Thursday, October 27, 2016


My life gets all sorted out, I am zooming along then WHAM!  On occasion I feel like I have this sign on my back that says 'kick me.'  I resist change.  I want things to remain the same but they don't.  It would be a bit weird if they did stay the same.  Life throws curve balls every day.  If I am awake I am engaged in something to do.  I am enjoying the art therapy class I am doing online.  I am enjoying the mini workshop with my job on how to reach the 'troubled' student.  I am having fun playing Happy Acres on Facebook.   I was up until almost 2 AM too wired to sleep.  My mother broke her hip a couple of weeks ago.  When she was in extreme pain visits were brief and doable.  Now she is getting better.  The complaints with the expectation I could wave a magic wand and make them all go away.   Others are also hearing her complaints.  Their comments tell me more clearly then anything else how differently I was treated.  Their exclamation, "She must have dementia to be acting this way." I don't see a change, she is acting the same to me.  Her flow of criticism is not new to me.  In fact, I believe her only change is everyone else gets to see behind the mask of pleasantry that she always hid.  I thought it was me that brought out the worst in her.  Now, I understand that I was expected to resolve all these complaints and take care of her.  My life feels in turmoil because I feel like I am sliding relentlessly into this designated role that I was molded to perform from the time I was 5 years old.  I remember even then to take care of my mother.  It never occurred to anyone that someone was supposed to take care of the child.  Then sadly I watched the same pattern develop with my children when my health became so bad that I was bed ridden.  I am working at improving my health.  I don't expect my children to do it for me.  I am sorry that my mother was hurt.  But it is not my job to solve her problems.  She has lots of time to think and she is feeling regret for some situations.  She keeps asking me what she can do to fix the damage but the reality is she has no intention of changing herself she wants me to fix things.  So much in my life is really great.  Why am I letting this issue haunt me again?  I am realizing that how I behave is about my choice not her behavior.  Others are expressing their dismay in her change of behavior.  My thought, "What change?  She seems the same to me."  I was her safety valve she always unloaded on me then felt better with me shouldering her problems.  I won't do this any more.  She made poor choices.  I don't need to fix things for her.  She is an adult.  She'll figure it out.  Solutions will come.  I am working at letting things go. 

Friday, October 21, 2016

Good question

Rambling along in life many times I accept what comes whatever it is at the time.  Good, bad or indifferent I've had plenty of each. I was scrolling through Facebook and someone posted a link to this speech.  Something about it intrigued me.  I worked for 15 years with computers support.  I wanted teachers and students to feel comfortable asking me questions.  Computers have an ability to make the brightest person feel really stupid.  I tell people is the only bad question is the one unasked.  I also reminded them that there isn't a stupid question about computers that I haven't already asked.  I believe in asking questions.  This article went on to identify and clarify several things that I believe about questions.

Some questions are used to intimidate and put down.  Any parent that has ever asked, "You aren't going out dressed like that?"  Knows exactly what I mean.  For those that are not parents there are the questions like "Aren't you a little OLD to be doing that?"  "Have you tried THIS diet?"  I believe you have the idea it is those questions used to 'prove' the speaker is somehow superior to you.  I hate those kind of questions and work very hard not to use them.  However, it is one I have to repent of on a regular basis.  The sarcastic, put down, mean spirited question exists.  It is helpful to recognize it.  It is fun to treat the person asking the question like they are serious.  "You aren't going out dressed like that?" Answer: "Of course I am and I can take you to the store where I got it and we can have matching outfits."  I usually think of these creative answers about 2 days later than the question.  I know some will come around again.  "Have you tried THIS diet?"  answer:  "I agree with Garfield, diet is die with a t at the end."  I also understand if I do this it is a bit like pouring oil on a fire but some days I like to live dangerously and it is probably a bridge I need to burn.  Put down, critical questions need to be recognized a thinly veiled insult.  

The are several other variety of questions.  "Wait, what?" They heard what you said but didn't understand what you meant.  They need more input.  I believe many misunderstandings would be avoided if people used "Wait, what?" a bit more often.  Indicating to the listener you are trying to understand them and requesting more information to improve chances of understanding each other. 

“Wait what” is actually a very effective way of asking for clarification, which is crucial to understanding. It’s the question you should ask before drawing conclusions or before making a decision.  The Dean of Harvard College, Rakesh Khurana, gave a great master class this year, where he emphasized the importance of inquiry before advocacy. It’s important to understand an idea before you advocate for or against it. The wait, which precedes the what, is also a good reminder that it pays to slow down to make sure you truly understand. ~ Ryan

Slowing down my thinking is essential to my understanding many situations.  I tend to excel at the sport of jumping to conclusions.  Wait and think, slow down racing thoughts....I help myself do this with my doodle drawings, pondering, and writing.  Give myself time to process and review my perspective. Asking questions for understanding helps strengthen bridges and build relationships. 

Next question is careful how you use it.  "I wonder?"  I used this question after I read an article about adoption of children from 3rd world countries.  The article shared how the children would hide and sneak food when there was plenty available.  I stared around my office and saw the case of water and the case of stew sitting next to my desk.  I wondered why I behaved just like them.  I wonder led me down many paths.  This curiosity was often squashed with "Curiosity killed the cat."  I learned to answer, "Satisfaction brought it back."  I wondered about all sorts of things quilting, cooking, computers, art, and many subjects.  When I became curious about myself, I started down this road to find out why I did what I did.  Some of the answers were astonishing and alarming.  Other answers helped me make sense of my very bizzare world I was raised in.  

There are a couple of more questions that I want to explore but this is getting a little long so to be continued. 

Friday, October 14, 2016


I am doing an online art course on Art Therapy.  I spent the morning learning about doodling.  It went over some of the basic mark making associated with doodling.  Of course, being myself, I looked up doodling online.  It was kind of funny that finding information about art doodling was more difficult than I thought it would be.  There is a program named doodle, some apps about doodling and many, many how to draw links so it took a while to narrow down to several useful pages.

The first page I found that I liked talked about what it is and what it isn't.

Which led me to this TED talk about doodling:

I enjoyed watching it and adding this to my growing information about doodles.

Don't bother looking up "doodling" in the dictionary, because the definition in the Oxford Dictionary is dismal: "to scribble absentmindedly." This is a decidedly dismissive way of describing doodling.
The definition of doodling offered in the aforementioned TED Talk is superior: "To make spontaneous marks to help yourself think." Have you ever felt like you listen better while doodling?

Well, there's a science to it. To retain information, we need to engage at least two of the following four sensory skills: visual, auditory, reading/writing and kinesthetic. Doodling engages some, if not all, of these sensory skills, allowing doodlers actually retain significantly more verbal information than non-doodlers. It might take some time for the memo to reach your boss, but basically, it's not a bad thing to be doodling in the board room.

Note: Is doodling a view into the psyche? While some will analyze doodles for meaning and insight to our personal issues or leanings, they don't necessarily have to carry emotional significance. Ideas may come to you randomly while you doodle, or you can make specific decisions about what to doodle.

This I believe is just the tip of the iceberg about the value of doodling.   We spend our lives having more and more information pushed at us.  This is the age of information and we are flooded with it.  Our past experiences get locked up in our minds and present experiences just keep piling more stuff on.  I am suspecting that the main value about doodling is something to keep us busy so we can do nothing.  It is during this nothing time that our subconscious and conscious mind can share information.  Why it is helpful in concentrating on complex problems.  Why it helps in the healing process.  There are few activities that we allow ourselves time to mull things over.  Take time to think consider and keep our hands busy while our whole brain has a think session.  Another beautiful thing about doodles is they don't have to look like anything.  Whatever flows out of the pen is just fine.  Words and letters mix in with squares, circles, squiggles and swirls.  Some doodles may achieve the lofty heights of art but they don't need to.  Squiggles in the margins serve a legitimate purpose as well as those high brow cousins.

I spent the morning reviewing the basic mark making for doodles.  As I continued through the lessons I realized that I was being taught the same basic mark making principles I learned in my art drawing class.  In my drawing class I learned the value of a wide variety of basic mark making vocabulary.  Marks close together reveal density while marks widely space imply open spaces.  A variety of mark making adds interest, volume and details to my drawings. 

Basics needed paper, pen.  I recommend pen rather than pencil to keep myself from erasing everything I put on paper.  The need for perfection can keep me from the joys of putting marks on a paper.

I decided to add doodling to my evening routine.  Hopefully it will help my overly busy mind settle down so sleep doesn't drag its feet to arrive. 

Ideas for doodling
How to doodle

Monday, October 10, 2016

Over Load

This week had one emotional explosion after another.  I am trying to tread water but feeling a bit like hurricane Matthew is lapping at my shores and I live in a desert.  Go figure.  I am trying to sort through my collage of thoughts.  I am using my newly learned art therapy techniques, breathing, and remembering who's job is it.  I was raised to cater to and take care of others regardless what it does to my own health.  One of my teachers at school ended up in the hospital but was so worried about grades she came back to work to fill out the grades.  I hovered and watched over her until she was safely in her car on her way home.  I felt deep compassion and concern for her. 

Friday, my mother broke her hip during one of her many falls.  She will walk through neighbors yards, clutter of chairs in every room then wonders why she stumbles and falls.  In the last year, I know of her taking about a 5 or 6 falls that caused enough damage to be worrying to me.  My mantra it is not my job to keep her safe.  This time she fell twice and the second time finished herself off with a broken hip.  Rather than call 911 she had my dad get her up and out to the car for a dr. visit.  I find it very disturbing that I feel more concern for the teacher than I do my mother. 

I know that part of counseling helped me grieve for the mother I never really had.  I lived with Jekyll and Hyde.  When I am alone with her, I never know when she will lash out.  In public, she is always super sweetly nice.  Causes gag reaction on my part because I know what is waiting as soon as we are alone.  For several years now, I am under strict instructions from my sensible self to never be alone with her.  I went by to visit her tonight and I see this scrawny old woman in the bed with dark sunglasses on thrashing around frantic because she can't see.  The nurse gently took the glasses off and I hear her, "Oh it is my daughter."  Yup, it's me.  I stayed long enough to get an update.  When the nurse talked about her sky rocketing blood pressure I responded, "Oh like you had happen in August."  The nurse perked right up.  She wasn't aware that the blood pressure was an on going problem.  My mother said that it didn't happen.  Then she chattered on about the other times she watched her blood pressure spike and stayed home monitoring it or ignoring it.  The nurse started asking more question but I had to tell I only knew that much.  It is not my job to keep my mother safe, comfortable or cocooned in her fantasy world she lives in. 

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Matching Sizes

I get news of conferences for education.  One of them pointed out an issue that children and those with PTSD struggle.

The Size of the Problem
Problems happen all the time - perhaps you dropped your ice cream cone on the floor or you locked your keys in the car. When a problem happens, is it a small or big problem? How do you know how to react to it? For many students with social learning challenges, they may find it difficult to answer those questions.

problem is something that happens that was not part of the plan AND makes people feel uncomfortable. When problems occur, we may often experience feelings such as sadness, stress, or frustration, and these feelings can impact our reactions - what we show on the outside. It is expected that our reactions match the size of the problem. For example: crying would be expected if one of your grandparents passed away (a big problem), but might not be expected if you spilled juice (a small problem).
Why is it important?

When someone's reaction matches the size of the problem, people are more understanding of the behavior. When someone's reaction is bigger than the size of the problem, people may feel uncomfortable by the behavior. The four key concepts below can help individuals learn to self-regulate as they work through their problems:
  • Problems come in different sizes
  • Your feelings about the problem can come in different sizes
  • Your feelings can impact the size of your reaction
  • It is expected to match the size of the reaction to the size of the problem
A big reaction to a small problem.
It is important to note that we should not tell students what to feel - rather, it is okay to feel what they feel, but they must be aware of their behavior and how it influences others. In order to help others feel comfortable, students must make sure their reactions match the size of the problem.

This becomes an issue in two ways.  There are situations that start out as small events that have massive reactions.  Known as triggers, these events can provoke out of proportion responses.  PTSD also creates another type of response to a problem.  That is under-reacting.  Someone told me about a misbehaving child.  I thought the behaviors weren't all that bad because I had seen much worse.  The other person reacted very strongly about my lack of response.  I also noticed that after cancer, strep throat was no big deal.  Some people think I don't care when it reality, compared to what I experienced I judged the situation to be not that big a problem as the person suffering thought it was.  These two extreme reactions of either over or under reacting can create problems in relationships.  I work at remembering when a person is expressing their distress over some horrible experience, I remind myself that for them it is the worse thing to happen to them.

A way to combat triggers is to excuse myself from a situation and slow down my knee jerk reaction in private.  Grounding is another tool to use when confronted with an overwhelming situation.  For under-reacting, I practice being aware of the other person's point of view.  When possible, I often retreat, give myself time to brace myself for thinking over my reaction.  If that is not an option I actively try to imagine how the other person is feeling by their body language, words, tones, and other visual behaviors that.  Part of the human experience is responding to different forms of trauma to our selves and those we care about.  How we respond to those challenges, that indicates who we are.  I believe that I learn more about another person in times of stress than I ever do when life is going along calmly.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Art is therapy

I am working on an online Art therapy course.  As I am doing the assignments, I am reminding myself that for me art is therapy.  Doesn't seem to matter what kind I do. I am learning floral design at school.  I'm also painting again and working on Photoshop.  I am finding joy in the action of doing art.  I forgot how amazing I feel when I am doing creative things.  It is also a clear indication that the depressive slump I was in is finally ending.  I'm relieved.  I will still go through more bouts (holiday season brings on the depression) but it nice to take a break from feeling so discouraged, frustrated and sad so much of the time. 

Sunday, October 2, 2016

The Hurrier I go.....

The behinder I get....

Lewis Carol quotes crop up from time to time.  This suits me very well right now.  I am recovering from yet another injury.  This time my foot put me out of commission.  I had to cancel several activities but a flood of other things fills that space.  One of the enjoyable things was a couple of weeks ago our church women's group got together with an artist and painted.  Yup, I produced a picture in about an hour and a half.  I've done three more since then.  I don't need to do one more thing on my list.  I don't need to paint at all.  I am studying an art therapy course online.  Part of what art, such as painting can do for me, is to provide time to meditate. What I decided was that I deny myself the pleasurable things in life as some sort of weird self punishment.  I am choosing to put these activities back into my life.  I am starting one piece at a time.  The art articles are accurate for me.  Painting allows a time for meditation.  It lets my mind focus somewhere else while I keep my hands busy.  I am enjoying the pleasure of producing something pleasing.