Sunday, December 13, 2009

On Accepting My Family Members the Way They Are

(This is a re-post of something I wrote in 2005).

It's the holiday season....

So that means it's time to get together with friends and relatives, go to parties and work get-togethers, and plan how we're going to spend those special days.

I've been thinking a lot about these rituals, as I prepare to spend part of Christmas Eve with my in-laws and most of Christmas Day with my family. I always try to reflect upon what the season means, I mean, aside from running around and shopping.

I spent seven years living away from my family, and now we're all in the same town again. I'm getting a crash course in what being a family member means. Ideally, families accept and support us no matter what. They provide company and friendship and a sense of where we come from. Ideally. Now, I don't know how your family is, but mine doesn't always meet my ideals.

For me, the birth of Christ represents a wellspring of hope into the world. This year, I am celebrating that hope by working on accepting others. That means accepting every single member of the bouquet of humanity, as I would like to be accepted.

It's no picnic, accepting others. Some people are quirky. Or abrasive. Or messy. Or absolutely lacking in empathy. Or really self-absorbed. Some are just plain clueless. One of my family members, who shall remain nameless, seems to need to have the TV turned up very loud to get through a social gathering, even for just a few hours. Another, also anonymous, is absolutely lovely and a joy to be around, provided that she's getting her way. After that, all bets are off. She becomes snippy, short-tempered, and brittle. And it's always someone else's fault!

All of these special qualities in my family members tend to make me have feelings in response, and they aren't generally comfortable or enjoyable feelings. I find myself wishing they'd change, fantasizing some more perfect family gathering that would result from their transformation.

But this year, I'm trying to avoid spending my time wishing these traits away.

Because I think it distracts me from being present. This year, I'm working on beholding my family in a spirit of gratitude and acceptance, treasuring each encounter just the way it is.

I'm working on giving and accepting love. Giving love even though someone else may have done something or been some way that means they don't deserve my love. Accepting love even if it doesn't feel just the way I hoped it would.

The tricky part is that some of these folks can really offend me, and I don't think being accepting means being a doormat. So it's a fine line to balance, accepting someone just how they are because it's probably the best they know, and also speaking up for myself, firmly, when my gut tells me I need to.

Lately, I've taken to wearing what I call an Invisible Teflon Shield. You can't see it, but it's silver, and I activate it with a switch above my head. And I also think a lot about the general health of my spirit in any given moment, and try to remain inspired no matter what goes on outside. I have an internal dialogue when someone irks me, and it goes something like this: "OK, so that happened. What does that really have to do with me?"

I've also been thinking about the 23rd Psalm, the part that says, "He prepares a table before me in the presence of my enemies." It may be shocking to think about family members as being enemies, but in a spiritual sense, they really can be. The way certain family members wield disapproval and judgment is truly a form of violence. That passage reminds me that God will continue to bless me even if every single person doesn't agree with or approve of me. Remembering that makes it easier to let go, to let others be nasty if that's the path they choose to walk. What does it have to do with me? I don't need them to change to know who I am and to walk my own path with confidence.

Finally, as I approach the big holiday week, I remind myself that it will all be over in a few days. We'll come together, there will be a bunch of moments, some warm and fuzzy, others cold and bristly. Each person will most likely do what each person tends to do. We may all get surprised by something. The experience either will or won't live up to our expectations of how a family holiday should be. My plan is to just keep breathing in and out.

Then we'll all go back to our respective lives.

In a way, the holidays are annoying, because they're a disruption to my normal routine, and they're a lot of extra effort. They can be truly overwhelming if I'm not up for it. But this year, I've really enjoyed the extra effort. I am excited about giving gifts. I attended a Christmas party that felt like Old Home Week, where I saw about a dozen friends I hadn't seen in almost a decade, most of whom didn't know I was even back in town. And I'm so looking forward to watching my kid open the gifts Santa has brought him because he's been so good! Today someone asked me how I was doing and I said, "I'm riding the wave." The wave, of course, being the holiday surge of energy. We have a few more days left until we reach a fevered pitch and then the wave will pass for another year.

God bless everyone!

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Donations Needed

My street is adopting a family for the holidays.  It's a big family, and they need many things.  If you can help with any of the following items, please let me know by Friday, Dec. 18th.  Happy Holidays!

Mom: New Bed, cordless phone & answering machine

Mom & Aunt: Appointment at beauty salon for haircut

Son: New dresser for his room, watch, disco ball, gamer/floor chair for his room, hair clippers, telescope

Items for the entire family to enjoy: 
  • Steam clean carpets
  • New oven (the stovetop only works now)
  • Space heaters (2)
  • Monopoly
  • Dance, Dance revolution (with compatible game system)
  • PJ’s for all
  • Futon to replace a living room couch
  • New pillows, pillow cases
  • Picnic table
  • Karoke machine
  • DVD player & DVD’s (requested: Dora, Spongebob, English learning instruction)
  • Laptop w/internet
  • Trampoline with net
  • Bikes
  • Stereo
  • Nintendo Wii
  • Game boy
  • TV

For the younger ones:
  • Little red wagon
  • Little red scooter
  • Step 2 Easel for two (says the young ones like to draw)
  • Magnetic chalk/dry erase board
  • Any Dora & learning toys
  • (beds!?)
  • learn to play drumset elmo
  • learn to play keyboard
  • baba baby elmo
  • fun 2 learn cash register
  • on the go gift set elmo

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Loving What I Have

"Mona With Curly Hair," by Olaf-Jan, Norway

I wanted to post a photo of the woman who takes my latte order on Fridays, while I'm waiting for my daughter to finish her Gymnastics class.  However, although I chat with her every week, I'm too shy to ask to snap her photo.  So I will post this photo of Mona Lisa instead, with hair that looks a lot like the Latte Lady's.  The first time I met her, the Latte Lady's long, curly hair was swept up on top of her head in a bun, with big, uncontainable chunks spilling out--in short, the kind of hair I have always admired and wanted.  So, of course, I asked her what I always ask someone who has that kind of hair:  "Do you like your hair?"

Of course, she said "no."  She then went on to tell me about the lengths she goes through to straighten, flatten, blow-dry, etc., so her hair will be straighter. 

This will be a short post, because I have stuff to do, and it's about not really about hair.  It's about taking time to like what we have.  Lately I have been writing posts about my kids and parenthood and conflict, and how challenging it can all be at times.  I have written before that these intense moments capture my attention, but I need to say that, percentage-wise, they make up a very small part of my life as a mom.  And although I might make it sound like I would change my kids or my situation, I have numerous and frequent moments when I recognize that I really have a great deal going over here.

This weekend we went camping, and since the weather was absolutely beautiful, I had occasion to put sunscreen on my kids.  And I was slowed down enough to truly soak up the enjoyment of rubbing the lotion on their little faces.  I said all of these things, like "Hold still!," "Don't wiggle,"  "Be careful so I don't accidentally get it in your eye, it stings so much when that happens!"  All of that was true.  But really, I was just prolonging and savoring the opportunity to gently hold their little chins, and rub their cute little noses, and have them standing still, so close to me, for a little bit longer. 

I have been blessed with two of the most beautiful children ever.  They are healthy and bright and curious and energetic and loving.  Most of the time, I adore taking care of them, and I can't wait to see who they grow to become.  They do so many things right, and even their "wrong" is still just a part of learning about life on Planet Earth.

I just needed to say that, because it's true.  And I'm all about telling you the truth.

Comments, hmmm....?

Saturday, October 10, 2009

How My Kids Drive Me Crazy

A few years ago, I had a cool conversation with Austin child psychoanalyst JoAnn Ponder.  Not only did she totally validate me by saying that she feels that being home with kids is harder than any other job, she described the parent's work as being a lot like being a therapist.  "You have to be IN your feelings, but able to step OUT of your feelings," she explained.

I loved that!  It perfectly summed up the crazy-making part of being a truly effective parent.  Sure, there are a lot of challenging things about raising kids.  Lots of decisions to make: things like what to feed them, when is bedtime, where do they go to school, who should they hang out with.  But, at least for me, none of that is what drives me crazy.  It's that part of being like a therapist that drives me crazy. 

First, the first part, being "in your feelings."  To be a great parent, you have to be deeply, and I would argue, almost insanely, engaged.  You have to be tuned in and connected to facilitate the optimal development of an infant, toddler, preschooler, or older child.  This truth is the reason why you can't outsource your parenting to a computer game, Baby Einstein video, or boarding school.  Your kid might develop in relationship to any of these things, but she won't thrive as well as a child whose parent really cares about her and spends time in the trenches with her.  Some--especially some who have never had kids--say this kind of engagement is mere narcissism, namely, that I love my kid so much because he/she is MY kid.  For me, I love my kids because they're my kids, but I also just love kids.  I am motivated by a blend of wanting to help create happy and mature humans and a sense of responsibility to society and to my kids.

So when we are "in our feelings," the best barometer of our kid is our own feelings.  If we are open and connected to them, we exist in this bizarre state of symbiosis (only we're the same species, sort of!).  We muddle along with them, and we feel what they feel.  If they're happy, we light up.  If they fall down, we mirror concern and frustration.  This feeding-back process how kids learn to understand and internalize a sense of their emotions.  And it can be really fun and rewarding for the parent, too.  Our kids, with their not-quite-yet connected cerebral cortexes, rely on us to regulate their emotions.  I like to think of it as their making a remote connection into my limbic system.  "Thanks, Mom!  Much better now..."

Yet there's this second part, the "able to step out" part.  Normally, that just means that the parent and the child are not equals, and that the parent, ideally, has a greater level of objectivity and control, which he/she lends to the child.  Even this business about helping kids label the feelings that go with experiences shows that the parent is in a different place.  He/she isn't actually the one with the skinned knee, but rather the one who helps the child name and process the feelings that go with it.  So even though a good parent is tuned in and invested in what his/her child is going through, it is really important to be able to both be there and let the child have the space to have her own experience.

Knowing when I should step out of my feelings is fairly straight forward for me.  Being able to...well, that's the real challenge.  For one thing, all kinds of things, such as sleep deprivation, sickness, bad days, and other upsets can make my own feelings especially sticky in a way that can ooze out onto my kids.  When I am in need of rest or support, I am sometimes a little too connected to my kids' feelings.  Which is bad news, because they're all over the place!  And then there are the times when my kids are actively attempting to hook me in to their feelings.  For example, as another famous child psychoanalyst, Erna Furman, wrote, "The toddler's close but primitive relationship with the mothering person contains a kind of love which derives pleasure not only from mutual kindness but also from mutual irritation and conflict. times, hurting and being hurt are sought and felt as a form of being intensely close to each other."

I know that, when my kids are being little pests, they're not doing it deliberately to drive me crazy.  Who wants her mom to be carted off, after all?  They're doing it because they're acting out something they're feeling, and they probably couldn't put words on it if they tried.  Or they're tired, or hungry, or overstimulated.  Or teething.  Whatever!: they're still being pests!  The vast majority of the time, I take it in stride, maintain my center, and step out of the way.  But if I'm not on top of my game for some reason, it really does feel like my head is going to explode, and not taking things out on them is a big challenge.  Sometimes I send myself to Time Out.  Sometimes I give warnings that I am about to begin yelling, which no one likes.  And sometimes I actually do yell.  Mostly, I just wish for a vacation, or someone who will take care of ME for awhile.  I remind myself that the stress comes in finite pockets of time that eventually pass.  Sometimes, just for laughs, when my husband comes home from work on one of these extra-pesty days, I quip cheerfully, "Did you bring home any heroin for me?"

I'd love to hear your observations...leave a comment!

Monday, October 05, 2009

Where My Rights Begin

I want everyone to leave my blog, right now, and go over and read this one.  It's a post by Bernadette Noll, about what is, for me, the most fascinating and vexing parenting reality:  what to do, how to respond, when I get angry at my kids.

By now, all faithful readers of my blog know that I sometimes lose it with my kids, as evidenced here. To give myself credit, it doesn't happen often.  But it's so huge when it does, and it feels so overwhelming, that I find it absolutely compelling.  I want to understand myself in these moments.  And mostly, I want to find a reliable and principled way to deal with them.

So now I am inspired by Bernadette, and I was planning to write more on this topic anyway!  I got several comments on that post about smacking my son, folks saying how courageous I was to write it.  To me it doesn't feel that way.  It feels natural to write about it.  If I'm not ashamed to ACT that way with my kids, I sure shouldn't be afraid to WRITE about it. (Oh...but I was ashamed to act that way!  anyway...)

Here's what I wrote on Bernadette's "comments" page:
"Why isn't everybody in the world talking about these moments with our kids? In our ker-ay-zee world of war and suicide bombers, why aren't all parents taught, early and often, about these inevitable times?  Because they're just the very most important opportunities, that's all. Dealing with anger--that almighty mobilizer and protector of our selves--is the linchpin of our work as parents. Whatever we do, our kids will take as true, and bring out into the world. Just like all the other billions of humans are doing."

Family life is the greatest of intimacies.  It's about love and sharing, and it's also about our needs bumping up against each other.  When anger comes up, it is always our self telling us that we are ignoring and/or neglecting it.  The trick, especially with kids, is to heed that warning and stand up for ourselves, AND to do so in a way that we would feel proud to see our kids replicate.  I want to give my kids a way to deal with their own, and others', anger--one that will best serve them in life, outside of our unique family communication system.

When I am angry at my children, it is generally for these reasons:
  • They are behaving egocentrically, i.e., incapable--usually temporarily--of thinking of anyone else.  Of course!  They're kids
  • They are harming persons or property.
  • They don't "get it" about what's expected in a given setting.
  • They are demanding my presence, only in an unacceptable way--by acting out.  They need my authority and leadership (and often, a pillow).
  • I am overwhelmed and undercared-for in some/many ways. 
I'm going to be writing more about this, and I hope you'll be reading and chiming in.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Blue In A Red State

Dear Senator Cornyn,

As a constituent and someone who has worked professionally to improve the quality of health care, I would like to be kept apprised of the conclusions of the Senate health reform working group of which you are a member.  Specifically, I would like to know what you feel are the most pressing areas of reform, and which areas you would go on record to support.  I agree with you that our country is large and diverse, that our health care system is complex, and that there are many problems.

I appreciate hearing your bottom line--that you would like to protect the private market players and individual choice.  However, I am skeptical that the private market will just stumble across the kind of efficiencies you mention, without legislative pressure.

Tricia Mitchell

From: ""
Sent: Thursday, October 1, 2009 8:24:41 AM
Subject: Thank You For Contacting My Office

Thank you for contacting me about efforts to reform our nation's health care system. The American health care system faces a myriad of complex challenges: rising medical and prescription drug costs, a lack of stable insurance coverage, and a medical bureaucracy that is increasingly difficult to navigate. I appreciate having the benefit of your comments on this important issue.

I am well acquainted with the frustration of many Americans struggling to meet their health care needs within the current cumbersome system, and I understand the urgency to implement sound revisions. According to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), spending on health care will account for nearly 17 percent of Gross Domestic Product in 2009—totaling as much as $2.6 trillion. Health care costs have more than doubled over the last ten years and far outpaced wage growth, and I believe that meaningful health care reform is very important. However, I believe reform can be achieved by lowering the cost of health care without spending more money and without giving Washington more control over the decisions of doctors and patients.

Health care affects every American and I believe we need to take the time to listen to the patients, providers, families, and small businesses that will be significantly impacted. America has a highly complicated system and it is important to ensure that changes are thoroughly considered and not hastily passed by Congress. It may interest you to learn, that I am helping lead a Senate health reform working group that meets regularly to discuss the most pressing areas for reform in our nation’s healthcare system. It is important that Americans have access to affordable health insurance and therefore, I believe we must reform our health care system, emphasizing individual choice and trusting patients, their families, and their doctors—not lawyers or bureaucrats—to make health maintenance and treatment decisions. I am committed to improving access to quality, affordable health care, and you may be certain that I will keep your views in mind as I work my congressional colleagues, as a member of the Senate Finance Committee, to address this critical issue.

As Congress works to reform our health care system, I will adamantly oppose the creation of a Washington-run government health insurance plan, which I believe is unequivocally a gateway to a single-payer system. I believe that a new government-run health insurance plan will devastate private insurance markets by acting as a competitor, regulator, and funder. Independent estimates have found that such a plan could result in 118 million Americans losing their current health benefits, and leave 130 million Americans to rely on a government-run health care plan. Additionally, I cannot support punitive health benefit taxes on small businesses, which will hurt wages and jobs.

Successful health care reform will put patients in charge, and improve the insurance system so that providers will compete for their business by delivering high quality care at affordable prices. I appreciate having the opportunity to represent the interests of Texans in the United States Senate. Thank you for taking the time to contact me.


United States Senator

517 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
Tel: (202) 224-2934
Fax: (202) 228-2856

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Due to the nature of electronic communication, if you did not receive this e-mail directly from my office, I cannot guarantee that the text has not been altered. If you have questions about the validity of this message, or would like to respond to this message, please use the web form available at my website,

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Worst Day

photo:  Aihibed MagaƱa

I'm going to tell you about one of my worst parenting moments:  the day, about a year ago, when I smacked my 5-yr old upside the head.  When I shared this story with Carrie Contey, Ph.D., who I consult now and then about all matters mom-related, she urged me to write about it.  She thought it might help other parents.

The first thing you need to know about me is that I endeavor to be a very, very conscious, and certainly non-violent, parent. (I almost wrote "hands on," no pun intended).  I read a ton, and probably have at least the equivalent of a Master's degree in child development.  I am very engaged with my kids, I spend a lot of time with them, I am tuned in, and I have worked hard, especially in the first three years of each of their lives, to meet the vast majority of their physical, mental, and emotional needs.  This is my job; I am a professional.  Other parents have commented on my exceptional patience.

I don't spank my kids, because, well, I think it sends a bad message.  I know it's a controversial topic, and to those who advocate corporal punishment, this post will seem silly.  My bottom line is that using violence teaches violence.  And if an adult hit another adult, it's called "assault," and you can go to jail for it.  So why not give kids some other tools for their tool boxes?  I do a lot of things to help my kids communicate and behave well, so that's normal for them.  When things get out of control, we do "time outs," but my kids aren't isolated in their room while they're upset.  The "time out" is really a time to calm down, not a place to experience intense emotions without any support.  I have also been known to send myself to "time out."  My basic approach to my kids' emotions is something like teaching them to drive.  When they're having feelings, I try to support them by putting words on the feelings and helping them, gradually of course, to learn to regulate them.  It's possible to learn to regulate your own emotions while also dealing with being afraid and confused by your parent being violent, but I think it's harder.

But there was that one afternoon about a year ago, not long after my son started Kindergarten.  I had a neighborhood party to get ready for, so I was probably rushing.  And rushing him.  We found ourselves in an escalating power struggle over homework, and I could tell that he was getting overloaded.  Suddenly, as I was leaning forward over his paper, he hit me in the face, knocking my glasses to the floor.  Before I even realized it, I smacked him right back.  And then I stopped, gasped, and well, I don't even remember all of what happened after that.  I vaguely recall a lot of intense upset, a "time out" for him, an apology from me, and a lot of attempts to get back on track.  He said some things about the "pressure" of being in school all day.  I said what I believe--that it's never ok for a grown-up to hit a child, no matter what.  The whole thing blew over, on the surface, in that I stopped talking about it to him.  But I was a wreck for about a week.  At the neighborhood party that evening and afterward, I felt really, really horrible.  Who was I now that I had struck my kid?  How would other people see me if they knew?  No one was more shocked than me to learn that, if you hit me in the face and knock off my glasses, I just might hit you back, even if you're less than half my size.  It was pure reaction--this was something I never would have consciously chosen as a parent.

But you know what?  I also felt relieved.  My son and I had been having these micro-skirmishes, pretty much ever since his little sister was born.  And when these things happened, I would act okay on the surface, saying and doing the "right" things.  If another adult observed me, I think he/she would say that I handled them well. But under the surface, I was becoming acquainted with the most intense rage I've experienced since, well, probably since I was a little kid.  My son's behavior and our conflicts were triggering a bunch of old stuff for me.  I don't think I ever really put a lot of stock in "the unconscious" until I began to be emotionally hijacked by the behavior of this little person I love so much.  My internal reactions were much bigger than what his part of it warranted.

So when I finally snapped and smacked him, I was relieved because I had finally done what I was so afraid I was going to do.  And then, I could not only forgive myself for it, but I also talked to some other trusted friends and they still thought I was a pretty awesome mom.  And my son?  Well, it was really not such a big thing from his side of things.  He did hit me first, after all, and he knows what it's like to lose control and then move on.

Being a mom of two kids been a long hard road, with many chances to learn about myself and to do something that feels like detonating internal land mines.  I want to give my kids the best of what my parents gave me, plus more, including all of the information we have now about how kids attach and develop.  I'm amazed at how well I've done, how much help is out there, and how many ways I've figured out to react differently.  I'm happy to report that I don't think I will do that again.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Poverty and Politics

When I was an undergraduate at The University of Texas, I took an unforgettable government class, from a professor named Henry Dietz, called "Poverty and Politics." 
According to Dr. Dietz, all poverty policy is created from one of two approaches:  structural or cultural.

If you believe that poverty is structural, you think that people are poor because, try as they might, the system is not accessible to them.  If you are a policy maker who believes poverty is structural, you might try to pass laws that do things like expand transportation services, improve schools, or make housing (or health care) more affordable. 

If you believe that poverty is cultural, you think that people are poor because, even though the system is accessible to them, their immediate social environment prevents them from taking advantage of opportunities.  If you are a policy maker who believes poverty is cultural, you might try to influence the culture, by providing opportunities for education and role modeling.  Or you might believe it's not government's place to do anything at all, since poor people need to change themselves.

Which one is "true"?  They both are!  It varies from individual to individual, which one has more impact--structure or culture--even within one poor family.  That's why people can say, "Look at so-and-so!  He rose up from nothing!"  And it probably varies over the course of one individual's lifetime. 

Legislation is, indeed, a blunt instrument, especially if we're talking about federal legislation in a country as large and diverse as the U.S.  People can say that "government doesn't fix X, Y, or Z," but that statement will inherently miss part(s) of the picture--either who needs fixing, or what might fix them.  It will also overlook the fact that, in our glorious representative democracy with term limits, "government," like the population, is a changing body.

And I would also add my own theory:  poverty is spiritual.  Interestingly, this kind of poverty afflicts all kinds of folks, and doesn't care how much money you have.  In this case, the politician might not be as effective as the minister--or even better yet, the present, active, and engaged parents and community, from square one.


Sunday, September 13, 2009

Death Panels

No one really wants to think or talk about rationing health care. No one wants to be the one who chooses which country gets hit by the tsunami, either. We call those decisions "acts of God," and we accept them as part of life, even if we don't understand or like them.

But what about in realms, like medicine, where humans get to play God (sometimes)?

In the heat of current debates about health care reform in America, former Alaska governor/vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin caught a lot of folks' attention by spreading the rumor that the House bill contained provisions for the creation of government-run "death panels." Aside from reminding everyone that a vote cast in fear counts as much as one based on reason, this news further galvanized conservatives who already opposed the plan.

Rationing is a fact of life in a world where resources are finite. We ration food, money, time, and lots of other things every day. In health care, rationing decisions are ideally made by the doctor and her patient, with a reasonable assessment of the likelihood of success for a given treatment. But you hear stories about families who prolong the patient's treatment, for lots of reasons, healthy or otherwise (Terri Schiavo comes to mind). And you hear stories about doctors who misjudge the prognosis, informing that someone has X months to live when, in fact, the patient goes on for years.

In a previous life, when I thought I wanted to be a doctor, I had interviews at several medical schools. In one of them, the interviewer posed an ethical dilemma about rationing. In the scenario he described, there were two patients with kidney failure and only one dialysis machine in the hospital. I was in charge: who would I allow to use it? The wife of the town's banker, or the town drunk? He wanted to know who I would choose, and why. What criteria would I use to decide who would get to live--would it be age? social status? financial ability to pay? gender? the fact that one or the other had a family at home? future productivity?  The interviewer grew increasingly frustrated with me because I kept coming up with answers like "fly in another dialysis machine." He then amended the scenario to include a blizzard! This went on and on, comically, because I refused to choose whose life was "more important" than the other's. (I got wait-listed at that school!)

Conservatives can act like rationing will happen with reform, as if it doesn't now. They can pretend that the current form of rationing--folks with money get to live, folks without don't--produces the best results, or the most truly American results. Really it's just the results that favor them, for now.

What if we had town hall meetings about who we value most and why? Or meetings to help us better accept the reality that health care dollars--which represent the time and training of medical professionals, plus supplies, overhead, the unpaid bills of the uninsured, the fraudulent payments to the dishonest, the payments on the MRI machine, the decades of pharmaceutical research, the bonuses of insurance company executives, and so much more--are limited? What if we talked about how life is unfair, but that we--as families, communities, and as a nation--can try to make it as fair as possible, and accept it, with love, respect, and dignity, when we can't? Maybe those meetings should be called "church," or "therapy." Whatever they're called, they're not happening, as far as I can tell.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Pulling the Plug on Grandma

By now, if you're tuned into the debate in the U.S. about health care reform, you've heard the scary predictions about how the proposed changes will affect folks who already have insurance. Conservatives and Republicans believe that offering a "public option" will lead to the following undesirable consequences:

  • no private insurance company will be able to compete with the public system because the government will keep raising taxes to subsidize it. The private companies will go out of business.
  • corporations who now offer health insurance to their employees will stop offering that coverage, forcing people to move to the public system.
  • the public system will be, by definition because it is public, poorly run and will provide worse care.
  • the public system will not adequately reimburse doctors for their services. Doctors who earn a lot of money now will not be able to do so once a large number of people are covered by the public plan.
  • the best doctors will not be doctors anymore. the doctors who remain in the field, and the people who train in the future to become doctors, will not be "the best" doctors.
  • the new plan will not be adequately funded (or something?), so there will be rationing of health care. In other words, someone else--not your doctor, and not you--will be deciding whether you receive treatment for your condition. Most likely, I'm told, it will be a government bureaucrat who knows only spreadsheets and not you. And certainly not health care.
  • we will pass on an unmanageable financial burden to future generations with no benefit.
  • providing health care to all Americans will cause us to lose our national character in terms of excellence and global competitiveness.
I have so much to say about all of these assumptions. First of all, because it's just how I am, I wonder how we know these things are going to happen. Second, I enjoy pondering what these assumptions say about us and our beliefs about human motivation. What do we believe and trust when we imagine about why people become doctors or politicians or bean-counting bureaucrats? And third, why do we act like this is the end of the world? Like we can't go back and adjust and amend things later as all of these "catastrophes" materialize?

Have you ever kept track of your predictions about the future? I'm amazed at how consistently I'm wrong! If I'm reluctant about going on a trip, I end up having fun anyway. If I'm in a bad mood, something good happens that turns my mood around. All of my fears (especially the worst ones) are based on the past. Usually the reality of life turns out to be a little bit of what I was afraid of, plus good things, plus some stuff I never imagined. If I reflect too much on how little I know about what a choice will bring, I might never get out of bed. The good news is that I trust myself, my ability to deal, and the support I have around me. And I trust that I can always re-group and keep evolving.

My bottom line? Health care reform has to start somewhere. Honestly, I don't care where, as long as 1) it does start, 2) it does continue, and 3) it always puts the needs and health of consumers above those of the shareholders of publicly-traded companies.

Monday, September 07, 2009

One of the Best Things I've Ever Done

Yesterday, for some reason, I thought back to 2005, which was one of the hardest years ever for me. At that time, we were struggling after a cross-country move, we had a toddler for whom we couldn't find the right child care, I was sleep-deprived and overworked, on and on. Oh, and I had two miscarriages somewhere in there. All of that stress played itself out everywhere, but especially in my marriage.

I remembered relaying all of this to a confidant, and saying these words, which still kindof amaze me: "I would never forgive myself if I made any decision about my marriage right now, because we're just under too much stress. When things are better, when we're sitting on the beach sipping daquiris, I'll ask myself if I like the person I'm with."

I'm here to tell you that I am grateful (and I gotta say, more than a little impressed with myself) for that stunning stroke of maturity. Yesterday, when we were all home for Labor Day, relaxing, I thought about all the good that has come out of not letting a genuinely trying time bring out the worst. I still like my husband--or maybe I like him again--and together, we've not only weathered some tough times but given our kids the gift of having parents who work on their relationship. I'm also grateful for my husband, who is also committed and hardworking and didn't give up on me, either!

Oh Well, That Mug Was Too Much Pressure Anyway!

It sure did fit a lot of coffee, though! I will miss that part.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

All of the Poor People Should Just Die

I don't like it that participants in the current Medicare Part B program can get free flu vaccines. I just saw that, on a sign at the grocery store. I don't want to have my tax dollars going to people who don't work as hard as I do. Why should I have to pay for other peoples' bad choices? It's not my problem that people didn't work hard like I did, and like my family did. It's not my problem that they don't have health insurance like I do. I work for a good, solid corporation. We were a plum account for our insurance company. We work hard, so the insurance company negotiates discounted rates with our doctors and hospitals.

If poor people can't afford to pay for their own vaccine, then let them get the flu. But if their kids get the flu, they shouldn't send them to school. They should stay home with them. And if they have to miss work to take care of their kids, they can just lose their jobs. And if their employers have to scramble because their employees have to stay home instead of coming to work, they'll get over it. And if their landlords have to evict them, they will find someone else to move in. If the landlord has to foreclose on the property, someone else who works hard will buy it. Eventually, the housing market will recover.

America is a great country because you can see what you're made of. You can pull yourself up by your bootstraps. That's what I do. Pull myself up by my bootstraps and make good choices. I was once a sperm and an egg, and I made the good choice to get myself together, to grow, and to be born. Then, I made the good choice to grow up in a good home and go to good schools and live in a house with people who had health insurance.

I don't want to have to pay for health care for poor people because it's too expensive, and I work hard. I am in the top tax bracket, and folks like me are the ones who pay for these programs, not the vast majority of people who don't work hard and don't make good choices. If my taxes go up, I might not be able to pull myself up by my bootstraps. If small businesses have to pay for their employees' coverage, then there goes the fabric of this country, entrepreneurship. Let them scramble when their employees are sick, or when their own kids get the flu from those other kids whose parents don't have the good sense to keep them home from school.

Government can't do everything! All I want is to preserve the fabric of this country, what has made us the envy of the world. And that's the ability to make your destiny, if you work hard. I don't want to live in the former Soviet Union. It's a slippery slope. If you start paying for the health care of people who don't work hard, you're just a few steps away from communism, despite the fact that the former Soviet Union was not a representative democracy with term limits, and despite the fact that that country began with a violent overthrow of the czarist system. Still, it's a slippery slope.

Doctors work hard. And hospitals work hard. If poor people can't pay their bills, that's not the problem of doctors or hospitals. They should just refuse to treat them. And then, maybe the poor people will all either die or go away. Or maybe go to college to get a better job.

I don't want to have to pay for prisons, either. I'd rather save up my money for a 15 foot high fence with an alarm system around my house. I'd rather move to a part of town where there aren't any poor people. I agree that health care is a problem, but it's not my problem.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Is Giving Over-Rated?

I'm being serious! For the life of me, I don't understand why humans say "it is better to give than to receive."

Aren't they both important? If I don't receive, then how can someone else give? And when I do give, I don't find as big of a "gift" in giving to someone who isn't able to graciously receive my offering. I guess it's noble to give to someone who's indifferent or ungrateful--but is it better than graciously receiving from someone else?

Also, I think that giving too much can dilute the value of a gift. I'd rather have someone give me one rare but thoughtful gift than a whole bunch of tiny ceramic thingies I don't have space for (not to mention that my small kids demolish breakables). And I'd prefer if some folks would give to themselves sometimes, instead of dissipating their own energy by worrying so much about others. Why doesn't anyone talk about that?

The older I get, the more I think it's about being mindful of all of this stuff moving around than about which direction it's going. We give and receive all the time, with our presence, our energy, our attention and encouragement, our sincerity. Happiness in life depends on paying attention to that, and remembering that we're all connected and dependent on each other.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Current Motherhood Conundrums

I see a lot written about what mothers are, or what we suppose them to be, but not so much about HOW they do it. Mothers are the Orientation Advisors for Planet Earth. They're Julie, your cruise director. They are the matrix from which a person emerges. How wonderful it would be to have a helpful matrix, one that facilitates success and happiness in the broader culture.

To be truly successful that way, a mom must have a perspective. That is, she has to be awake. As a mom, my goal is to be like an oak tree--rooted, strong, unerringly stable. That doesn't mean I'm never confused, broken down, or fed up. It means I have words for these feelings and their expressions, and that helps me to present them as transitory states. They are all part of life. They are not end points, and they're not to be stridently avoided like pits of quicksand.

If you are not awake as a parent, you will do what you do. But you won't necessarily have reasons for it, you won't have words to describe it, and you won't be able to present that path as a choice, with both benefits and drawbacks. I want my kids to have choices. Having choices means you can weather whatever hard feelings come with the drawbacks of the choice. Coping with hard feelings involves 1) being rested, fed, and not overwhelmed, and also 2) being able to distract oneself and re-focus on something helpful or positive.

Here are my current conundrums, as I nurture, protect, and teach my developing humans:

1. How do I teach that # 2 above (distraction/re-focusing) to a 6-yr old? By modeling it? By lecturing? By supporting him through micro-doses of those experiences? Some combination of all of these?

2. Then there's also this piece about me--my basic rights and needs, like the right to not be driven crazy by my kids' nit-picky and ever-changing preferences. That is pretty easy. Deeper still is my need for self-esteem. How do you tease out the self-esteem that might come from being a "good" mom--after all, it's a LOT of work--and the self-esteem that I need to bring with me to the party?

3. How affronted should I be by my kids' behavior? How much affront is OK to express?

4. How do I separate when they need to go through something themselves and they object strongly? How do I know when to not take their behavior personally?

5. How do I balance what my kids appear able to handle with the real or perceived demands/expectations of the culture? How do I learn about age-appropriate behavior and, once I do, protect my kids and allow them to be below the curve (above the curve isn't ever a concern, is it?).

Sunday, August 02, 2009

The House That Merce Built

Twenty years ago, I was awarded a scholarship to study in the Professional Training Program of the Merce Cunningham Studio in New York City. I had been in New York for about nine months, and a friend at the restaurant where I worked suggested that I check out the studio. Since I had primarily trained in ballet prior to that, and because my friend knew someone in the company, he thought it might be a good fit for me--Cunningham's technique is, in part, based in ballet. Not long after I started taking classes there, I decided to try for a scholarship.

The audition was, well, like an audition. Which is to say it was like taking a dance class, only we had paper numbers on our backs. Merce was there, but he wasn't obviously paying attention. In fact, he did something that looked like balancing his checkbook at a small table in the back of the studio, while we were trying to impress him. Somehow, though, he must have found out what he needed to know--I have a vivid memory of taking the elevator up to the 11th floor of the Westbeth building to look at the list later that afternoon. My name was on it! Thus began two rich years where dance was the center of my universe, in the dance center of the planet Earth.

Here is the part where I would love to tell you about the beers I shared with Merce, how he became a mentor, how we stayed in touch until his death last week. All of that would be a big lie. Merce and I were at various functions at the same time--performances, fundraisers, we'd even ride in the elevator together on occasion. And he definitely knew who I was, and once sponsored me in a dance-a-thon I did for a local AIDS charity. And at the tail end of my time there, I even got to take his class. But Merce was busy being a world famous choreographer, and I was one of what must be thousands of students to come through his studio over the years.

But what I did get was the house that Merce built. I received a scholarship, a Pell Grant, and a work/study position in his film/video archive, three very welcome things that made it possible for me to both pursue my passion and live indoors. I was expected to take class six times a week--and I could not be late!--in the gorgeous studio in the West Village, lined on each side with windows. Until I die, I will remember the sensations of my bare feet on that fine, smooth wood floor, the click-click of the teacher/human beat box' rhythms as he/she demonstrated a combination, and the sweaty thrill of dancing to live drummers and musicians. I could go into a long list of the folks I trained with and from--some of the finest dancers and teachers anywhere. I soaked up Cunningham's choreography in day-long repertory workshops each quarter. And I watched tons of videos of his work in my 9-hr a week job on the 2nd floor, when I was supposed to be just duplicating VHS tapes.

My time at the Cunningham Studio provided me a dance home in New York and entree to a world that deeply affected my heart and sensibilities. Not only did I get to see Cunningham's amazing dancers, I was also swept into performances, in the Cunningham Studio and off the beaten track around town--spaces that might be living lofts by day and impromptu concert halls by night, spaces where ordinary dancers like me, from around the world, combined movement, words, music and/or film in delightful ways I had never imagined.

I never did get into Cunningham's company like I had hoped, but I had a great time trying. The Studio was a place of work, of discipline, of trying things, of seeing what happens, and of letting go of what happens. During my time there, I got to push through being an intermediate level dancer and reach an exciting command of my physicality. I got to see how professional dancers approach a phrase--it turns out that they just start somewhere and dive in! I grew half an inch while I was there (literally!), and I learned, during the spine bending warmup exercises that are repeated in each and every Cunningham class, to pop my sternum, a feat that still confounds. Best of all, I got to see Merce come to the studio, every day--even as arthritis slowed his pace--to make dances. I have carried that image, and I believe, a little bit of his spirit, into every endeavor I have undertaken since. I am extremely grateful for that amazing gift.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

A Personal Renewal Group for Mothers (and Other Artists)

"Courting the Muse!"
Starts Tuesday July 28th, 2009
Creativity coaching group. Facilitated by Austin singer/songwriter Tricia Mitchell.

  • Do you want to feel more connected--to yourself, your art, and to others?
  • Are you craving the support and structure that will enable you to move to "the next level" as an artist?
  • Would you like to learn how to nurture your physical, emotional and spiritual well-being--so you can be at your creative best?
  • Are you interested in new ideas for self-renewal and life balance?

Topics Include
  • "The Transformative Power of Self-Care" (on a physical, mental, spiritual, and emotional level)
  • "Your Identity As An Artist"
  • "You and Your Crazy Dreams!"
  • "Inspiring the Work Space"
  • "The Inner Play Space (for Kids of All Ages)"
  • "Managing Your Energy: Setting Priorities, Saying 'No,' and Asking for Help"
  • "Treasuring Your Obscurity"
  • "The Power of Flow"

Feedback About Tricia:
-"Brings great focus, reverence, clarity and humor to the process, while she lovingly guides the meetings and the follow up." -Liz B.
-"Knowledgeable about both the systems and the attitude that I need to succeed." -Donna R.
-"Packed a tremendous amount of rich material, reflection, and sharing into a short time without giving any impression of rushing." -Deb. P.
-"Every time I walk away from a meeting, I have a spring in my step and AT LEAST one new idea I want to pursue or ruminate upon." -Risa F.
-"If you want to cry less and laugh more, run--don't walk--to Tricia's next PRG!" -Kara S.

About the Facilitator:

Tricia Mitchell is a mother, a singer/songwriter, dancer, and writer, and a Renee Trudeau & Associates-trained Personal Renewal Group (PRG) facilitator. Her approach is appreciative, motivating, and filled with humor. She has an MBA from Rice University and lives in East Austin with her husband, two young children, and a Labrador Retriever.

To Learn More or to Register:
Begins July 28th, meeting every other Tuesday evening for twelve weeks, at Armstrong Community Music School at Austin Lyric Opera, 901 Barton Springs Rd., 7-9 p.m. For info or to register, e-mail Tricia at or call (512) 940-4027. Cost: $180 for 6 meetings (includes e-mail support/reminders between meetings). Registration is on a first-come, first-served basis; group size is limited to twelve participants.

Monday, May 25, 2009


At our last PRG meeting, we talked a lot about deciding. It's something I'm really into right now. I used to really agonize over things, and now, especially as a mom, I find it so freeing to "just decide." Did you know that the origin of the word "decide" is "to cut"? When we decide, we take leadership over our future, by cutting off some of the possibilities. It's powerful stuff.

Of course there are good things and bad things about any choice. Of course we always have limited and imperfect information. What I like about deciding is how good it feels to choose as best I can, know it won't be perfect either way, and vow that I will live with the choice I made, whatever it brings. When I was a kid, my dad always made these cracks about what a drag it was to have adult responsibilities. I have been surprised at how much I really enjoy being an adult, being the captain of my ship, getting to try things and see how they go. It's not so bad, and in most ways it beats the heck out of being dependent.

When the husband and I were on the fence about having another kid, he kept coming back and asking me increasingly strange questions...about what if the baby had a disability, what if we struggle financially, what if I went back to work, what if this, what if that. After awhile, I said, "you know, it seems like you might not want to have another child. And if you don't want to have another child, for sure I do not want to have another child. So let's just decide! Let's be happy with the two beautiful children we already have. We're grown ups--so let's just say that we're not going to have any more kids. Sure, there may be times when we feel wistful and wish we had another, but there will also be many times we're glad we didn't take that on."

That was such a great experience, and we were both immediately relieved. Then I got to start thinking about the next part of my life, post-mom-of-young-kids, which gave me this great surge of energy. I hadn't realized how much of my energy was caught up in not knowing whether I would be prolonging this intense and exhausting stage of my life even longer. Now I think that not knowing and being in limbo actually use up tremendous amounts of energy, way more than dealing with the fallout of any particular choice does. Carrie Contey, Ph.D., my favorite parenting coach, concurred with me that deciding is great role modeling for my kids. It teaches them that they can choose, without a lot of waffling or wailing and gnashing. I'm one of those people who believes that we really do know what the right choice is, if only we will listen to ourselves and own the responsibility of making the cut.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Churning the Universe

You may be asking yourself the following questions about the past couple of weeks:

1. Tricia, why did Howard Thompson begin playing your song "Girlfriend of the Band" on his internet radio show, North Fork Sound this week?

2. Why did David Hooper recently play your music on the "Demo Derby" portion of his marvelous radio show, Music Business Radio? (I haven't heard it yet, and I can't even tell you which episode it's on, but it's due to air soon).

3. Why is Sara Hickman's version of your song, "Learn You Like a Book" in a voting contest (details below)?

4. Why all this, so all-of-a-sudden, in the last two weeks, when you're not performing live or actively promoting your old, old, CD, "Purple Room"?

It's simple. I have begun a self-imposed singer/songwriter boot camp, and I am churning the universe, from the inside out.

I have hired a coach. I have a new guitar teacher, we're meeting twice a month. I have resumed piano lessons. I'm still with my same voice teacher I've been with for almost five years. I am practicing like a little someone-or-other who practices a lot. I'm taking on my personal demons, summoning my inner hero, and shining up my goals and direction. I've connected with a version of myself who lives 20 years in the future, and you know what she told me? "You're going to have so much fun not being so creatively pent up anymore!" I even bought a new music stand--it's shiny and red. I'm busting through, come hell or high water.

For real. All that inner stuff, and then this outer stuff pops up, no less than two weeks later. Awesome, huh?

So go vote for my song! You can vote once a day through May 30th.

1. Go to: Hoss the Boss
2. Scroll down to "Sara Hickman, 'Learn You Like a Book'"
3. Check the box
4. Click on VOTE!

Thank you! (we're in first place right now!)

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Every Mom Needs A Copy ...


Download a free copy of national life balance expert Renee Trudeau’s award winning The Mother’s Guide to Self-Renewal: How to Reclaim, Rejuvenate and Re-Balance Your Life for 48 hours: May 8th-May 10th.

I can't say how much I love this beautiful and powerful book! It has contributed greatly to my peace, happiness, and ability to be a balanced role model for my kids. I am currently leading a self-care group for moms based on this book.

Download it today! Thank me later! (You deserve it.)

Happy Mother's Day!

Friday, April 03, 2009

To Wake Up Inspired...

This is a brilliant video/song by Tanya Davis, from Halifax.

Thanks to Kathie Sever, who posted this on her blog.

It's just so perfect, everyone needs to see it.

And big kudos to me, for figuring out how to embed a video in my blog! La la la la la..... :)

Saturday, March 28, 2009

TOP 10 Reasons Why You Should Love Brad Paisley As I Do

Now it is time to write my long-awaited reflections on seeing Brad Paisley perform at the Frank Erwin Center. I have received hundreds of comments from faithful blog readers since I posted my musings on Darius Rucker's show. The people, they want to know: How was he?

All I can say is that I believe everyone should be a fan of Brad Paisley. I am afraid some of you-- namely my Yankee friends, my really cool liberal friends, and some of my other friends who aren't keen on country music--won't even check him out. On the surface, he probably comes across like any other skinny, little white guy who sings with a southern accent.

When I have these fears (and this is part of what has taken me so long to write about this), I get a little frustrated. I'm just so sad for y'all.

My TOP 10 Reasons Why You Should Love Brad Paisley As I Do:

10. He just won two Grammys and is nominated for six American Country Music awards, including Entertainer of the Year. 10 million albums sold. Thirteen #1 hits.

9. If you're a dude, Brad Paisley should be your role model. You should admire him because he is SO grounded in the things he loves in life. It's not that he's not into chicks--he is (just check out "Ticks")--but not so much that's he's gonna give up going fishing or playing his guitar. He's not the one writing these pathetic, co-dependent, "I'm gonna die without you" songs. (Well, except for "Whisky Lullabye." but that song is SO over the top, with the double suicide and all. You know better than to try that at home).

8. If you're a woman, you should want to be/be with a guy like Brad. See #9. Women, believe me, you want a guy who's grounded in the things he loves in life. And most importantly, you should ground yourself in the things you love.

7. He is a great songwriter. His songs are catchy, and usually funny, and smart. We all need more catchy, funny, smart songs. Do yourself a favor and go watch "Letter to Me" and see if your heart is unmoved.

6. At his Austin show, even though he's a big fancy famous guy, he brought out locals Ray Benson and Redd Volkaert. How cool!

5. He did this crazy thing where Alison Krauss appeared on stage with him in a hologram. Spooky!

4. He showed this amazing and fun little animated movie that he made, featuring delightful caricatures of his band, The Drama Kings. Like he doesn't have enough to do, between being a great songwriter, an amazing guitarist, touring all over, being married to that actress from the "Father of the Bride" movies, and being a dad. He's just gotta bring it home to the fans.

3. He respects his elders. Brad is a guy who reveres the traditions and teachings of those who came before him. His new CD, "Play," features many of his heroes, folks like B.B. King, Albert Lee, James Burton, Buck Owens, Steve Wariner, and Vince Gill. And oh my God, speaking of elders: have you seen that video with Andy Griffith, for "Waitin' on a Woman"?

2. He is a complete badass on the guitar. I call him "BrAD-ASS"! If you have any doubts that this statement is true, go buy or download his new guitar record, "Play." Thank me later. Any dudes who didn't make him their role model after reading #9 above, should do so after listening to this CD.

Here's what Brad Paisley he says about his new CD:

"This album is my love affair with the guitar. When I was eight I got a gift from my grandpa. No coincidence that around that time I also got an identity. See, no matter how I have changed, learned and evolved as a person, the guitar has been a major part of it, and really the only constant. A crutch, a shrink, a friend, love interest, parachute, flying machine, soapbox, canvas, liability, investment, jackpot, tease, a sage, a gateway, an addiction, a recovery, a temptress, a church, a voice, veil, armor, and lifeline. My grandpa knew it could be many of these things for me, but mostly he just wanted me to never be alone. He said if I learned to play, anything would be manageable, and life would be richer. You can get through some real tough moments with that guitar on your knee. When life gets intense, there are people who drink, who seek counseling, eat, or watch TV, pray, cry, sleep, and so on.

I play.

1. If you are a human, you ought to like Brad Paisley. He comes across as a very successful, multi-talented, down-to-Earth, super nice guy who gets to do what he loves for a living. And he's at all shy about expressing his gratitude about that.

(Brad, I do have to say that I will not be watching the ACM awards on Sunday night. I'll be taking my husband to see Bruce Springsteen, at your joint, the Frank Erwin Center. I guess this is my year of big arena shows.)

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Got Cracks?

As in, spaces one might fall through?

Sometimes really suddenly, so that your life completely changes?

Do me a favor, and head on over to some websites for me:

Start by clicking on the photo of the cute baby on the upper right side of my blog.

You'll meet Ike, a 10-lb baby who is doing time in the pediatric intensive care unit at Dell Children's Hospital. He was born something like 15 weeks premature last fall. Lately, he's been making a strange wheezy sound when he breathes, and then, more recently, he caught a virus that made it almost impossible for him to breathe.

His mom is a wonderful writer who also has two other kids. Check out her blog, too, especially if you like witnessing someone who can go through a pretty horrific set of events and remain funny, tender, smart, and tough. After you check out her blog, go buy her book, Haiku Mama, from Amazon. Makes a great baby shower gift!

Ike's dad's whole department was laid off last week. Very unexpectedly. They have COBRA coverage, but it's expensive.

Everyone knows that the "current economy" is not in the best of shape. You may be hearing about people losing their jobs, homes, etc. This particular family is caught in the midst of that. Their community is stepping up in a major and very inspiring way, and I invite you to step up, too. Ike's website lists some upcoming fundraising events. Please attend, and give generously. And regardless of whether you attend, or whether you give, please keep this family in your thoughts and prayers.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Personal Renewal Group for Mothers

Do you want to feel more connected—to yourself and others?

Are you craving community with like-minded women?

Would you like to learn how to nurture your physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being--so you can be at your best for your family?

Are you interested in new ideas for self-renewal and life balance?

You are invited to join a Personal Renewal Group (PRG)—a life coaching group for women at all life stages, based on the award-winning new release The Mother’s Guide to Self-Renewal: How to Reclaim, Rejuvenate, and Re-Balance Your Life, by nationally recognized career/life balance coach Renee Trudeau.

Facilitated by good old me, Tricia Mitchell.

Topics for the 2009 Personal Renewal Group may include:
“The Transformative Power of Self-Care” (on a physical, mental, spiritual and emotional level)
“Motherhood and Identity: Reconnecting with Who You Are”
“Good Is Good Enough: A Mother’s Mantra”
“Motherhood as a Spiritual Journey”
“Outrageous Living: Reclaiming Adventure in Your Life”
“Strategies for Life Balance”
“Managing Your Energy: Setting Priorities, Saying No and Asking for Help”

Feedback from 2003-06 Personal Renewal Group Participants:
“I love the powerful, deep nature of this work, it has made a huge difference in my life.” -Susan
“I was concerned about spending $ because our budget is really tight. Wow, am I glad I decided to do PRG. This has been a truly meaningful and life-changing experience for me.” -Kristan
“The open, safe environment for sharing was amazing. I’ve never seen anything like it. I felt comfortable to say anything.” -Maria
“The exercises on saying “no” (boundaries), setting intentions and managing our energy were profound.” -Janet

For info or to register, e-mail Tricia at
Cost: $200 for 12-month program (includes 12 morning workshops, e-mail support/reminders between meetings and a copy of The Mother’s Guide to Self-Renewal). Meetings will take place at my house in East Austin, on the fourth Monday of each month beginning MARCH 23rd*, from 9:30-11:30 a.m. Registration is on a first-come, first-served basis; group size is limited to ten participants.

(*this is a revised start date, as of 2/17/09)

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

The Amazing, Invisible Mama!

She was having a hard time. She was the mom of a 5 month old baby, and for the first time in a very long time, she wasn't sure that her work, her life, was valuable enough. This mama, who I will call Mama (actually, it is her real name!), posted on one of my favorite listservs, and I immediately knew I had to respond.

Here's part of her post:

"I have been struggling with the idea of my identity now that I am not working and letting my husband support me...I have always had female role models that worked and worked hard outside of the home. I don't really want that for myself (I think)...I know that I am working hard as a mom, but it just seems unfair for him that he has to be gone and at work so that we have the
luxury of having a family. Is this just the way it works and I need to get used to it? Seems so
domestic role-ish, which is not how I pictured my life being going into my thirties."

Here's what I told her. Some folks said they liked my response a lot, and the truth is, I liked it! So here you go, faithful blog readers:

Dear Mama,

I can totally relate to your struggle.I have a 5 y/o son and a 2 y/o daughter. I have been working for $ since I was a teenager and I really miss bringing home a paycheck for my work. I have been a full-time working mom and a part-timer work-at-home mom, and my
feeling is that, if you have kids, you always feel like a giant piece of taffy somehow.

The one thing I wanted to tell you is to be kind to yourself. Becoming a mom is a huge journey. Those tensions will keep...they're not going anywhere and you will both have time to reflect upon them and also relax into them as time goes on. Some days you will feel like a freeloader, other days like a complete badass who makes the world turn! I have a feeling that when it's time to go back to work, you will know it, and you will know what the right next step is.

You should know about about Marilyn Waring, who in the 1970s was elected to the New Zealand Parliament at the age of 22. She went on to work on a budgetary committee, in which capacity she learned all about the ways that countries calculate metrics like GDP and GNP. She
discovered that, all across the planet Earth, women's work is invisible, in an economic sense. She wrote some books, including one called, "If Women Counted," and she's now a public policy professor.

I bring this up because sometimes I feel like my work doesn't count, like I've fallen off the map of life somehow, because I don't go to a "job," and because my "customers" ignore and/or scream at me a lot. Because my work involves being patient and often, sitting on the floor, one could imagine that I eat bon bons all day. Though in reality, I work my tail off.

If you feel this way too, you have good reasons! A woman can work hard, producing goods, i.e., children who will become productive members of society, and performing services, like taking care of family members, helping neighbors, running the PTA, etc., and yet at the end of her life, she may be seen as a drain on the system because all of that work doesn't "count." I had a friend who had to go work at her husband's store so she could rack up some $ toward her Social
Security, because "all" she had done before that was raise three kids!

It's a crazy planet, this Earth! Our society is a giant funny mirror! We're all mixed up!

I loved reading the book "Parenting for a Peaceful World," by Dr. Robin Grille. Grille argues that, throughout history, every advancement in democracy, social justice, and better treatment of the
environment has been preceded by an improvement in the treatment of children. Reading this book reassured me, beyond doubt, that the work we do as parents is the most important work of all in the grand scheme.

I recommend that you spend some time thinking and maybe journaling about what would make you feel that your days are productive enough to "count." Especially since it doesn't seem like it's your DH who is complaining. You get to decide what "enough" looks like! You are the one who gets to find a million bucks in the smile of your little cutie-booty.

Monday, January 26, 2009

"Some Rules and Hints for Students and Teachers," by John Cage

Rule 1: Find a place you trust, and then, try trusting it for awhile.

Rule 2: (General duties as a student) Pull everything out of your teacher. Pull everything out of your fellow students.

Rule 3: (General duties as a teacher) Pull everything out of your students.

Rule 4: Consider everything an experiment.

Rule 5: Be self disciplined. This means finding someone wise or smart and choosing to follow them. To be disciplined is to follow in a good way. To be self disciplined is to follow in a better way.

Rule 6: Follow the leader. Nothing is a mistake. There is no win and no fail. There is only make.

Rule 7: The only rule is work. If you work it will lead to something. It is the people who do all the work all the time who eventually catch onto things. You can fool the fans--but not the players.

Rule 8: Do not try to create and analyze at the same time. They are different processes.

Rule 9: Be happy whenever you can manage it. Enjoy yourself. It is lighter than you think.

Rule 10: We are breaking all the rules, even our own rules and how do we do that? By leaving plenty of room for "x" qualities.

Helpful Hints:
  • Always be around.
  • Come or go to everything.
  • Always go to classes.
  • Read everything you can get your hands on.
  • Look at movies carefully and often.
  • SAVE EVERYTHING. It may come in handy later.