact.  It’s almost like confession.

Lice are not life threatening – they don’t even make you ill.  There are lots of chemical and natural ways to try and combat them – just google it.  Nonetheless they are a miniscule nuisance that can become a huge life distraction.  Going through this for the second time has afforded me a gift to pause and reflect upon.  What other small things in life do I allow to become overwhelming things that distract and steal my peace and joy?  A thoughtless word, negative thoughts, erratic drivers, a messy house – the list could go on and on and on.

In reality, working on my resolution to be more present in the midst of living with lice for a few weeks was fertile practice ground.  There will always be irritating and nagging things vying for my time, energy and attention.  Focusing on the deeper more important things always involves a choice and a commitment.

I am happy to report that the Wilson heads are now louse free.  We had it professionally confirmed – who knew there was such a profession out there??  And if you find yourself in this situation, don’t hesitate to call me.  I’d love to tell you our story.

On a like strike

imgresRecently, a facebook, and real life, friend posted a quote from Colin Powell that has stuck in my mind and been a sentiment worthy of ponder. “Trying to get everyone to like you is a sign of mediocrity”. My response was, “facebook is supporting mediocrity”. Ironically, she pressed the “like” button.

I must admit that I get a little hit of feel good when someone, especially someone that I particularly admire or respect, presses the facebook “like” button. If we really stop and consider it, posting status updates is an interesting modern phenomenon. The Colin Powell quote has challenged me to be more thoughtful about not only what I post, but also about how I respond to others.

I am not a facebook hater. I actually believe that with certain friends and acquaintances, it is a tool to deepen relationship and get to know others on one level. It offers a form of connection with people who are far away or not in the regular patterns of life. When we do connect in person, there are more data points and places to jump off from in real live conversation. Some of my more humorous friends make me smile on days when laughter is welcomed. The pictures of celebrations, growing babies, life experiences and cool vacation destinations are inspiring and connecting at times.

But on the other side, there are facebook dangers. Questions I ask myself: Are many status updates another self centered exercise feeding the rampant narcissism in our culture? Is this just another way to prop up the people pleaser side of me – something I’m working hard to minimize? Does it lead to a type of lazy interaction with others when I can just press “like” in under a second?

So for a while now, I am going on a “like strike”. I am not allowing myself to just mindlessly press that little button. If there is something to communicate to my friend, I am going to take the few seconds or minutes required to respond with more thoughtful words. Even better, I am going to be more inspired to spend face to face time with those that I want to know more deeply. And on the flip side, I would welcome any and all of my facebook and blog reading friends to do the same. It would encourage me along the path of being content and discourage the mediocrity of trying to get others to like me. These are marks of true friendship – facebook and otherwise.

The final frontier

Back story – I occasionally get to hang out with some very passionate and dedicated moms.  They all have adopted children who struggle in various ways and degrees.   A number of years ago, several of them were extremely dedicated to making major diet changes on the continuing journey of helping their children heal.

A confession – when they would start to talk about this, my eyes would glaze over, my mind would shut down and I would cover my ears and run away screaming from these conversations.  Well, I didn’t literally do this, but in my heart, soul and mind, that was my posture.  Life was challenging enough; this was way too hard; no way we are going down that path.

Fast forward to today – with a tremendous amount of gratitude, along with heart and mind that still question and rebel, our family is now walking this path.  We have connected with a naturopath, listened to her expertise and wisdom and the results have been quite astounding.

The truth is that I, mom, had to be in a much healthier place in order to even remotely consider this option.  It requires a great deal of time, resources and energy with a big dose of “doing the best that we can” mentality that I simply didn’t have in years past.   My former self might have gone down the path of lots of regrets, thoughts about time lost and a mental beating up of my inadequacies.  Thanks be to God, today it is clear, most of the time, that we truly are doing the best that we can, the timing was never right before and we were just not ready to go there.  Grace.

I promise not to harp on all the failings of our food system and how much process has messed up nutrition.  It is just wrong that “natural flavors” on a label is code for MSG.  There is plenty of info out there on the topic for anyone who wants to know.  No judgment from me if you cover up your ears and run away screaming.

Suffice it to say I now spend a lot of time reading labels, cooking from scratch and trying out new cookbooks and blogs.  We rarely eat out or take out – I really miss it – and when we do, we have to have a lot of dialogue with whichever poor soul waits on our table.  Thankfully there are, in this day, grocery stores and restaurants that are sensitive to such things – it wasn’t very long ago that such a lifestyle commitment would be almost impossible.

Inspired by our children, I am more convinced that food is pharmacy.  It is now time for me to personally explore healthier ways of eating and living.  The challenge is to incorporate what I learn, navigate the sweet spot between obsessive black and white and anything goes nutrition, give myself lots of grace and enjoy the journey.  This new frontier may hold lots of surprises.

Image Who knew there were so many flour choices in this world?  Just a small sampling.

Mr. Rogers plus

After the tragedy in Newtown, one of the many facebook world responses was to post a quote from Mr. Rogers. He recounted that as a child when scary things happened in his world, his mom would say, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” This is wisdom and hope we can share with our children in the midst of and in response to traumatic events; yet taking it one step further is also critical. We often need to be the helpers.

In a previous blog post, I encouraged myself and others to remember the names. I was fairly faithful to this task until Christmas, the flu and fiscal cliff angst rose to the top of my consciousness. But as all new years bring the hope of new beginnings, I have resumed the one a day prayer and meditation for the individuals who died on December 14. Along with this practice, it seems time to thoughtfully consider how to help honor the memory of those who died on that day as well as the many who have died in like manner over many years. This is an ongoing sorting out in my own mind and heart. Over the next months I hope to write about a few possible responses, but on this day, I will begin here.

Gun control – I’ll start here because it seems the simplest in my own way of thinking. Whether a particular gun can discharge 31 bullets in 15 seconds or 45 in a minute, no civilian needs access to that kind of firepower – ever. I have yet to hear a reasonable argument about why that “right” should exist. If you have one, I’d like to hear it. This past summer, I engaged a friend who sports an NRA sticker on the family vehicle in a discussion about banning assault weapons. When I asked “what is the rational argument against such a ban?”, the reply was something to the effect of “if they take that away, what is next?” The slippery slope argument just isn’t good enough in this case. It is disturbing to me that we have become a people of extremes. We are so bound up in fear that we hunker down in our own corner, don’t give an inch and throw common sense and rational debate out the window. We need to learn how to listen, discuss and compromise. Let’s start with this issue.

The lack of sufficient background checks and information sharing across state lines is another failing we must address. We allow people to walk out of gun shows unchecked or simply purchase high power weapons and ammo from the comfort of their own home computers. This is not remotely ok.

And to the argument of “guns don’t kill, people do”, I get that on one level. But the speed and amount of devastation that a high capacity magazine weapon inflicts in a short amount of time is unacceptable and so often plays a huge role in our country’s recurring nightmare story – Columbine, Tucson, Aurora, Newtown, inner city streets, etc. How many more must there be? On the same day that 26 died at Sandy Hooks Elementary, in China 22 students were injured in their school as a man attacked with a knife. This too is extremely traumatic, but there is a big difference in the outcome – the Chinese children have a chance to grow up and live their lives. Twenty children from Newtown had that stolen from them.

Sometimes we must be inconvenienced and give up the desire to live exactly how we wish in the interest of public safety. Any of us who wish to fly on an airplane put our liquids in a bag, take off our shoes and get screened even though we would rather not do so. There are times when individual rights must give way to the good of the whole – this is one of those times,

How to be a helper in this area? It seems that some politicians have more open ears on this issue right now. So, we can help by letting our representatives and senators know how we feel and how we expect them to vote in upcoming legislation. Money talks. I was astounded to hear a recent interview that pointed out the tremendous David and Goliath situation in the area of gun rights vs. gun control PAC money that plays such a big role in who gets elected in this country. In 2012 the National Rifle Association spent $16.1 million of influence while Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence spent $5,816. On open secrets website there is a lot of evidence that the gun rights lobby is light years ahead of the gun control lobby in this game.

I am not naïve. Reasonable gun control is a very small piece of a very complicated situation. But it is a place to start. I hope we can have healthy dialogue and make reasonable change to address this critical piece of the puzzle. Our children are counting on us.

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New year present

I am not much of a resolution maker, though my nutrition intake almost always improves in January after a December plummet. This year I desire a different focus. I am going to call it a present of presence that I will give to myself.

I imagine that there have always been distractions in life that make it hard to be fully present to others and truly live in the moments of life. But the ways to distract and interrupt have multiplied in recent years. Smart phones, head phones and a constant bombarding of instant information make the practice of presence a greater challenge. Multi tasking is rampant, revered and rewarded.

A number of years ago, I had a conversation with a beautiful Australian woman who had spent many a year living in a small hut in Africa with orphaned boys. She was receiving an award and had spent several days in a nice hotel. When I asked her what she was enjoying most about her visit to the US, she said, “the hot showers – they are a luxury”.

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This year I want to genuinely experience the luxurious hot showers that have become so routine in my life- slow my racing thoughts and really feel the warm water on my skin. When I spend $4 on coffee, I desire to slowly savor the taste rather than gulping it down. At the dinner table, I hope to have more moments of truly tasting the food prepared, sipping the wine and fully engaging in conversation with those I love. This year I am committing to notice when I am talking on the phone with someone and at the same time checking email – or unloading the dishwasher or driving…. How can I truly listen to someone when my mind is split in two or three? And there is growing scientific evidence that all of this multi tasking has some pretty serious long term effects on memory and brain cells. There qare lots of great reasons to slow it all down,

One of the best is that my husband and children certainly know and feel the difference between a totally distracted wife/mom and one who is engaged and attuned to their needs and life. So as I work to be more in the moment, this present is not just for myself but also a gift to those I love most. Hoping for a year of more moments, hours and maybe even days lived out this way. How about you? Any new year desires? I’d love to hear them. To begin again is a gift in itself.