Month: January 2015

Yoga: Exercise for the Soul

I know I have talked in previous blogs about how yoga and meditation together have helped me tremendously to come to terms with a lot of my anxieties and unhealthy living patterns. They specifically, along with other lifestyle changes, helped me move past a bad burnout and depression I experienced last Spring. I pretty much practice every day, usually in the am, or my body and mind feel the difference, and not in a good way, let me tell you. I was thinking of how important these art forms were for me during a walk around my neighborhood a few days ago. It was cold, bitterly cold as its been all this month, but sunny, and the sun was like a balm for my stressed mind. As I walked and did my physical workout for the morning, I started thinking how yoga is like a balm for my spirit in the same way, almost like prayer, which I also do every day. Physically we need to move our bodies to keep healthy limbs and minds, and spiritually I believe that the same thing applies. If I’m not in touch with how I’m feeling on the inside, nervous, overwhelmed, happy, present in the moment, I won’t be able to make any major decisions or move forward in my life on the outside. For me, moving forward has meant learning to be still, and see and feel my feelings to know how and what I have to do next. This has meant the difference between mental health and burnout. Try it. There are so many great yoga workouts and meditations available online or on video. If in doubt about your abilities, join a class. I can honestly say that yoga has given me back my inner peace, and with inner peace, we can change the world, one person at a time. Until next time.

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Lettting Go Of Expectations-Letting the Universe Do Its Magic

Last night was not a good night. I’ve been having a tough time with Michael lately. There have been some changes recently in his life that have been causing him, (and as a result me), some stress. First, I started sleep training him at night. He has adjusted remarkably well, but the anxiety is coming out during the daytime hours. REALLY coming out. Then, I introduced an after school program twice a week, so I have a chance to work more.  Add to that the fact that winter has been like minus -100 degrees outside,  and he can’t burn off excess nervous energy. So now you have it ladies: an even more anxious, stressed out little boy on the autism spectrum. You can probably picture how happy I was that I would be going out last night to my bimonthly writers’ meeting. And I made the mistake of thinking: “Yeah, I’m escaping finally!” It had been a few weeks since I had gone out at night with the sleep training and all.

After the bus picked him up, I was washing dishes and thinking. Yes, sometimes my most profound thoughts come when I’m washing dishes or cleaning the floor. I do, therefore I think. 🙂 I remembered about “The Power/Laws of Attraction”, and how it works in your life. Apparently, the things we want too desperately and don’t want desperately, can be brought into our life by thinking and worrying about them. I wanted to go out SO BADLY last night to flee my problems, that I inevitably drove away what I wanted and needed most: a healthy break from my family and my role as autism Mom. A huge family fight happened instead. The details don’t matter. What does matter, is that I did indeed get my escape in the form of driving to the nearest mall near my house in anger. I parked and has a good long cry. When I was done, I texted my friend that was hosting the writers’ meeting telling her I wouldn’t be coming, and answered my husband’s text about where I had gone. I told him I was coming home to be alone in my room and go to bed. Michael was calm when I got home and did well with his father. I was glad.

I learned a powerful lesson that night. Only when I let go of how badly I needed escape, how worried I was about my husband putting Michael to bed with the changes, did it all work out. And you know what, in the end the universe was smarter than me. I think I was meant to stay home, have a glass of wine, and go to bed early which is what ended up happening. So remember Moms, let go of your fears, worries and preconceptions. I guarantee you will get what you need at that time to have the strength to go on.  I’ll leave you with a great quote that, as usual, I found at the right time.

“The end is simply the beginning of an even longer story.” -Zadie Smith-

Until next time.

Patience Is A Virtue- 3 Ways I Can Be More Of A Patient Mom

Just had another morning of not so patient behavior with Michael. Our weekend was also pretty much like this, shouting,behavior management and me losing it every five seconds. Sound familiar? I think even with neuro typical children they can be ‘off’ at times, but with special needs kids it is a whole other ball game. Sensory issues, sleep issues, gastrointestinal issues, communication issues, need I go on? I didn’t think so. 🙂 Back to my point. This morning both of us slept in. I blame it on part on the very cold winter weather we’re having, but it’s also due I think, to the many changes we’re both going through. Michael has started two afternoons a week at the local after school program up the street from me, I am working part-time at a store (though lately it is quiet on the retail front), and I am in the process of building my writing and speaking business. We have also had lots of extracurricular activities with birthday parties and other functions in addition to the usual adapted activities Michael attends. It’s been a crazy January to say the least! So much so, that with all these changes, more anxieties come to the surface, and with anxieties come behaviors. It doesn’t matter that things are going relatively well. The stress of the unknown is what sets Michael off. And when Michael gets set off, so do I.  My patience level lately, on a scale from 1 to 10 is at a -1. Yep, not good. Sometimes I’ve been successful, more often than not this week though, I have failed in this regard. What it showed me though, is what I need to learn about me. And learning is what I am doing. Michael, I have said in the past and will continue to say, is my best teacher. He has taught me many things about life such as 3 ways I can be more of a patient Mom:

1) Be aware of my emotions when the storm hits. I now check in with myself and if I can, ask my husband to step in and manage the storm. If not, I excuse myself and go to a calm corner of my own and regroup then tackle the situation. It’s better for Michael and I.

2) Remind myself not to shout out consequences that are impossible to follow up on. This one is tricky. This morning I yelled out that If he missed the bus I would not drive him into school. In the heat of the moment, I tend to forget logic sometimes. Don’t do this ladies! I laughed about it afterwards, but it wasn’t the best thing to say.

3) Talk to a friend or right down how I could handle something like this better in the future. Like I tell Michael, we all learn from my mistakes. I am living by that now too.

Have a fantastic day ladies, and remember, go easy on yourself. We’re all doing the best we can with what we’ve got. Until next time.

5 Ways to Overcome Your Fears and Anxieties

How many of you out there have children who have difficulty falling asleep alone even after doing sleep training when they were babies? This is my situation now with Michael, but I have to say, (knocking on wood), that in the past month I have been working with our social worker and it is going very well. I am out of his bed and chair and going in to check on him periodically! It wasn’t this easy at the beginning, but he is older now, and we talked about what we were going to do before we started.  I did the sleep training thing with Michael at two years old when he still wasn’t sleeping through the night as a baby and toddler,  and I was, well, a train wreck. As my brother put it when talking to me on the phone one day,”You know, they torture prisoners by depriving them of sleep. You need to do something.” He too had challenges with his daughter, my niece, but it passed. So train Michael I did, and it worked great until he was about four and a half years old and again. All of sudden the fear of night was back. He started coming to our bed at night and needing us to lie down with him to fall asleep. There have been stretches of days in the past few years when he sleeps the whole night and we’ve done nothing different in the routine. But since last spring, fear of the dark (with more comprehension of his daily anxieties) came in the picture.  I am so proud of how Michael  is doing this, as his nighttime fears are not easy things to conquer. But he is doing it!

Seeing him progressing smoothly on this front recently reminded me how  how important it is to face our fears. And I, like I’m sure a lot of you out there, have my share as well. So in honor of addressing our fears and tackling them one by one, (and we all have at least one, ladies) here is my list:

5 Ways to Tackle Your Fears:

1) Admit they are there and forgive yourself if you haven’t addressed them yet. This is huge ladies. FORGIVE YOURSELF. I was terrible at this in all areas of my life. Now I say to myself: “You are doing the best you can.” And then “Easy girl. One step at a time.” Sounds suspiciously like the way we talk to our kids, doesn’t it? I use the same patient tone of voice on myself,  and so should you. It gets results.

2) Calm your mind with meditation, yoga or exercise, reading, etc. and make sure you are rested before you undertake ANY change. Guess what, if it’s hard and you’re tired ladies, it won’t work! Use whatever works for you.

3) Talk about my issues with close friends and family and get their support beforehand. This way if I want to cop out, I have one or more of them to hold me to my promise to do my best.

4) Look at how well our children handles their fears considering. This should actually have been my first point. Even when Michael fails, he asks for help from me or his father, than moves on. He is brave, braver than any neuro-typical adult who doesn’t have a different body/mind chemistry than the majority of the population. All our kids, as far as I’m concerned, are mini heroes for how they navigate our world.

5) Write about my feelings around my fears in a journal and make lists. Yes, I’m one of those! Only now, I hold myself to those lists and feelings. I am gentle, but move myself forward. And if I don’t do something, tomorrow is another day.

Anyone can do the 5 steps above. All it takes is patience, focus and kindness toward yourself. So go for it! You deserve to be happy, whole and free of your fears once and for all. Until next time.

“Vision Board Building Workshop”

Hey Moms out there! How many of you want to start living your personal and family life in balance and harmony? How many of you want to change your career focus or get back into the workforce? A great way to make 2015 that special year of change is to get your objectives down on paper in word and print format. A fun way of doing this is to make  a Vision Board! I made one myself and I can honestly say it was a fun and thought provoking experience. The Laws of Attraction stipulate that what you see visually and look at daily will manifest itself in your life. Want a fun morning out with the girls planning out your next step this year? Then join me soon for an upcoming workshop: “Making Your Own Vision Board: Building Your Future”. Dates and times to follow. ”

Massage: My Best Reset Tool for Body, Mind and Spirit

I have spoken before in another post about my depression and burnout that happened almost a year ago. It was my second episode. The first happened in my early thirties, and now that I know I am susceptible to this kind of reaction when life gets stressful, I am watching my lifestyle habits, and seeing what I can do to feel my best and do my best all the time. One of the tools I found that has really helped me (and continues to do so), is massage. As a matter of fact, it was at the beginning of my burnout last year, that a chair massage helped release so much pent up emotion and made me see what steps I had to take next. After the massage was finished and I was driving home in my car,  I remember having to pull over in a shopping center parking lot to cry out all the emotions that were coming up. It felt good to be letting it out though. Afterwards, I went for a walk around my neighborhood. It was spring, a dull but mild day. During the walk, I started thinking about what I needed to change, what I needed to ask for.  I prayed to God. Please show me the way. I am so lost. And as always, the universe and God, were there with help for me. A close friend was in the process of completing her massotherapy studies to open up her own business, and she needed volunteers to ‘practice’ on. I kid you not, I lucked out last spring when she asked me!  It was the beginning of something beautiful.

My friend, by the way, graduated with flying colors, and now has opened her business. It is called “The Spa House.” Her website is https://www.facebook.com/thespahousesl. She is professional, thorough, and knows what stress feels like on the inside and out being a busy Mom herself.  She has lots of great promotions, and of course, I recommend  her highly. 🙂 My massage experiences last spring, have showed me that this is a tool that really can help clear out some of the baggage I am carrying around inside. It’s my time for me. Yes, it costs money, and as Moms of special needs children, whatever spare (or not) money we have goes on therapies or activities for our kids. But you know what? We matter too! If we burn out, who will be there to take care of us and our families? A wise woman, a great social worker/counselor I was seeing last year told me:

“Think of yourself as the CEO of your family. A CEO, a good one, takes care of themselves. When they are in balance, they can run a company efficiently.”

Aren’t we the CEO’s of our households Moms? Think about it, what you do everyday to make things run smoothly for everyone.  It doesn’t matter what activity you choose, just choose some ‘you’ time in the best fashion you can think to have it.  We all have a “Reset Tool” or “Tools” that we unconsciously apply, both healthy and unhealthy. Let’s see if we can remember in 2015 to use our healthy reset tools to live our best life possible. Here’s to all the CEO Mom friends I know. 🙂  Until next time.

3 Things I Ask My Son to Repeat to Me So We Have A Successful Outing

Hi again Moms. I know you’ve all been there. You and the rest of your family get to a destination with your son/daughter who has autism or another type of special need and the process has gone smoothly up until this point. Everyone got ready calmly, left the house on time, and now you have arrived as a family and are excited and think, today NOTHING will go wrong. Of course, it’s just when you think those words, that KAPOW everything goes wrong and spectacularly so! I have often told my husband don’t say all is fine until the event is over. I don’t think I’m being negative, but I truly believe that if we as parents think this, we let our guards down, our kids who are already anxious see that, and act out. Or else the little buggers are taking advantage of us, and don’t tell me kids with autism can’t! They are as smart as their neuro-typical peers, I tell you. Anyway, so this is what I now do and wanted to share this list with other Moms out there. It surprisingly works most of the time, and when it doesn’t, we leave in a flurry of noise and stress, but then that would have happened anyway if things went wrong, right?

3 THINGS I MAKE SURE MY SON KNOWS HE HAS TO DO TO HAVE A SUCCESSFUL OUTING AS A FAMILY: (I MAKE HIM REPEAT THEM BACK SO WE’RE CLEAR):

1) STAY CLOSE TO MOMMY AND DADDY AND LISTEN.

2) NO SCREAMING, TALKING IN A LOUD VOICE OR RUNNING.

3) KEEP MY HANDS AND FEET TO MYSELF.

And if this doesn’t happen, he knows the verdict. We leave immediately. It has worked well overall. It only happened once I had to leave a children’s clothing store because he was acting up. He cried the whole way to the car and asked for another chance to go back. So far that hasn’t happened, but he’s been doing very well in grocery stores, the library and a bookstore near our house. So we’ll have to see. Consistency is something I’m learning really is key with all kids, but with ours ESPECIALLY.

The Art of A Proper Transition (as taught to me by my son Michael)

I’m sure we can all agree that our kids teach us major life lessons instead of the other way around. I’m constantly amused, frustrated, exhilarated, and in awe of my son Michael, because he is wise beyond his years. He knows when he needs to rest (most of the time, and trust me, it is in short supply). He knows what types of toys and food he wants, when he wants to be alone. He will announce to me if I come along and suggest we play a game: “But I don’t want to play with you now Mommy. Maybe later.”  And now, he knows exactly when and how to unwind from a hard day at school or elsewhere. “Mommy, I need five (or ten) minutes to drop off my friends first, then I’ll come and see you, ok?” And he’s pretty good at keeping to the five minutes or ten. This entails him marching up and down the corridor in our house saying in a sing song voice: “there you go Mortimer, there you go Franklin, good job” as he makes car noises of dropping off his favorite fictional book characters. Ah, makes a writer Mom proud. 🙂

Sure this is an unorthodox way to unwind, but we are talking about a child with autism whose brain works differently than ours. The point that struck me only yesterday, is that Michael understands, unlike a lot of us adults, what time alone can do in helping manage our stress. Five, ten or fifteen minutes of downtime, can often do wonders to recharge the battery in our bodies, so that we can be refreshed to tackle the business at hand- our work, household and family responsibilities.  So, taking a page out of Michael’s book,  here are the 4 things I now have started to do when I transition from one thing to another:

1)Repeat some favorite meditation mantras (Be careful if you’re driving. Make sure your attention is focused on the road.):  “Peace and I are one. I am peace”, “May I, my family, friends, and those I have difficulty with, be well.”, “The universe is a good place.” Any mantra works. Choose what you like.

2) Deep breathing and picturing myself on a beautiful beach with the ocean waves lapping at my feet.

3) Listening to my favorite kind of music. Depending on how the day has gone, can be anything from jazz, to pop or most likely, relaxation music. I always keep CD’s near by in the house or car.

4) Writing a poem about my feelings (usually for my eyes only), or writing about my feelings in a journal entry. More on keeping a journal another time. 🙂

And if I’m home, I make sure now to sit down on the coach for a few minutes (anywhere from five to fifteen minutes), and do one of the above.  Try it next time you’re having a ‘Calgon, take me away’ moment, and see if it doesn’t make a difference in coping well with the next stage of your day or night.

Stay well and healthy. Until next time.

Calm Corners for Moms!

Happy New Year Moms! Here’s to a year of navigating the complicated terrains of our lives, managing our children’s emotions while we manage our own, and staying sane, happy, and healthy while learning to thrive and teach our kids to do the same. It’s been a rough two weeks for me with Michael at home. I feel like I’ve been living with two children, one mature beyond his years telling me “calm down Mommy, it’ll be ok” when I have stressed over party preparations or spilled something in a hurry while going to work,  to a second child younger beyond his years crying, throwing tantrums to get attention, and expressing fears of the dark and sleeping alone, something a much younger child usually grapples with. Through it all, I have been , well human. I have done well sometimes in navigating these tricky emotional matters, and at other times, I have yelled, stormed out of the house, and taken a few walks around the block, using one of my ‘calm corners’ to get myself emotionally in check before I show a healthy example of coping with frustration, anger, and stress to Michael.  One of the strategies I like to use is something I read about in an excellent book called “The Sensory Child Gets Organized” by Carole Dagliesh. It is the concept of “The Calm Box”, a place where the child can go and organize, calm down and collect him/herself before telling the parent what is wrong. I liked this so much, that recently I  have devised my own “Mommy’s Calm Corner” or “Box” where I go to do the same so I can present a picture of calm and collected maturity to my son (or at least a reasonable fascimile):.) What “Calm Corners” (and yes I have several) do I use? And no, it does not entail alcohol ladies. 🙂 It was tempting to include it, but remember, these are healthy choices. Without further ado, here they are:

Joanne’s 5 Calm Corner Places (Places Where A Mom can safely decompress, recharge and go back to face the music of life):

1. The family bathroom that has a lock on the door. Why? Because there is a lock and I can TRULY be alone for as long as I need to think, cry, rage or do all three. There are also magazines in there, my favorites are Oprah, Today’s Parent and Montreal Families.

2. My car. It’s the best place as it’s outside and private. I can cry, rage and think in total peace, without having the guilt of little ears hearing me cry or rage. Also good, as if I want, I can go for a short drive to the local coffee shop, and after assuring husband that I have not defected for good by text, I can enjoy a nice cup of coffee in anonymity and comfort. Ah, those moccacinos have been worth their weight in gold at those times.. 🙂

3. A walk around the block. This one works when I am too mad to cry, in BIG need of exercise (I’ve used this a few times this holiday season), and want total peace and quiet while being in motion. Most joggers and dog walkers are respectful and don’t engage in long conversations, so I can think through things really well.

4. Close the bedroom door and take a magazine or poetry book to read in bed. This works when I am only emotionally exhausted, and have not had a tearful or big argument with Michael. He and my husband understand now (though it took some time to explain to Michael), that Mommy needs time alone to relax. I have also done more meditation, yoga and prayer when in the room.

5. Writing. Usually I write in my office on my computer if it’s a short story or a novel, but if it’s poetry, I have done this in the living room coach with my poetry journal, and occasionally jazz music playing. Again, this is when I simply need a short break.

We all need to find what works for us. Remember, you’re human, and the sooner you show your child that you have meltdown moments too and that it is ok, the better and more balanced you’ll both feel for it. Until next time! xoxo.

P.S. Here’s a great site to check out about Calm Corners: http://www.wikihow.com/Make-a-Calming-Down-Corner