Friday, December 16, 2011

Validation Letters for the Holidays

Want to give a gift that someone you love is likely to keep forever and will be meaningful to them for the rest of their lives? Regardless of the relationship, a validation letter is one of the most meaningful gifts you could choose.  Sending a validation letter each year creates a tradition that will serve as a chronicle of the person's life as shared with you.  Writing validation letters for young children serves as another way to communicate their importance to you and how much you love them.  When they are older they will enjoy reading about your experience of their taking their first step, for example.

Validation, according to Steven Hayes, means communicating that you respect, acknowledge and accept who others are and how they became who they are.  Validation is acceptance of the person, without judgment. Validation can focus on emotions, thoughts, or behaviors.  What a gift acceptance without judgment is!

Writing a letter of validation will likely take some thought and time.  Here are some steps to follow:

1.  Make a list of events that happened in the person's life this past year.  These events could be significant like your daughter's first day of school, birthdays, and  trips.  You could also use routine experiences you shared such as date nights with your husband, watching a television show you both enjoy, caring for children together, or

2.  Choose the events to include in the letter.

3.  Beside each event, write your memory of the emotions and thoughts they shared them with you and/or your best guess of their emotions and thoughts.  If you have a photo of the person at the time of the event, you could include that as well, and comment on what you would guess their facial expression means.

4.  Express your understanding of what the event meant to them, given their history,  values, struggles or their goals.

5.  If you experienced a emotional reaction to the event that occurred to them, write about your feelings of their experience--not your own experience of the event.

For an example, imagine that your husband ran his first marathon in 2011.  The paragraph about the race might read as follows:

"I remember when you decided this was the year you would run a marathon. It was Thursday, in March, I believe the 10th.  Your face looked so determined and you sounded committed.  That morning at breakfast you wrote out your training schedule.  Even though you'd never run more than a mile before, you seemed to know you could do this.  I admire that about you, your confidence that you can finish what you start.  Running became a regular part of your day for the next seven months.  At first, you often woke up with sore calves and thighs but as you got stronger you seemed to crave running, like your day wasn't complete without it.  You kept to your schedule regardless of the difficulty of balancing work and the demands of daily living.  When you crossed the finish line, you were breathing hard, dripping sweat, red in the face, and panting. You  couldn't talk for a few minutes, but you were smiling. I think I know what that marathon meant to you.  I can still feel how excited and proud I was when you finished, and for you it meant so much more."

Remember, validation communicates acceptance and acknowledgment of  thoughts, emotions, and behavior.  You don't need to agree--validation doesn't mean endorsement.  Validation is about communicating that the other person is important to you and their thoughts and feelings are important as well.  Validation strengthens relationships. For detailed steps on learning validation, check out The Power of Validation (December 2011, New Harbinger).  Happy Holidays!

Validation and Self-Compassion

 No one gets through life without experiencing emotional pain, whether it's the pain of losing someone you love, the pain of public speaking, the discomfort of being ill, or the disappointment of not achieving cherished goals. Despite the absolute certainty that we will experience pain, most of us do whatever we can to avoid difficult emotions like sadness, hurt and grief, though the difficult emotion for some may be joy or happiness. We numb ourselves with food, alcohol, shopping, work, the computer, sex, drugs, excessive exercise and walk through the world half asleep. Avoiding pain may sound like a great idea--who wants to suffer when you could be pursuing happiness?  The problem is that numbing yourself to difficult feelings limits your ability to get information about your world,  to be emotionally intimate with those you love, and to experience peace. Avoiding also is tiring and limits the energy you have to enjoy life.

 In his book  The Mindful Path to Self-Compassion, Christopher Germer, Ph.D. lists five steps in accepting uncomfortable feelings:  Aversion, Curiosity, Tolerance, Allowing and Friendship.  Aversion, the first stage, is when we try to deny the difficult feeling, resist feeling it, or ruminate about how to get rid of it.  Germer proposes a new way of relating to feelings, one that is more accepting and compassionate. He sees accepting feelings as a path to peace and freedom from anxiety and depression.

Those who have avoided feelings for long periods of  time may have a generalized fear of emotions, having forgotten what they were originally avoiding. Or perhaps they believe themselves to be unlovable, permanently flawed, or broken and cannot bear to look at themselves or have anyone else know their internal experience for fear their secret will be revealed. By continuing to avoid they never learn that they are simply human, like the rest of us.

Acceptance is fabulous. The bigger question for many is how to accept?  How do you accept anything about yourself when you can't list a single positive characteristic and on a very basic level you loathe who you are?

I think the answer is validation. Once a person is mindful of their emotions, validation gives the road map to acceptance. When you validate you acknowledge that whatever feelings and thoughts you have are the feelings and thoughts you have.  In addition, the levels of validation (Linehan 1993) give concrete ways to practice validation whether you love yourself or not.  Being present, Accurate Reflection,  Articulating the Unsaid, Validation in Terms of Past Experience or Biology, Normalizing, and Radical Genuineness are guidelines to looking at your internal experience in an effective way, without judgments. Being Present would mean not running from the feeling and accurate reflection is labeling and observing what you are experiencing.  Articulating the unsaid is making a guess about what you are experiencing when you aren't certain and checking the facts of that guess.  Validation in Terms of Past Experience or Biology takes into account that your temperament, current physical status, and the experiences you've had all contribute to your view of the world, sometimes in defining ways.  Finally, radical genuineness with yourself means knowing that others have had similar experiences and that your experience is understandable to other human beings.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

The Power of Validation

The Power of Validation is published!  While written as a parenting book focused on young children, the book teaches the steps of validation and can be used by anyone who wants to improve their relationships, by families of those with borderline personality disorder, and by anyone who wants to learn to validate him or herself.

When Family Members Don't Like Their Loved One with BPD

One of the most difficult feelings to acknowledge is not liking your loved one who has Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD).  If you have experienced these feelings, please know that you are not alone and it is a very difficult situation with many possible causes. How to manage these feelings is an important, complex question with many different possible causes and options.

First consider what has led to these feelings? Maybe you can pinpoint the one thing that if it didn’t exist you wouldn’t feel the way you do? Knowing the source of your feelings helps to clarify the options.  That is the first step.  I’ve listed some possibilities below:

1.   Can you remember what your daughter was like before her symptoms became more dominant?  Can you separate her personality from her disorder? Because the disorder is so difficult and overwhelming, sometimes BPD becomes all we see even though if we look more carefully we can see the person separate from the disorder.  Maybe take some time and list the symptoms of BPD and then list the behaviors that your daughter displays that fit the symptoms.  Then write down the her  personality characteristics that are not symptoms of BPD.

If what you don’t like is the disorder, maybe try to increase opportunities to interact with her when her symptoms are less prominent.  This may not be easy to do, but sometimes the disorder is so demanding that when someone is doing better families breath a sigh of relief that they can pay attention to other people and other needs.  Thus they don’t get to experience the person who has BPD when s/he is doing well.

While absolutely normal and understandable, interacting only when the person with BPD is experiencing difficulty sometimes leads to increased symptoms on the part of the person with BPD (not conscious) because they feel abandoned when they are doing better.  The connection with parents can become about discord. Feeling attached through anger is better than no attachment for the person with BPD.  This can be very wearing on parents and other family members.  If this is the case, then it is possible (though a lot of work) to change this pattern.

2.  Is it is a question of her behavior or choices being contradictory to your values?  If so, then is her behavior reflective of her values or her disorder? Do you understand the reasons she is behaving the way she does?  Understanding the reasons someone behaves the way they do sometimes helps us accept though not approve or support.  Is it possible to dislike the behavior but love the person?  And if her choices do reflect different values, can you find acceptance that she believes differently than you?

3.  Is it her behavior toward you that is the final straw?  As a behaviorist, I believe that all behavior has a purpose, even when it is part of a disorder.  Can you identify what purpose her behavior toward you might have? What does her behavior toward you accomplish for her (such as increased contact with you as noted in number 1)?   After the reason for the behavior is known, then changes in the results of the behavior can change  the behavior.

4.  Are you experiencing chronic stress or compassion burnout?  Not liking someone we used to like, someone we’ve given a lot of time and energy to, is a common symptom of both of these situations.  It may be that you need to set more limits, give yourself more breaks, and do whatever you need to do to take care of yourself.  Finding support that works for you, validating yourself and your own needs would also be helpful.  You might also evaluate whether you are giving too much and need to reconsider your limits.

5.  Could this be about sadness for you?  Are you feeling discouraged?  Are you feeling hopeless, perhaps like a failure?  Or afraid?  When you see your daughter is it painful for you because of your own feelings? It may be that seeing her brings up painful feelings for you and that could make you not want to be around her.  In this situation, taking a look at your feelings and how to resolve them or accept them might help.

6.  Are you constantly on edge, waiting for the next crisis? Are you attempting to control what you can’t control?  This can also lead to exhaustion and resentment.  Sometimes having a crisis plan, so that it is concrete and clear what you can do and what you can’t do could be helpful.

7.  One option is of course  that you don’t like her. It may be that completely accepting that fact will help you. What you think and feel is valid and self-validation would mean not judging yourself for your thoughts and feelings. Then, remember that validation is not a communication of love or liking, just as it is not agreeing.  It is acceptance and recognition that the other person has thoughts and feelings and has a right to her thoughts and feelings, whether it is someone you love or someone you don’t want to spend a single minute with.  I would say that every person in the world has a right to their thoughts and feelings. Maybe separating validation from love or liking would help. When you validate her thoughts and feelings you are not communicating that you like or love her.

Plus, validation of her thoughts and feelings could make your interactions easier which could lead to your feelings changing.  Or not.

Finally, you might consider talking with a therapist who is knowledgeable about BPD to help sort out your thoughts and feelings.

Friday, September 30, 2011


Tomorrow is Thanksgiving Day and I've a lot to be thankful for. I am so very grateful to my Mother who gave me the tools to pursue my dreams. I am grateful for my immediate family who support my long hours of writing and to an editor who took a chance and accepted a proposal.  I am grateful to a colleague who introduced me to another editor who is now considering four books. I am grateful to those who believed in me and gave me the opportunity to share information on a national conference call.  I am grateful for my health and that I have such wonderful people who love me.  I blessed in that I work with the most fabulous, giving people you could imagine and I get to do work I love.

I am grateful for the opportunity to give back. Peace for me lies in helping others to develop their careers, in writing books that may help someone somewhere, and in offering what I can to assist others in need.  I want to give more.  With like-minded people, I'm starting a non-profit.

I am blessed to be able to do that.  Thank you. How wonderful to have a special day to say thank you.

Understanding Anger

Many times people describe another person as an "angry" person or someone who has an "anger problem" and shake their heads. Emotionally abusive spouses, the controlling boss, the critical parent--all may be described as angry people. Bullies are angry people, whether they are twelve or forty-five. Maybe it's hard to understand why someone would be angry most of the time. After all, being chronically angry has many negative consequences for both the person who lives in anger and those around that person. Why would anyone continue a behavior that seems so negative?
Anger is a complicated emotion but we're beginning to understand it better than ever before.  There are different types of anger.
First consider Stephanie. That's a made-up name of course and doesn't refer to any real person. Stephanie is focused on self-esteem. Focusing on self-esteem is a trap, as we know from Dr. Neff's bookSelf Compassion (2011).  She looks for achievements to feel good about herself and assesses herself in terms of whether she is better than others in various ways, such as being smarter, more fit, wealthier, and the like. Because she sees her value as measured through these comparisons, there will be times when she realizes others are smarter, wealthier, or in better shape than she is. There are many ways of responding, and her way is to be angry when that happens. Loss of her value as a person hurts and anger is one response to feeling hurt. In some situations where someone isn't clear about who they are, the anger may be intense because they feel so worthless. Some people routinely compare themselves to others who they judge as being superior to them and the result is also anger.  Believing that you are worthless is one root of chronic anger.
Jake is an abusive spouse. When his wife Wendy returned home late from a meeting, he raged at her, demanding to know where she had been. He "knew" she was cheating on him.  Wendy apologized over and over and reassured him she loved him. To avoid his anger she told her boss she couldn't stay late any more. She made many changes in her life to avoid Jake's anger. Anger for Jake is a way of controlling his fears of abandonment.
Allison is a pretty  twelve-year-old girl who goes to a private school. She's the Queen Bee with a group of three or four followers. She puts others down and believes she is superior to other students and deserves to be adored. When she wasn't chosen as homecoming queen she was enraged. She stayed angry for months and tormented the girl who was chosen as queen. She believed she deserved it, she wanted it and she saw herself as the prettiest girl at the school. She stayed angry for months and tormented the girl who was chosen as queen.
Wesley continues to form relationships that seem promising. He has a certain closeness that he is comfortable with. He is fine until he talks about marriage and then he finds a reason to be angry with the one he cares about. He has the same pattern in business. He works well with someone until he thinks about having a business partner. Then he destroys the relationship by finding fault with the other person.
Anger is often a secondary emotion, triggered by fear. Think about your child running onto the road in front of your house. Fear comes first, then anger. Sometimes the change from fear to anger happens so quickly and automatically people aren't even aware it occurred.
Steven Stosny, in his book Treating Attachment Abuse (1995) talks about anger as an emotional salve to cover up core hurts. He identifies core hurts, some of which are feeling ignored, unimportant, accused, guilty, untrustworthy, devalued, rejected, powerless, and unlovable. The healthy person has the power to self-validate and cope with these difficult emotions.
If someone doesn't have the ability to soothe through self-validation, then they may use anger to invalidate the person who has hurt them. By assuring oneself and others that the hurt was not legitimate, that the other person was in the wrong, the person establishes their superiority. Thus they avoid feeling the difficult emotion.
For example, Allison believes that the girl who won the contest did not deserve it and thus does avoids dealing with the feeling of rejection or legitimate loss. She attacks the girl who did win to prove her point.  Allison is exhibiting a narcissistic anger--she does not feel insecure, she feels entitled.
Jake is attempting to avoid terrifying feelings of abandonment. He does not have to see himself as wrong or selfish, or mean because he is sure his wife was the one at fault.
Stephanie feels powerless and inadequate. When someone feels powerless, anger can be empowering. What a different feeling that is! Empowering can also mean control.  For fearful people, feeling in control may be soothing and they can often get that feeling through anger.
Anger can create distance when someone is afraid of getting too close.  If someone has grown up with distant parents, they may crave closeness but at the same time be afraid of it. Anger can be protective in those situations. That's Walter's pattern.
Anger can also be a safe way to engage with someone. I fight with you, therefore we are connected.
Stosny also points out the chemical rush that comes with anger. When a person gets angry, the brain secretes norepinephrine. norepinephrine works much like a pain reducer. When provoked the brain also produces the hormone epinephrine, which causes a surge of energy throughout our body. The chemical reactions may be comforting as well. Some report feeling an almost addictive like response to the adrenaline-like rush they experience when angry.
Treating anger problems requires careful assessment to find the reasons for its occurrence.

Monday, September 26, 2011

A Few Thoughts About Self Compassion

Dr. Kristin Neff's book on self compassion was published in April 2011. We've followed her website for some time and used her work in the work we do. Our expectations for her book were high. She didn't disappoint.
Human minds seem to naturally be judging, judging, and judging some more. Many people tend to build themselves up by putting others down. The idea seems to be that if someone see themselves as better than someone else then they feel better about themselves. Bullies do this to an extreme and gather allies to join them to  further prove their superiority over another human being. Given that in this country we seem fixated on being above average as a way of having self-esteem, that means finding someone or lots of someones you see as beneath you. The judging doesn't stop with others but usually includes harsh judgments of themselves as well.
Dr. Neff explains clearly how that is a set-up for problems and why it doesn't work. She offers self compassion as an alternative to self esteem.  She points out that if people see conflicts as being between two groups of people, such as between women and men or between different nationalities,  they tend to be more accepting of the differences than if they think of the conflicts as being between human beings. That leads to one of her main pathways to self compassion--accepting that what we experience are is part of the human condition. We all experience loss, disappointment, failure, shame and regret.
To truly experience self compassion is to not judge. Self compassion means to understand and accept. Is she saying nothing should be judged as wrong? No. Dr. Neff describes discriminate wisdom as the ability to separate the action from the person. Stealing is wrong. Understanding that the person who stole was hungry helps you have compassion.
Teaching a nonjudgmental stance is part of DBT. Perhaps teaching self compassion as what to do instead of judging adds an important component.
Self compassion also adds to the understanding of invalidation, perhaps helping stop the behavior. Understanding that every human being makes mistakes and is fallible and that there are multiple reasons for the missteps and less than desirable decisions encourages the logic and truth of stopping invalidating statements.
Perhaps most important of all, Dr. Neff cites research that shows people practicing self compassion are less likely to be depressed or anxious and have a more stable sense of security. That's a significant result.

Sunday, September 4, 2011


I didn't intend to become a vegetarian.  Really, I didn't.  But something happened last March and I just couldn't eat meat anymore. Not only did I not want it, I couldn't tolerate the thought of meat in my mouth. Probably just a passing thing I thought, but here I am six months later and I can't stand the thought of eating flesh. That's the way I think of meat now and I can't switch it back. Meat is flesh right?  That's the truth.

The problem is that I'm having difficulty getting enough protein. I've always loved carbs and taking meat out of my diet only makes the problem worse. Carbs taste so good.  Eating is not about what tastes good I tell myself. Because of the problem with protein I made a decision to eat meat again. Making firm decisions about my own behavior has worked before, like deciding I would go to the gym.  This time it didn't work.

That solution is not working.  Now I'm focused on alternative protein sources.  How can I increase my protein without eating meat? Greek yogurt is great. But I need more.

Enter spicy black bean burgers.  These patties are flavorful and taste like a treat.  Wrapped iwth veggies in a low-carb whole wheat tortilla and what a treat.  My meat-loving friends eat them too. I never knew these "burgers" could taste so wonderful.  So if I found one fabulous option, there should be another, right?  Protein packed chocolate pudding with no sugar and 9 carbs, 190 calories and 30 grams of protein. 30!! Seriously, this stuff is so good.

There's got to be more.  I'm searching.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Thinking, Thinking, Thinking

Mindfulness of our thoughts is one of the keys to decreasing our suffering.  How many times have you had thoughts that were totally unhelpful, maybe even detrimental to your own happiness?  Our mind is like a monkey, jumping all around. Sometimes completely weird thoughts come into our heads and we have no idea where the thoughts came from.  The problem is that sometimes we believe that because we thought something, it must be true.  Let’s say you have the thought “Maybe my husband is cheating on me” but there is no evidence that is true, not a single, tiny fact to support that thought. Being mindful that the mind is just thinking and what you think isn’t necessarily reality may save you from a lot of misery and from yelling at your husband for no reason.
The mind can have all kinds of thoughts.  Many times the mind has lots of negative thoughts about its owner–you.  And that definately lowers your mood and increases your suffering.
Thoughts are just thoughts. Because we think something it isn’t necessarily true. The mind isn’t about to stop genenerating thoughts, that’s what it has been doing for over 100,000 years.  Be aware that your thoughts may just be thoughts and not have any truth whatsoever. That’s normal.  So check it out, see if the thought is true.  Find the evidence.  If it’s true, then you can take action.  If it’s not, then you label it a thought and don’t pay attention to it.

Thursday, July 14, 2011


Discovering the differences between my cultture and the Japanese is a daily experience. Yams are not sweet potatoes here, for one. The hotel showers are not enclosed. The whole bathroom is the shower. Sounds strange but its actually very convenient and reasonable. Pajamas are provided instead of a robe. The taxis are lovely colors, bright green, turqoise, and aqua. In Tokyo there are people everywhere.  The people are gentle and very willing to be helpful. They seem to go about their day in a most efficient manner and there is little chat on the trains or streets. People do not yell at each other that I have seen and mistakes or requests are taken care of as best they can manage.. Trains and buses run on a schedule. A lovely country.

Monday, July 4, 2011


I'm headed to Japan with a carry-on full of food. I'm not confident that I can find my choices there and being unable to find food I'm willing to eat is not an experience I want to repeat. Try looking for meat substitutes in Spain. Or Southwest Virgina.

A creature of habit, I love to see the world. Those two facts about me are contradictory. It's hard to keep your routine when you can't speak the language. I'm not complaining. I'm just owning my own inflexibility. If I were a good traveler my carry-on would hold maps and guide books and walking shoes.

Hotel beds are important to me, almost as important as my food. I love a good mattress with lots of pillows and cool sheets. I'd like a view from the window. I'm a spoiled traveler I guess. Okay, I can do without the view but I don't want a too soft or a rock hard mattress.  And a gym.

Japan. I never imagined I'd be there. Google Translator is my new best friend. I'll send pictures. And let you know about that mattress.


Love is so darn complicated.

Mature love is a whole different story than a young, beginning love. One of the most difficult characteristics is that you can love someone who is absolutely not good for you. So you have this incredible feeling, this wish to be oh-so-close to someone and everytime you get close something awful happens.  Something hurtful. Painful. Gut-wrenching. Perhaps the person betrays your trust. Maybe s/he talks trash about you behind your back. Maybe they pull away. Sometimes we love the wrong person. Because without trust and safety, love doesn't flourish. Oh, you might not stop loving for a long time, maybe never. But without trust love can't help you soar and be the best you can be. Love without trust brings sadness. I believe you can love without trust, but it's not a pleasant experience.

Then there's love and intimacy. Sometimes we love from afar, not really involved with the person we love. If you love someone who struggles with addictions, or someone who repeatedly betrays you, then love from a distance may be the only safe option. That's a limited love. There's little joy in that love either.

Love without acceptance is common. I'll love you if you lose ten pounds kind of love. Can you love someone and criticize the heck out of them? Absolutely. You can love someone and blame them, be jealous of them, and any of a number of ridiculous behaviors. The love isn't the problem. It's the blaming, criticizing, and ridiculous behaviors.

But a stand-up kind of love, that's rare. When the person you love does something humiliating for them and you walk up to them and take their hand. When they make the most embarrassing goof in the company of people you respect and you kiss them on the cheek cause you know they didn't do it on purpose.

It's a wondrous thing when you get it.  And when you give it.

Trust and intimacy are critical for the fullest love

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Learning About Witches

I've stereotyped witches and I'm sorry. Now that I've done some research for a new book, I've learned the error of my ways. Of course I knew the pointed hats and long flowing black robes from the Wicked Witch of the West and Halloween were gross exaggerations. But I didn't know witches believed in karma.  Aren't we getting Buddha all mixed up here with wiccan?  Witches claim the Rule of Three. If you harm someone it will come back at you threefold. So they are quite careful about using their magic for good. Not only that but witches believe in reincarnation.  Their souls go to Summerland and wait til they are ready to start another round here on earth. So other religious sects believe in reincarnation and that lessons must be learned or we keep returning to earth. What's going on here? How did this blow your mind overlap occur?

Truth really is stranger than fiction.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Mindfulness and Attachments

Two weeks ago I was counting the days until my new iPad arrived.  I checked the Apple site several times a day, despite knowing I'd receive an email when it shipped.  The marketing department for Apple must be amazing to have so many people going to the store in the wee morning hours to stand in line to get a number to buy that product.  I guess it helps that the iPad is, well, really cool. 

What fascinates me though is my own behavior. I've been through gadget mania, believing that the latest gadget would add so much to my life, create happiness or magic or some wondrous result.  What really happens, of course, is that I get the gadget (or dress, or car, or whatever) and then a week later I want something else.  There is no end to wanting.  Whatever you get, you want something else. We don't wait for possessions to wear out anymore or until we need something new.  How many people wait until they need a new pair of shoes before buying? Or new clothes? Most of us buy based on want, not need. Sometimes I try to fool myself.  I don't have any yellow heels.  So I need those.  then, well,  I don't have any yellow flats.  I need yellow flats and then that will be the last pair I buy.  Ha.  I am embarrassed to say how many pairs of shoes are in my closet right now.  I certainly don't need more.  

All this wanting leads to working more to earn more money to pay for all the stuff I buy.  

Wanting creates discontentment.  Getting things truly doesn't bring happiness.  I've found that out for myself.  Plus research done in positive psychology has shown that to be true.  Not to mention that all this buying from want means working more hours to earn more money to pay for all the stuff that doesn't make me happy.  And takes away from free time that I could spend writing, with friends and with family--the choices that really do make me happy. My behavior makes no sense.  And I know it.  And I still do it.

The iPad really is cool though.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Finding Happiness in Parenting

Parenting is so complicated. So many times parents come in to my office and say "My daughter was absolutely perfect until she hit the teen years. Then she is like a different person."  The problem is that often a child who seems "perfect" and never causes any trouble may also be the child who is not developing their own sense of identity.  This is a problem because during the teen years the same child will do everything a peer group does, just like she used to do everything you said.  She gets her sense of acceptance by being like the people she wants to accept her.

How awful that parents must worry not only if their child is getting into trouble but must also worry if their child is too perfect.  What's up with that?  That hardly seems fair, does it?

Developing a sense of identity is an important developmental task. Identity is made up mostly of a person's likes and dislikes. Make sure your child has a voice, can tell you what his preferences are and how he feels about different situations and experiences. Listen, don't try to shape his opinion no matter how much you disagree. It's important that his opinion is his opinion and he feels his opinion is accepted.  Let him express his preference for a restaurant, clothes, television shows, and friends. Give him lots of opportunties to make choices that are appropriate for his age.

Helping your child develop a sense of identity is just one way to start preparing for those teen years, which is good for your child and will make your life easier. You know those times, that's when you as a parent know nothing and are just out to make your child's  life miserable. It's all just developmental, and that too will pass!

Thursday, February 3, 2011


Yesterday I read a chapter I'd written about ten months ago.  Appalled would not be too strong for what I felt.  My writing clearly reflected the amateur that I am.  I knew exactly how to fix my errors.  I'd described the setting in such a way that it screamed "I'm describing the setting now." I wrote qucikly as if someone would read it before I could correct the error of not  integrating the setting into the action.  Then I put down the pen in satisfaction.  Done. In ten months from now, if I'm lucky, I'll be appalled at what I'm writing now.  And so the progress proceeds and hopefully, one day, I will love the words I've written regardless of their age.

At this moment  I am working on making my writing invisible to the reader, bringing the story so vividly to existence that it becomes reality.  I don't want  my words to even whisper there is a writer behind them, grouping them in some special order, working with the sounds and smells they call forth.  There are some rules that help me learn this, like always say swordfish, not fish; and pay attention to the sounds of words.   Pearls and pewter; bark, bulimia, banker; and putrid, rotted, rubbish--they all convey more than their definition.  Put them together in the right way and they'll sing a melody as well.  A light jingle, a baroque, a symphony--what do I want?  At this moment I envy the poets, that lovely and perfect choice of words, a way of seeing the world with an artist's eye.

Monday, January 17, 2011

I Love Paris

 Paris has a personality all her own.  Yes, her.  She's definately a woman.  Soft, sensitive, enticing, great fun with a mystery about her as well. She's a skilled courtesian who flirts endlessly, but you're not sure she's really interested.  I love Paris!

So much to see and do in gay Paree.  The Eiffel Tower is amazing.  So are the Arc de Triomph and Versailles and Louvre and on and on.  The architecture is beautiful.  Just walking down the street is an experience, any street.   No wonder Hemmingway loved it so.  He once said

"If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast."

Hemmingway's words were comforting because I didn't want to leave. And Oscar Wilde gave me hope of returning.
When good Americans die they go to Paris.”  Oscar Wilde

I didn't do so well with the language.  I felt as Mark Twain must have when he said "In Paris they simply stared when I spoke to them in French; I never did succeed in making those idiots understand their own language."

I know Paris is the city of gourmet food.  For some reason I didn't experience those wonderful dishes.  Maybe I was too busy walking the city.  I spent hours walking.  So I found French peanut butter and some wonderful bread and made do with that.  I think that was a good decision based on Charles de Montesquieu.  He said "Lunch kills half of Paris, supper the other half."

Parisienne women ride motorcycles and scooters.  They do so in heels and short skirts.  Everyone is dressed in black.  If you want to stand out, wear color, but it will mark you as a tourist.

Paris has many faces and can be whoever you want her to be, yet she is decidedly Paris.  

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Burning the Old Year by Naomi Shihab Nye

Burning the Old Year

Letters swallow themselves in seconds.   
Notes friends tied to the doorknob,   
transparent scarlet paper,
sizzle like moth wings,
marry the air.

So much of any year is flammable,   
lists of vegetables, partial poems.   
Orange swirling flame of days,   
so little is a stone.

Where there was something and suddenly isn’t,   
an absence shouts, celebrates, leaves a space.   
I begin again with the smallest numbers.

Quick dance, shuffle of losses and leaves,   
only the things I didn’t do   
crackle after the blazing dies.

Happy 2011!

  I love New Year's.  Not the party, but the experience.  Though it's just another day, I love the feel of unwrapping a whole new year, one that's fresh, clean, just waiting for me to figure out how to use it.  So on New Year's Day I spend some time thinking of my intention for the coming year. I set a general direction for myself and though I may be off course much of the time or the path I take changes, I keep focus on that general direction.  Most of the time.

     This year I'm letting go of more fears to live with more ease.  It's a little scary to even write that.  If my mother is listening, she'll be scared too. She'll be saying how much more wildly could I possibly get? But though I've succeeded in living way beyond my comfort zones, there are ways I still limit myself beyond what's reasonable.   Being frugal and careful and saving for the day you might be living under a bridge has always been a way of staying safe.  So I do a lot of things like reuse aluminum foil, save plastic bags and work on Labor Day.  All of which may be a result of growing up in Appalachia (which was wonderful, but that's another topic.)

     So I'm risking more this year.  I'm sending out queries for the novels I've written, joining a writing class, and working less.  I'm opening up new areas of my clinical practice and traveling more.  I'll still save plastic bags and aluniminum foil but with a different intention.  Most of all I will give myself more time, view the time I have as abundant, and spend more of it connecting with people I love.

     A good start is--I'm going to Paris.  That sounds so decadent to me.  But I am blessed with a special opportunity.  See, I'm giving myself reasons it's okay even now.  It's okay.  It won't put me under the bridge.

     So we'll see how I do as the year goes on.  I hope the angels are helping my mother relax right now.